October 13, 1996 – July 6, 2001
“That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Psalm 27:4
This was a psalm prayer very dear and meaningful to Sister Rose William. When God called her home, her desire became a final reality.
Sister Rose William was born to Willie and Emma Bellemare St. Cyr, who were French Canadians, on October 13, 1906 at Montmarte, Saskatchewan. She was the second oldest of the family’s four girls. A week after her birth she was baptized at Sacred Heart Church and given the name of Celine. Of her parents she was later to write, “My good parents first formed my heart to love and to faithfulness; to say ‘yes’ to the Lord regardless of the cost.”
Celine’s more formal education was at schools first, at Montmartre and later at Ponteix, where the family had moved to a large farm in 1916. She then attended the Academy of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary at Gravelbourg and later she enriched her education by taking a sewing course in Winnepeg, Sask. She helped at home and later became a housekeeper for priests. One of these priests was Father Ogle, Sister Kenneth Fitzgerald’s uncle. He was so impressed by our Sisters and the catechetical work they did in many rural areas during the summer that he continued to “steer” many young women to our congregation. At Kindersley Celine met the Sisters when they stayed at the rectory while instructing the children.
At the age of 25 Celine uttered a very important ‘YES’ for on September 8, 1932, leaving her beloved Canada, she came to Marywood to enter our Dominican congregation with Sister Jerome Smithers as her postulant mistress. On August 23, 1933, she was clothed in the white habit and given the name of Sister Rose William of St. Dominic. As a novice she was assigned to take care of the Marywood chaplain’s quarters.
After her profession in 1935, Sister Rose William began 40 years in food service or housekeeping in some capacity. Her first mission assignment was to Hannah – and any Sister who was ever assigned there was likely to be told of the storm of 1939 when 75 children could not get home. By 9:00 that night there were still 35 left to stay for the night! It was Sister Rose William who “multiplied the loaves and pancakes.”
She also served in Melville, Sask. and for 12 years (at two different intervals) at St. Joseph Seminary in Grand Rapids. Everyone there, Bishop, priests, seminarians, parents, experienced her kindness, concern, and hard work. During her time there the enrollment soared to over 200 seminarians. The remainder of her 40 years was spent at Marywood, where she was in charge in turn of the Chaplain’s quarters and the school cafeteria, and then became executive housekeeper.
After 40 years another type of work awaited Sister Rose William. Her next ten years were devoted to the physical and personal needs of our retired Sisters. She did this with great empathy and concern for each Sister. Then in 1985, though many another person would have looked for a bit more leisure, Marywood’s sewing room became her work place and here she did not only the house mending but also sewing for the Sisters and the poor. She was a gifted seamstress who used this talent very unselfishly. When she did relax, she was frequently busy creating beautiful knitted and crocheted articles.
Sister Rose William was an exemplar of prayer and compassion. Always a good listener, she was never too busy or tired to take care of someone’s needs. She was a woman of great prudence, wisdom, and understanding and a loyal friend to many persons. In the St. Cyr relationship there were many priests and religious, and she was privileged to have one of her own family, Sister Marie Andre, enter our congregation eight years after her own entrance.
In a recent autobiography Sister Rose William recalled the blessings and favors that had been hers, for which she would continue to sing the refrain of her favorite psalm, “I will never stop thanking God” (34). She was particularly mindful of the love and example of her Sisters in community, and she added, “May St. Dominic reserve for me a place under the mantle of Our Blessed Mother, who already shelters so many of our loved ones.”
On the Feast of the Assumption in 1991, Sister Rose William suffered a stroke and was confined to Aquinata Hall ever since.
We as a community “will never stop thanking God for all the blessings that have been ours because of Sister Rose William’s good and beautiful life. May she now enjoy the wonderful peace which she brought to so many others by her kind and loving ministry.
Sister Rose William is survived by her sister Sister Marie Andre St. Cyr of Grand Rapids, nieces, nephews, friends and a loving community.
Entered eternal life on July 6, 2001 at the age of 94 after 67 years of religious life
We commend Sister Rose William to your prayers.