November 23, 1906 – November 18, 1992
At the time of her Diamond Jubilee in 1988 Sister Rose Gonzaga wrote, “How shall I repay the Lord for all his benefits to me?”
God did indeed bestow many benefits on Sister and in turn her correspondence with God’s gracious favors to her was a rich source of edification to others. Death on November 18, 1992 was God’s final loving gift to Sister Rose Gonzaga: eternal life with God and the joys of heaven awaited her.
God’s first gift to Sister Rose Gonzaga was to be born into a beautiful, loving Christian family. On November 23, 1906, she became the third youngest of twelve children, two of whom had died before her birth and one after she was born. John and Antoinette Szydlowski, her parents, were both born in Poland and along with the gift of faith, their rich Polish heritage was a great blessing. Two days after her birth she was baptized at St. Adalbert Church and was given the name of Catherine.
When Catherine was four years old, a great sorrow came to the Szydlowski family. The dear mother died in childbirth. Her oldest sister Mary, who a year earlier had entered the Notre Dame Sisters, returned home to take the place of their dear mother; this Mary did admirably with the cooperation of a good father. The atmosphere of the Szydlowski home was one of love and mutual support. Not only did it nurture the seeds of a religious vocation for Sister Rose Gonzaga but also for two brother priests.
For kindergarten Sister Rose Gonzaga attended Sibley Street School and St. Adalbert for grammar school under the direction of the Sisters of Notre Dame. It was at St. Adalbert that she made her First Holy Communion and was confirmed by the Most Rev. H. J. Richter on April 25, 1915. In 1921, when she completed the eighth grade, her father, desirous of giving his children the best education possible, sent her to Girls’ Catholic Central where she spent four happy and pleasant years.
In her autobiography Sister wrote, “The desire of entering the religious state, which was influenced greatly by my home environment and carefully guarded and protected by the Sisters of Notre Dame, grew stronger as the years passed by and undoubtedly showed signs in my outward conduct especially during my Senior year.” She did not have the courage, however, to share her “secret” with anyone. It was our Sister Blanche Steves whom God used to speak
to her about having a vocation and for this she was most grateful; because of Sister Blanche’s interest and encouragement, Catherine decided to become a Dominican Sister. But when she asked to enter, her sister, though happy with her decision, wanted her to wait; so for three years Catherine did secretarial work.
Leaving her father and her other dear ones at home was a sad experience for Catherine; nevertheless, on September 7, 1927, at the age of twenty, she entered the Marywood novitiate with Sister Jerome Smithers as her novice mistress. The longed-for day for her reception of the habit became a reality on August 28, 1928, and she then became known as Sister Rose Gonzaga of the Crucified Savior. Her First Profession of Vows was made to Mother Eveline Mackey on August 29, 1930.
Her apostolic labors, which were to encompass almost sixty years of fruitful ministry, began at Melvindale as a second-year novice. After two years there teaching in the grades, her next forty-six years were spent teaching on the high school level at St. Joseph and Catholic Central, Muskegon; Essexville; West Branch; St. Joseph and All Saints, Bay City; Maple Grove; and Marywood Academy. Her expertise was in business, and she was successful in getting excellent secretarial jobs for her students many of whom reached high places in the business world. For ten of her years on mission she had the added responsibility of administration. She accepted this in “obedience”; this was never of her choosing though she did admirably. She was a much loved and admired teacher.
In 1977 when she terminated her teaching, she came to Marywood Academy and for four years did secretarial work. During her last year in the Academy office and for the five following years, she was Marywood House Bursar, a position which was not a new one for Sister Rose Gonzaga since she had served as house bursar on most of the missions where she taught.
It was a pleasure to live and work with Sister, who was always a very community minded person and for whom prayer was a number one priority. The Sisters who were associated with her have grateful and pleasant memories of her kindness, generosity, and helpfulness. In the days prior to school secretarial assistance, who would not have been grateful to have your tests typed and duplicated? In her bedroom, she had a wall hanging with a quote from Michelangelo, “Trifles make perfection though perfection is no trifle.”
In 1986 Sister asked to be relieved of her bursar duties, and was able to enjoy a more leisurely life with added time to pray, read, visit the sick, pursue some of her hobbies, and relax. As time went on, her health declined and on June 9, 1989, Aquinata Hall became her residence.
In a brief autobiographical sketch Sister wrote, “I am most grateful to God for my vocation, my Dominican Community, my loving family and the loyal friends who have supported me these many years. God love and bless them all!” She also had this quote, “The real measure of our wealth is what we shall own in eternity.” We are confident that Sister Rose Gonzaga has laid up many treasures for heaven. May God now reward her for her long fruitful, dedicated, and beautiful life.
Sister Rose Gonzaga is survived by her sisters Celia and Gertrude Szydlowski of Grand Rapids, her nieces, nephews, and many friends.
Entered eternal life on November 18, 1992 at the age of 85 after 65 years of religious life
Wer commend Sister Rose Gonzaga to your prayers.