Sister Rose Ann Vienhage, MM

Born: September 9, 1926
Entered: September 4, 1948
Died: May 12, 1994

“Every single creature is full of God
Every single creature is a book about God
The only way to live is like a rose
Live without why”
Meister Eckhart

Sister Rose Ann Vienhage died quietly and peacefully at Majuro Hospital on the Feast of the Ascension, Thursday morning, May 12, 1994 at 8 o’clock.

Rose Ann was born September 9, 1926 to Samuel and Rose Fellin Vienhage in Springfield, Missouri, the fifth of six children. She had two sisters, Maxine and Mary Louise, and three brothers, Bob, Charlie, and Samuel, and many nieces and nephews.

Rose Ann attended St. Agnes’ Grade and High School in Springfield; graduated with a BA in Sociology from Webster College in 1948, and later the same year entered Maryknoll. Following novitiate and First Vows at Maryknoll, NY, Rose Ann was assigned to study at Loyola College in Chicago and was awarded a Masters of Social Work in 1956. She professed her Final Vows in Chicago in 1957 and continued in social work ministering to children separated from their families.

An assignment to the Central Pacific Region in 1959 opened a new chapter in her life. During the first year she taught sixth grade at St. Augustine School and then returned to social work at Catholic Social Service doing family counseling and supervising graduate students from the University of Hawaii. Later years at Catholic Social Service were spent as Administrative Assistant.

We remember Rose Ann as a person who helped things to happen. The seeds of Parish Outreach, Group Homes for the Elderly, the Spiritual Life Center, and ministry in Kalihi Valley Housing all found fertile soil in this woman of faith. She had a way of sharing vision and hope, encouraging, supporting, educating, always nudging in positive directions. And like the seed that dies to give new life, as each endeavor began to grow, Rose Ann was able to let go and allow others to carry on.

With a combination of vision, practical skills, good humor and leadership Rose Ann served the community in a number of leadership positions. She was a Councilor at St. Catherine’s, served as Regional Coordinator (1970-1976) and was a delegate to three General Assemblies (1970, 1974, 1978). During these years of rapid change Rose Ann held fast to the need for spiritual rootedness and arranged to have directed retreats given by women and men. Outstanding speakers were invited to expand our vision and understanding of church.

Rose Ann was not afraid to ask questions and was secure enough in herself to speak her truth and allow others to do the same. Her spirituality was not so much talked about as lived. She had a quiet confidence in herself and others. People came first and consultation was natural to her. When needed, she called on her ability to challenge calmly, allowing others to make responsible decisions which she respected. Risk was no stranger to her and a happy blend of inner strength and courage allowed her to move forward.

From 1984-1988 Rose Ann served at the Center as Coordinator of Mission Projects Funding. After returning to Honolulu she used her culinary skills at the Spiritual Life Center and shared her warm hospitality with those who came to refresh body and spirit.

A gift for laughing at herself and enjoying the lighter side of life endeared Rose Ann to many. A picnic or party was never too much trouble and the Vienhage family reunions were very special to her. During her first visit to the Marshall Islands Rose Ann delighted in telling the story of how women patted her large frame, all the while beaming their appreciation that big is beautiful. When Rose Ann returned to Honolulu she remarked, ‘I have to go back there!’ And so in 1989 she requested an assignment to the Marshall Islands and went to Majuro to begin work with women and to do marriage counseling. Bringing the women together for arts and crafts provided a natural setting to talk and to share their hopes. These gatherings gained momentum and led to collaboration with women of other faiths. She was very concerned about environmental issues and helped plan various ecological projects in the school, such as Earth Day. Rose Ann served as contact person with the Pacific Council of Churches Women’s Desk. In 1993 she accepted the duties of Parish Administrator along with her other responsibilities.

The story of Rose Ann’s life is rich and full. Always fun loving and aware of those around her, she could go ‘up or down, in or out, this way or that’ in the spirit of Mother Mary Joseph. Things never had to be just right for Rose Ann to begin. Her heart was big enough to accept the ups and downs of life with equanimity.

The liturgy of the Resurrection will be celebrated in Majuro on Monday, May 16th, at 3:00 p.m. Msgr. James Gould, SJ, Prefect Apostolic of the Prefecture of the Republic to the Marshall Islands will be the principal celebrant. He will be joined by Richard McAuliffe, SJ, and Kevin Quinn, SJ. Burial will be at Assumption Cemetery. Memorial services will be held at St. Stephen’s Church in Honolulu on Monday, May 16th, at 7:00 p.m.; at Maryknoll, N.Y., May 15th; and at the Cathedral Parish in Springfield, MO, at 10:00 a.m., May 21st.

We extend special thanks to many women and men of Assumption Parish who have assumed much of the responsibility for the many details involved in this final tribute to our sister, Rose Ann.