October 21, 1905 – December 29, 1989
On the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 1986, Sister Rose Ellen wrote, “My soul proclaims the goodness of the Lord. My spirit finds joy in God, my Savior.”
An even greater joy must have been hers on Friday, December 29, when her earthly life ended and her God and Savior called her to the eternal joys of heaven! Agnes Rose Wendling was born to Joseph and Caroline Birkmeier Wendling, on October 21, 1905 at New Lothrop, Michigan. She was the firstborn of nine children, four girls and five boys. She was
baptized, received her First Holy Communion and was confirmed at St. Michael Church in Maple Grove.
Since the Wendling home was too distant from the Catholic school, Agnes attended the public school near her home until she was in the seventh grade, when her father bought a large farm near the church. She was now able to have Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters, the sisters who had prepared her for her first Communion, as teachers. She completed grade school and high school at St. Michael School.
Agnes had a great desire to become a teacher, and after graduating from high school in 1924, spent the summer attending the State Normal School at Mt. Pleasant. The next year she taught in the
district school. She had for years desired to become a Dominican Sister and now felt ready to enter the Marywood Community. She did so on September 6, 1925. On August 24, 1926, Agnes received
the habit of St. Dominic and the name of Sister Rose Ellen of the Holy Cross. She made her first profession of vows to Mother Eveline Mackey. Her father’s only two sisters, Dominican Sisters Sienna and Seraphine, offered much support and encouragement to the young Sister. Later, she had the joy of having one of her own sisters, Sister Dolores, join her in the community.
Fifty years of Sister Rose Ellen’s years of religious life were spent in classroom teaching. Even asa postulant and a second year novice she was engaged in the Community’s education apostolate. Nineteen years were spent in missionary work in New Mexico during the time when the work of our sisters in the Southwest was still very mucn in the pioneering stage. Dixon, Penasco, San Juan, and Belen, where she served, were all public schools at the time. How she loved the Indian and Spanish children! During her last year there, 1947-48, the trouble that was to culminate in the famous Dixon Case was already brewing.
Sister Rose Ellen also taught in several Michigan schools, primarily as an early elementary teacher: North Dorr; Marywood and St. Alphonsus, Grand Rapids; St. Joseph, Bay City; Suttons Bay; Holy Trinity, Alpine; and St. Mary Magdalen, Melvindale.
Melvindale was fortunate to have Sister’s services for twenty-two years, from 1963 to 1985. Thirteen of these were in classroom teaching. Always a willing C.C.D. teacher, in 1971 her interest was. directed to special education classes for the handicapped. In 1976 her apostolate became that of Pastoral Ministry, C.C.D. teaching, and teacher and director of the religious education program for the handicapped. Her pastoral ministry encompassed visiting and bringing Holy Communion to the shut-ins, sick, lonely, and elderly including the sick at the Veterans Administration Medical Center.
Concerning the latter, she remarked, “It is an honor to be Minister of the Eucharist and carry Jesus to His suffering Body.
When Sister Rose Ellen left Melvindale in 1985 to take residence at Aquinata Hall, the parish honored her with a party and dinner attended by several hundred people. At the time she said she had reached the golden years, “a moment in my life when I need more time just to be, time to be quiet, a time to pray more while spreading the joy of Jesus to others around me”. Sister continued her pastoral ministry at Aquinata, bringing peace and happiness to our own sisters.
Sister Rose Ellen excelled as a teacher, sharing her gifts not only with her pupils but also with other teachers through demonstrations and lectures. As a superior and principal she was much loved and through her amiable and gentle disposition, was indeed a channel of peace. It was prayer which was the key to her beautiful life. Celebrating the Eucharist and partaking of the Bread of Life never ceased to be the rich source of her own goodness and love.
Sister left a special message to be shared at this time: I love our Dominican Community and all the sisters who are a part of our great Dominicanfa mily. It is to our Community that I owe everything I have received and without it I could not have lived a life close to God. For this I am grateful, and wish to express my whole-hearted thanks to the sisters, especially those with whom I have labored. I ask pardon of God and you, my dear sisters, for all my faults and negligences. In your charity please remember to pray for me. And we, as a Community, give God grateful thanks for Sister Rose Ellen’s life and work that have so richly furthered the Kingdom of God. We wholeheartedly respond: AMEN! ALLELUIA!
Sister Rose Ellen is survived by her sisters, Sister Dolores Wendling, of Marywood, and Mrs. Hilda Emmendorfer of Chesaning; her sister and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Carl (Marie) Wrocklage of
Chesaning; her brothers and their wives, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Wendling and Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Wendling of Chesaning; Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Wendling of Montrose; Mr. and Mrs. Norbert Wendling of New Lothrop; her sister-in-law, Mrs. Arnold Wendling of Montrose; several nieces, nephews and many friends.
Entered eternal life on December 29, 1989 at the age of 84 after 64 years of religious life
We commend Sister Rose Ellen to your prayers.
Sister Dolores on the left and Rose Ellen Wendling on the right in 1941
Enjoying the lake, pictured from left to right; Sisters Euphemia, Henry Suso, Aquilina, Rose Ellen, and Conrad