Father Ben credits the sisters with playing a key role in the way many Muhlenberg Countians have changed in their feelings toward Catholics. He says, “Many people around here have changed their attitudes toward Catholics simply because of the very fact of who they (the sisters) are. And their wearing habits helps them to witness for the Church and people hold them in greater esteem. We always work together. We visit the sick together, take Communion to shut-ins together and even break bread with Baptists together. They do excellent work!”
Sister Rose Karen says, “Father Ben and the parish have been so good to us and it is a real joy to be part of their lives.” Sister Rose Theresa adds, “I have come to love and appreciate our pastor, Father Ben, all of Saint Joseph parish and the community of Muhlenberg County.”
And the people of Muhlenberg County appreciate the work being done by sisters Rose Theresa and Rose Karen.
Mary Justice (parishioner): “My husband was sick for a long period of time and the sisters visited him regularly, they brought me Communion, helped bring him back to good health and then brought him back to the Church. We’re very thankful to the sisters for their help and kindness.”
Alice Powell (parishioner and Mount Saint Joseph associate candidate): “I haven’t lived here very long, but I’ve quickly seen that they have made quite an impact in the area. I don’t have a car so I ride with them often to and from church. Sometimes they stop at a grocery and I see people stop and talk with them and wave to them all the time. When we stop for a cup of coffee the server is always happy to see them and obviously glad to serve them. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Betty Keeling (longtime friend and parishioner): “They have had a big impact on the community. This is bible country and they have brought more understanding of the Catholic religion to the community because they are so friendly. They talk to everyone and are willing to help anyone in any way they can no matter what religion a person is. I’m a widow and I live close by. It’s just nice to know they are there and are willing to help in any way if needed.”
Jean Simpson (parishioner and Mount Saint Joseph associate): ”I’ve known Sister Rose Karen ever since she came here 11 years ago. She’s always been very prayerful and concerned. It’s always nice to be around her. You just always feel loved. Another thing is that she has a way of making one feel safe because you know she’s going to be praying for you and I do think God hears her prayers. The other night we had some real bad storms and they went to the chapel, lit some candles, prayed and made us all feel good and safe. Not many people can make you feel that way. I’ve known Sister Rose Theresa since she joined her sister six years ago. She’s a lot quieter, but I’ve learned she has the same qualities as her sister. And we now think of them almost as one. We now have double the prayers, double the caring.”
Jean Pfenning is one of many homebound Greenville residents who look forward to visits from the Johnson sisters. “I don’t think I can face the fight of the illness before me without those two dedicated, lovely, Catholic ladies in my life,” she says. “I’m very happy when they come to visit me.”
Her husband, Ron Pfenning, is also pleased when the sisters come knocking. “I look forward to their visits and their sharing what goes on in the community and the church with us,” he says. “I’m very glad they are there for Jean. We both think that what they do for Muhlenberg County should be commended and they should stay with us for as long as they wish.”
Elenita McConnell, a member of Saint Joseph parish and a Mount Saint Joseph associate, has known Sister Rose Karen since 1998, Sister Rose Theresa since 2000. A native of the Philippines, Elenita met her husband, Gasper McConnell, a native of Carrollton, while she was visiting relatives in the U.S. They were married and she moved to Kentucky.