Wake Reflection for Sister Rose Theresa Johnson, OSU
March 10, 1931—August 10, 2012
August 10, Feast of St. Lawrence…how fitting that a daughter of St. Lawrence Church be called home to be with her loving God! The morning prayer on the feast day included Psalm 62;” O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting.” Sister Rose Theresa indeed did thirst for her God… she did indeed long for her God.
We,the Ursuline Community thank you, the Johnson family for giving us Sister Rose Theresa. We give you our prayers and our sympathy at this time when you have come to help us, her community return her to the God she longed for.
Lucy Mae Johnson was born to Catherine Morris Johnson and Damien Johnson on March 10, 1931 on a farm near St. Lawrence Church. Lucy Mae was the middle of 13 children. Eleven girls and two boys. Perhaps that pinning and longing for God began as early as her baptismal date of April 12, 1931 and was affirmed at her confirmation on May 8, 1941 at St. Lawrence Church.
Lucy Mae grew in a loving, prayerful home. She learned her prayers at her mother’s knee and the family prayed the rosary daily. This was a home that fostered religious vocations. Six of those daughters entered religious life—four to the Ursuline Community and two to the Sisters of Charity at Nazareth, Ky. It is said that every time the church doors opened the Johnson family came in.
St. Lawrence School, with the Ursuline Sisters as teachers deepened that already present love relationship Lucy Mae manifested toward her God. Those early years were spend assisting the family on the farm, planting crops and raising tobacco, making and selling sorghum. Milking cows, picking blackberries, gooseberries, apples and pears. She also helped with canning, cooking and sewing. As the middle child, Lucy Mae watched the older children and tried to do what they did. And at least on one occasion it got her into trouble…One evening she sneaked out to the barn and milked one of the cows. Once she was discovered she had a regular chore of milking cows. She and her other siblings got up early and walked a mile to church to receive communion with the sisters. Then they walked back home for breakfast and then back to school. She did praise her God with joy! Lucy Mae’s favorite times to go to church as a child were Forty Hours and Good Friday. She gazed upon her God even as a young child. On Good Friday the family went to church from 12:00 Noon until 3:00 p.m. and the entire day was spent in silence.
At the age of sixteen, September 7, 1947, Lucy Mae entered the Ursuline community following the example of her sister Ellenee. She entered with a group of twelve, who remained nine most of the years. To her classmates, Sisters Mary Eileen, Mary Louise, Mary Renee, Clarita, Luisa, Jane Irvin and Mary Sheila. We thank you for being such examples of Christian Charity, of prayerfulness and holiness to your classmate. We extend our prayers and sympathy to you.
On August 14, 1948, Lucy Mae took the Holy Habit of the Ursuline Congregation and became know as Sister Rose Theresa. On August 15,1950 she made her first vows. This began her first of the 42 years of teaching God’s younger children. Over those years she taught throughout the Owensboro and Louisville dioceses in Kentucky. At the same time she was teaching she was also gaining a degree from Brescia College. From the many reports I read and from listening to other sisters who lived with her , Sister Rose Theresa was an excellent primary teacher. She had great rapport with her students and also with their parents. Both Sister Mary Cabrini and Sister Francis Miriam as former principals who worked with her would attest to that truth. People related well with Sister Rose Theresa. She was a woman of prayer, a woman of hope, a woman who loved the Ursuline Community as well as her family and many friends.
In her spare time, Sister Rose Theresa liked to do crafts, she was an excellent cook. She loved to travel with her family and friends. She was a great advocate of playing cards. She could play throughout the entire night, fix breakfast the next morning and be ready to face a new day.
Sister Rose Theresa seemed to have a multiplicity of hidden talents. She was a producer. Her second grade class at St. Paul, Leitchfield performed the Passion Play for the Good Friday Services for the parish . Later in the day they were sought out to bring the performance of the Passion to St. Joseph, Leitchfield for their evening services.
Many Christmas Holidays found Sister Rose Theresa, Sister Rose Karen along with their sister Ellenee in Louisville at a downtown hotel being a clown to help entertain the poor children of the area. They also clowned at the Louisville children’s hospitals.
In 1989 Sister Rose Theresa left classroom education and went into parish ministry, extending and broadening the role of education. She ministered in Marion and Eddyville. Each Christmas she sang and was part of the living Christmas tree in Marion. Sister was also in the movie “The Last Dance”, a movie which dealt with capital punishment and was filmed at Eddyville.
Later, she ministered in Caneyville, Ky. and was interviewed by the Extension magazine. Her ministry took her daily to visit the homebound, to evangelize, to break down the prejudices among different faiths. The harvest was great and the laborers were few in that area, and yet she clung to her image of her God providing for her and being her help.
For the last 13 years Sister Rose Theresa has witnessed in Central City. She along with Sister Rose Karen visited the sick and homebound and took them communion. They worked at the food pantry, worked with the youth, helped others who needed any kind of help, and often had Communion Services when Father wasn’t available. Again breaking down prejudices dealing with different faiths was a big part of the work. They as a team gave so much to so many.
For the last few years, Sister Rose Theresa has battled with poor health, staying at the villa for weeks and months at a time. To all the workers in the villa, we say thanks for all of your care…thanks for caring for one of our Ursulines who just stopped by. It means much to be cared for by such loving women.
St. Lawrence prayed, saying: “I give thanks to you, O Lord, because you have found me worthy to enter your gates.” And with her childhood parish patron, Sister Rose Theresa has entered the gates.
Thank you Sister Rose Theresa for being an Ursuline, a woman religious, for the example of faithfulness and holiness you shared with us all. You did such a marvelous work in sending us Associates, I challenge you to send us women interested in being Ursulines.
Sister Mary Matthias Ward, OSU
Director of Local Community Life
August 12, 2012