“When my husband and I first came here, people asked what our religion was and I proudly told them we were Catholic,” she recalls. “They all then started to ignore us and didn’t talk to us at all. We didn’t have any friends. But since the sisters have come most people have changed their attitude about Catholics because of their involvement in the community. They love the people no matter what their religion is. Everyone asks them to come to their homes and pray with them.”
She also tells of the sisters helping her through some most difficult times. “When my husband died last December they came to me, prayed with me and told me he was in God’s hands,” she says. “They were really there for me when I really needed them. They also called everyone and told them about Gasper’s dying. Everyone then prayed for me.”
Laura Smith, a longtime friend, a Mount Saint Joseph associate and a member of Saint Joseph Parish, has known Sister Rose Theresa since 1950 and Sister Rose Karen since Laura and her husband, Bill, moved to Central City in 1993. “Sister Rose Theresa is a very easygoing, sweet person who always has a smile for everyone,” says Laura. “She’s more reserved than her sister, but everybody really likes her and finds her really approachable. She and her sister have worked together to bring this place alive – there hadn’t been much going on in the parish before they got here.”
Laura is also impressed with the work the sisters have done in the community with people of other faiths. She says, “The two of them together have made a lot of contacts with people of different faiths in the area. This afternoon I met with some people of different faiths for coffee and they came and joined us as they often do.”
She sees a big difference in the two sisters. “Sister Rose Karen is very outgoing and a big tease,” she says. “She teases with the ladies and they just eat it up. They all seem to just love her. After Mass everybody just waits to say something to her. We all have some big laughs and get our day going on a happy note.”
What do the sisters mean to Saint Joseph parish and Muhlenberg County? “They mean a lot to the parish and to all of the communities in the county,” says Laura. “They just come up and talk to everyone all the time.”
She adds, “And since they’ve been here they have really worked on the Mount’s associate program. Right now we have three new associate candidates in Muhlenberg County.”
The day photos were taken for this feature story, four associates and one associate candidate were present at Mass that morning at the Catholic Center. The associates were Elenita McConnell, Laura Smith, Jean Simpson and Father Ben Luther. The associate candidate was Alice Powell.
In the last two years, 11 new associates have joined the Mount Saint Joseph associate ranks from Muhlenberg County.