Update: Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan completed her ministry as coordinator of Mission Effectiveness in 2016.
Being taught only by Ursuline Sisters all through elementary, middle school, high school and college made a big impression on Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan. The influence of the sisters on her life was so great that not only did she enter the Ursuline community at age 18 (she took her final vows at 26), but she also became a teacher, congregational leader and role model for many other sisters and students.
“The Ursulines were my whole educational experience,” Sister Rose Marita said. “I just think that is significant.”
Despite the fact that classes might consist of up to 60 students, the Ursulines were able to bestow individual attention on each child. “I was astounded,” Sister Rose Marita said. “They were the women who were my heroines.”
She was “deeply impressed with the spirit that she found among the sisters.” She later came to realize that the spirit of Saint Angela Merici was alive in their midst, even though the sisters at that time did very little research or contemplation concerning their founder. It wasn’t until after Vatican II in the 1960s that communities started concentrating more on their heritage.
“Saint Angela was there in the hospitality and warmth and genuine concern shown for the students, even if we didn’t know it,” Sister Rose Marita said. “That’s very comforting to me.”
An Owensboro native, Sister Rose Marita says she absolutely loved school. Once when she had tonsillitis, she slipped out the door and began her mile-long walk to school before her mother caught up with her and brought her back home.
Her father, Marion Albin, who died at age 64, was a machine salesman, electrician, and television repairman. Her mother, Elizabeth, now 90, was a loving homemaker who looked after three sons and a daughter.
“My Mom and Dad and brothers have been supportive of the choices I made. I had backing from the beginning,” Sister Rose Marita said. “They valued my vocation and respected it. They let me be who I was and who I am.”
Sister Rose Marita’s education began at Blessed Mother Elementary School, followed by Mount Saint Joseph Academy at Maple Mount, and then Brescia College, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in German. It wasn’t until she was earning her master’s degree in theology and religious education from Saint John College in Cleveland that she encountered lay people as educators.
Her first position was teaching Head Start in New Haven, Kentucky, for one summer. Then she moved to Affton, Missouri, to teach seventh and eighth grade religion and science at Seven Holy Founders School.
Sister Agnes Catherine Williams was also teaching at Seven Holy Founders, and she likes to tell a story about a little boy who had a crush on Sister Rose Marita. He wrote her a poem in which he called her a lollipop, so Sister Agnes Catherine, now 102, sometimes uses this nickname for Sister Rose Marita.
Sister Mary McDermott was in Sister Rose Marita’s seventh-grade class at Seven Holy Founders. Sister Mary would usually stay after school because her mother worked at the school. “I spent my time talking to Sister Rose Marita while waiting to go home,” Sister Mary said. “During these talks, I learned she was a wonderful listener. I also learned she had a bright outlook on life.