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Sister Rose Marie Anthony

Living Her Dream

Published in Dialogue | Spring 2014, by Jean Mullooly

The Dream Is Born

“When I was in first grade, I knew I wanted to be a sister when I grew up,” recalled Sister Rose Marie Anthony. And become a sister she did; that little girl from Detroit, MI, has now been a professed Racine Dominican for 68 years.

Her second dream was to teach. “As a first-grader, my favorite playtime was putting on Mom’s old dress with a blue rosary hanging on my belt and wearing a dish towel veil!” she said. “I taught my sister and the neighborhood kids everything I learned in school. The parents were glad I got their kids ready for kindergarten.”

Rose Marie wanted to enter the convent when she was 15, but her parents worried she was too young to travel all the way to Wisconsin. “Back then it was an 11-hour

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trip. There weren’t any freeways,” Sister Rose Marie remembered. The determined young woman soon won her parents’ consent, however, traveling to Racine after her sophomore year in high school.

At age 20, Sister Rose Marie began a 23-year career teaching primary grades, and in so doing, shared her love of poetry with children in schools around Wisconsin and Michigan. For the next eight years, she was the children’s program coordinator for the newly opened Oak Creek Public Library, where she went from being “Sister” to “The Story Lady.” She then worked in school libraries for nine years.

In both teaching and library work, Sister Rose Marie found choral speaking to be an effective way of helping children learn to read and of building their confidence. Because of her experience and success with choral speaking, she was asked by a senior editor of Libraries Unlimited, Teacher Ideas Press to write a book about it and its benefit in the classroom. Fun with Choral Speaking was published in 1990.

Sister Rose Marie also taught courses at Cardinal Stritch University for teachers on using choral speaking in their classroom and update courses at Mount Mary College in children’s literature. She traveled across the country facilitating workshops for teachers on the use of choral speaking with their students.

At age 65, Sister Rose Marie’s ministry turned from inspiring children and teachers to caring for her elderly parents in Indianapolis. “Dad lived to 94 and Mom lived to 104. When she was 101 years young, I told Mom we were moving to Wisconsin. She handled it beautifully!” Sister Rose Marie marveled.

Tackling New Challenges

Always creative and outgoing in her endeavors, Sister Rose Marie took on new challenges when she moved with her mother back to Racine in 2007. Living at Siena Center, the Racine Dominican motherhouse, she was reunited with her Dominican Sisters and has been involved in the daily life of the community and its mission, “committed to Truth, compelled to Justice.”

She visits three homebound people each week through the Senior Companion Program, bringing a cheerful presence and listening ear. For the past three years, she has chaired the Racine Dominican Society Committee, leading such efforts as the community’s work to confront human trafficking.

“It’s a horrible problem,” she noted. “It can be overwhelming, depressing.” Yet, she does find glimmers of hope. “We’re collaborating with the police department and other agencies in trying to get a safe house for these victims. Once they’re freed from their captors, they have no place to go. We need to help them rebuild their lives.”

Hearing of the Racine Dominican efforts to fight human trafficking, the local chapter of “Dining for Women” contacted Sister Rose Marie to help educate their group about this travesty. The organization’s chapters across the United States are dedicated to “changing the world one dinner at a time.” Young women in their 20s and 30s meet monthly, donating what they may have spent on a dinner out to support a specific cause. Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said of the group:

The efforts that Dining for Women has undertaken … all across the country over the past ten years provide a powerful example of how individual acts of giving, when aggregated, can make a deep and transformational impact.

Sister Rose Marie and members of the Society Committee have met with key leaders in Racine about the growing problem of human trafficking. There is a county-wide effort to share resources and experience in building community awareness about and confronting this modern form of slavery.

A more upbeat effort in which Sister Rose Marie is involved as chair of the Society Committee is coordination of the “Woman of the Year” award bestowed upon an outstanding local woman during March, Women’s History Month.

“So often the abilities of women are not promoted or even recognized,” she reflected. “This is a wonderful way for the Racine Dominicans to honor various leadership qualities of women.”

The Journey Continues

In her 80s now, Sister Rose Marie exhibits the energy of a 40-year-old. She continues to embrace life to the fullest in her service to others, but also has the wisdom to recognize she must replenish her own spirit. She does so through praying, singing and pursuing artistic interests, such as calligraphy, sewing, seasonal decorating, and responding to various requests from her Sisters. “I just wish I had more time,” she said.

Still active in the Catholic Library Association (CLA) and the Wisconsin Catholic Library Association (WCLA) from her years in library work, Sister Rose Marie is being honored this year with the organization’s first annual Charlotte Decker Memorial Award, bestowed at the national conference in Pittsburgh. Decker was a long-time member of both the Children’s Library Services Section and the High School/Young Adult Section of the CLA.

Retirement does not seem to be in Sister Rose Marie Anthony’s vocabulary. That little first-grader from Detroit dreamed of living a full and happy life as a sister and teacher. In talking with Sister Rose Marie, one can recognize from her quick laugh and sparkling eyes that her journey thus far has brought that and so much more.



S. Rose Marie (James Marie) Anthony

What first drew you to the Racine Dominican community?

I attended Nativity School in Detroit for grades 7-10. S. Marie Jo Kwapil was my homeroom teacher in grade 10. She was pretty sure I’d make a good sister, so she encouraged me along. She asked me to decorate bulletin boards and take attendance. My parents weren’t too keen on my going to Wisconsin at age 15. It was an 11 hour trip on highway 12 in 1948. No freeways.

What has kept you in the community all these years?

We were kept active in our four formative years with schooling, prayers and duties. Community life suited me. I liked being in large groups and making new friends. From first grade, I had always wanted to be a teaching sister, but I really never knew how it would happen. As a first grader, my favorite playtime was dressing up in Mom’s old flowered dress with a blue rosary hanging on the belt and a dishtowel veil.I taught my sister and the neighborhood kids everything I learned at school. Their parents were glad I got them ready for kindergarten.

What was one particularly cherished memory of your years in ministry?

I love poetry, and all my teaching years I shared poetry through the medium of choral speaking. I became a very dynamic director of this art, and the kids were fantastic. We entertained often. Years later when I’d meet those children or parents, they’d always ask if I remembered this or that poem. On a chance comment I made about choral speaking at an NCEA convention in New York, an editor walked up to me and queried, “I heard what you just said. Would you be interested in writing a book for us on the topic?” In 14 months, Fun with Choral Speaking was published.

What is one thing people today should know about the Racine Dominicans? 

People should know the Racine Dominicans are still a moving force in peace and justice issues, both locally and globally. They don’t just die out but wear out.

What do you enjoy doing at this time of your life?

I enjoy more time to pray and read. I’ve always entertained the arts – music, singing, art projects, dancing, poetry. I love live theater, ballet, and good movies. I’m grateful for DVDs.

S. Rose Marie Anthony, OP is the first recipient of the Charlotte Decker Memorial Award

Sister Rose Marie's served many years in the library profession including as the children's program coordinator at Oak Creek Public Library in Oak Creek Wisconsin, and for ten years at three Catholic grade school libraries before retiring in 1998. She has served as president of the Wisconsin Catholic Library Association (WCLA), written a book – Fun with Choral Speaking (Libraries Unlimited, 1990), conducted workshops and traveled to speaking engagements at conventions across the United States.

The Charlotte Decker Award honors an outstanding past or present elementary, high school or public librarian who is a member of the CLSS or HS/YALSS section of the Catholic Library Association. Charlotte Decker was a long-time member of the Catholic Library Association (CLA) who was active in both the Children's Library Services Section and the High School/ Young Adult Section. Charlotte was a well-known figure at the national conference, offering informative book talks that featured the most current children's and young adult literature.