Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan, 77, an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph, died June 10, 2019, at Mount Saint Joseph, in her 58th year of religious life. She was a native of Owensboro and was the only daughter born to Marion and Elizabeth O’Bryan. She had three brothers.
Sister Rose Marita had a smile awaiting all those she met. She was known for her leadership skills and her deep love of the Ursuline charism of Saint Angela Merici.
She graduated from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in 1960. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in German from Brescia College (now University) in 1965, and a master’s degree in religious education and theology from St. John’s College, Cleveland, in 1973.
She was a teacher at Seven Holy Founders School in Affton, Mo., (1965-72), then was the religious education coordinator at the school and parish (1972-76). She was a pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Parish in Hickman, Ky. (1991-96). She served in several internal ministries for her community. She was an elected councilor on the Leadership Council from 1976-84 and was elected major superior from 1996-2004. She was director of vocations, postulants and the contact program (1984-90), and coordinator of Mission Effectiveness (2005-2016). She was director of the Contemporary Woman Program at Brescia University (2005-16).
Survivors include the members of her religious community; two brothers, Joe (Maggie) O’Bryan of Owensboro and David (Trafta) O’Bryan of Louisville; and nieces and nephews.
The funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, June 13, at Mount Saint Joseph, where visitation will begin Wednesday at 4 p.m., with a wake service following at 6:30 p.m.
Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, Owensboro, is handling arrangements.
Donations in memory of Sister Rose Marita may be made to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, 8001 Cummings Road, Maple Mount, KY 42356.
In Remembrance of Sister Rose Marita O’Bryan, OSU
June 12, 2019
Sister Amelia Stenger, OSU, Congregational Leader
“There is a simple truth about which each of us is aware. We did not choose the when to be alive in history. We are born at a certain moment and have only a fleeting span of years to make our contribution. So, stretched and strained though it may be, this uncertain era is our time, the only time we will have.” This quote was taken from a reflection for the feast of Saint Angela that Sister Rose Marita wrote in January 2012.
She talked about the time that each of us has on this earth to share the many gifts God has given. She has now completed her time on this earth. But, during that time, she accomplished much. There isn’t any way that we can tell all the things she accomplished in her lifetime. I will share some of the facts and we will allow some of you to add the stories.
Rose Marie O’Bryan was born on October 28, 1941 to Marion Albin O’Bryan, Sr. and Elizabeth Theresa Oberst O’Bryan. She was the oldest of the four children. She had three brothers. Her oldest brother was Marian O’Bryan, Jr., who is deceased. Her other brothers are Herman Joseph and David Eugene. Their wives are Maggie and Trafta. We offer all of you and your family our sympathy and prayers at the loss of your Sister.
Rose Marie was baptized on November 9, 1941 at St. Stephen’s Cathedral by Reverend Bonaventure Oberst, C.P. On November 29, 1950 she was confirmed at Blessed Mother Church in Owensboro by Bishop Francis R. Cotton.
She began her years of education at Blessed Mother School in 1948. She often told people the school was built just for her. Her first-grade teacher was Sister Naomi Aull. God bless you, Sister, as you lay your student to rest. Some of her other teachers were Sisters Benedict Joseph, Joseph Ursula, Pauletta, Mary Victor, and Mary Lawrence Agnes Francis. Our Sisters taught at Blessed Mother school for many years.
Rose Marie attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy from 1956 to 1960 where some of her teachers were Sister Lennora, Charles Emmaline, Rose Vincent and Joseph Therese. During her years at the Academy she was active in all her classes and also took voice lessons from Sister Francesca.
After her graduation she decided that God was calling her to the Ursuline Community. She entered on September 7th, 1961. She entered with twenty-seven other young women. Her classmates who are with us are Sisters Helena Fischer, Julia Marie Head, Kathleen Kaelin, Nancy Murphy, and Rosanne Spalding. We pray with you as you say good-bye to your classmate.
Rose Marie received the habit on August 14, 1961 and took the name Sister Rose Marita. She made first vows on August 15, 1963. She made her final vows on August 15, 1968.
During her time in the novitiate she attended Brescia College (now University) where she received a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in German in 1965. While she was teaching she continued her studies during the summers of 1965 to 1967 taking classes at Webster College, FontBonne College and Maryville College in St. Louis where she got a Certificate in Religious Education so that she could become the Religious Department Chairperson for the Elementary School of Seven Holy Founders in Affton, MO.
She also continued her education at St. John’s College in Cleveland, Ohio where she received a master’s degree in Religious Education and Theology. Her classmate, Sister Kathleen Kaelin, was also going to school there at the time, so they enjoyed their time together.
During her years of ministry, she served as teacher at Seven Holy Founders School and the Director of Religious Education for the school and parish. She was elected as councilor for the community from 1976 to 1984. It was during this time that the famous blizzard took place leaving her, Sr. Annalita and Fr. Tony Ziegler, stranded with 15 other people in a small trailer just west of Sorgho for several days. The story was told many times over the years.
After she finished her term on the council, she became the Vocation Director, Contact program Coordinator and Director of Postulants until 1990 when she attended the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts for a Sabbatical year of studies.
In 1991, she moved to the farthest end of the state to Sacred Heart Parish in Hickman, KY as the Pastoral Associate where she worked for five years.
In 1996, she was elected as the congregational Leader of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. She served in that position for eight years. There are many notebooks filled with the things that she did during those years. They are a testimony to the many activities, decisions and actions that were taken during her time in office.
A sabbatical in Newfoundland followed her time as congregational leader. She often talked about the beauty and wonder of the area where she stayed. She wrote many meditations and poems during the time she was there.
Her final years of service were at Brescia University. When Sister Marita Greenwell was ready to retire after serving many years as the leader of the Contemporary Woman program, she said she hoped another Sister would take on the program that had been started in the 1960’s by Sister Francesca Hazel and Dr. Law. Sister Rose Marita rose to the challenge and nurtured the program for more than ten years. During that time, she held many workshops for women and took on the responsibility as Coordinator of Mission Effectiveness for the University. She planned workshops, speakers and programs that encouraged women to find their paths in marriage, vocation to religious life and single life.
In 2016, she moved to the Mount where she planned to work with the retreat center to continue giving workshops and retreats, incorporating many of the programs she had worked with at Brescia. Unfortunately, she was not able to do this because of health issues.
Tonight, we remember her as a woman of grace who sought beauty in every corner of her world. She was a poet, a dreamer and one who was always looking for ways to bring women’s issues into the forefront. She was a four on the enneagram which helped her understand her specialness. Even when she was in the hospital and we were talking about the doctor’s information that only 1% of people he had ever worked with had this happen to them. She smiled and said, “Remember I am a four on the enneagram. It would happen to me.” We know the doctors and nurses tried to work with her and for them we are truly grateful. We also thank our nurses here in the Villa for taking such good care of her during her last hours with us.
Reading through her files, there was a talk that she gave on the feast of St. Angela in 2012. I started with part of it, but I want to add another paragraph from the talk. It gives us an insight into the depth of her thought. It also gives us something to think about as we look to the future. She said, “Let us take a moment to sit in silence and breathe deeply together. For the realities we hold require not only a depth but also a breadth that cannot be reached by sitting alone. As we sit together in silence, wisdom emerges, compassion grows, and we support each other in the living each of us does. Together we hold our concerns about the present and our challenges about the future of our community, the world and the earth. We touch into the privilege and responsibility of being with the Ursuline family. We prioritize our deepest beliefs and focus energy in the places that have most potential. We borrow the eyes of God.”
One of Sister Rose Marita’s favorite quotes was from Teilhard deChardin. “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love.” During her life, Sister Rose Marita tried to do all these things. She tried through her classes at Brescia and during her years in leadership to challenge all the things that came before her and harness the energies around her to move all to love. She did it in her own special way.
Sister Rose Marita, we send you on your way to enjoy the cosmos, the universe and the clouds of wonder that surround you as you enter eternity. May you rest in the arms of God.