“God, you have taught me from my youth: To this day I proclaim your wondrous deeds. Now that I am old and gray, do not forsake me, God, that I may proclaim your might to all generations yet to come. That I may praise you with the lyre and sing to you with the harp.”~ Psalm 71:17-22
Sister Laurena’s love of musical praise included directing the Marywood choir. Her eyes sparkle and her soul rejoices. The fifth of ten children of Joseph and Larena Schneider Alflen, she was called from birth to religious life, music and art. Baptized Rose Mary after her maternal grandmother, Rose, she and her sister Margaret became organists at St. Mary Magdalen, Detroit; it often required them to walk, ride their bikes or take the bus to church and back.
It was 1946 when she was inspired by the Dominican Sisters who taught her at St. Mary Magdalene, Melvindale, to tell Sister Marie Ida that she would like to become a Sister. At age 14, Rose Mary went to Marywood to become an aspirant. Her mother told her she always wanted one of her daughters to become a Sister. In 1950, she entered as a postulant. At reception, she received the name of her mother and the title of St. Joseph.
As the years passed, maturity helped her to acknowledge the gift of being a musician in many areas, especially teaching and church music.
Her ministry was centered in school and church music, hand bells and marching bands. For many years she performed in symphonic choirs, serving as president of the choral society in Saginaw. Ongoing education was necessary. The community and family supported this and she loved every moment of it.
When Vatican II brought about exciting changes in liturgical music, she was at the forefront introducing works by Deiss, the Jesuits, Gelineau and many others who built upon the heritage of Gregorian chant. These last several years have been a special grace of living in community and the Incarnational mystery of prayer, study and life.
Since returning to live at Marywood, she has found many opportunities to deepen the spiritual longings of her heart that were awakened by Vatican II: prayer, contemplation, community life, ministries, and a zest for life, love, joy, music, and painting. “All gifts from God, my creator, and wonderful family heritage. This is why I became a Dominican Sister,” says Sr. Laurena.
2021 – 70 Years a Sister
Pray for legislation to put a ban on assault weapons
Sister Laurena has long worked to help end homelessness in West Michigan.
Sister Laurena was one of three Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters who told their stories at THE MOTH live event on Sept. 15, 2015 at the Wealthy Theatre in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Sister Laurena’s joyful presence warms the world around her.
Sister Laurena directed the Choir at Marywood.
Sister Laurena’s creative gifts include piano, bells, and singing. She began sketching and painting in her 70s. Her oil paintings appear in shows around West Michigan.