Sister Rose Anna Tobin, MM

Born: July 30, 1920
Entered: December 7, 1938
Died: March 2, 2010

Sister Rose Anna Tobin died quietly at the Maryknoll Sisters Residential Care IV on March 2, 2010. The Sisters with her at that moment had been noting the beautiful soft music being played in the room. It was composed of various renditions of the Sanctus and each time the choral voices sang ‘Hosanna,’ it almost sounded like Sister’s name was being called. Then just as she breathed her last, the music ended! Sister Rose Anna seemed to have taken the music of praise with her to another place! Her sister Betty later recalled how even as a child, Rose Anna would run through the family’s back yard and that of a neighbor to get to Church for morning Mass. She now enjoys the heavenly banquet, and we who mourn her give thanks for her life. Sister was 89 years of age and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 71 years.

Rosemary Anne Tobin was born on July 30, 1920 to Rose Elizabeth (Schmidt) and Joseph George Tobin in Grand Rapids, MI. She was the eighth of ten children. Two of her sisters became Sisters of Mercy, Sr. Lorraine Tobin, RSM and Sr. Eileen Tobin, RSM, while three of her brothers became Redemptorist priests, Rev. Gerard J. Tobin, CSSR, Rev. Francis J. Tobin, CSSR and Rev. Bernard Tobin, CSSR. Her parents, three of her sisters and all five brothers have predeceased her.

Rosemary attended St. Alfonsus primary school and graduated from Cathedral Central High School in Grand Rapids in 1938. She entered Maryknoll from St. Alphonsus Parish on December 7th of that same year. She received the religious name Sister Rose Anna which she kept all her life. She made First Vows on June 30, 1941 and Final Vows on the same date in 1944, both at Maryknoll, NY. She attended Mt. St. Vincent College in Riverdale, NY, and graduated with a B.A. in Political Science in 1944. That same year she was assigned with the first group of Maryknoll Sisters opening a new mission in Siuna, Nicaragua.

From then on, the whole of her overseas mission life was spent in Central America. She transferred to Guatemala in 1959, where she oversaw the construction of a school for boys and a center house for the Sisters in Huehuetenango, and for a short period afterward she served as Supervisor of the Pre-Primary and Primary School at Colegio Monte Maria in Guatemala City. This work was interrupted when in 1967 she was asked to go to Panama to help out for one year. The one year turned into an active 21 years in Panama, 18 of them as Principal of the popular San Vicente Primary and Secondary School in Panama City.

In 1985, Sister Rose Anna was awarded the Manuel Jose Hurtado medal and certificate, Panama’s highest educational appreciation award. It was the first time it was given to a Religious and a non-Panamanian. The recognition took place in Panama’s National Theater before a large crowd attending a Central America educational gathering. Though the award was Panamanian, the honor of presenting it to Sister was given to the Minister of Education of Guatemala. Sister Rose Anna received it “as a tribute to the wonderful efforts of all Maryknoll Sisters in educational ministry in Central America.”

As Sister Rose Anna’s mission life unfolded she engaged in additional studies as needed. In 1965 she took Linguistics and English as a Second Language at St. Michael’s College in Winooski, VT, and at the University of Vermont. She earned a certificate for a correspondence course on the gifted child from the University of Iowa during 1979-80. She attended courses at the former Canal Zone College and at the University of Panama in Psychology, Audio-visuals and Applied Sociology. She was frequently chosen to represent Panama at Education meetings in other Latin American countries as well as at meetings of the Panamanian and Central American Episcopal Conferences. From 1974 to 1988 Sister Rose Anna served the Maryknoll Sisters Central American Region on their Governing Board and as finance person. For several years she was also Treasurer for two schools of the Archdiocese of Panama. She was active in Panama’s Federation of Religious and was a member of its Board of Directors from 1983-1988.

In 1988 Sister Rose Anna returned to Maryknoll, NY, where she provided many services to the Congregation. She was best known and loved as Housekeeping and Hospitality Supervisor, a position she held from 1991 until 2004, managing our international bazaar during six of those years. She retired in 2005, but remained an active member of the Center, among other things, planning for community feasts and dining room decorations, and serving as Coordinator of Center Cerns and the Sparks House Group.

In mid-January 2010, a terminal diagnosis led to Sister’s move to Residential Care IV. Her approach to the acceptance of the disease and the decision for no extraordinary care, along with the way she gave away and disposed of personal items, freely letting go of so many things and not looking back or complaining, was a cause of much admiration. Typical of the way she handled many things in her life, she planned ahead and prepared for the suffering she knew would come. Her deep reflections during this time were often spontaneously revealed as a familiarity with the Blessed Mother and Jesus and the way they had accepted difficult things with no complaining. Almost to the very end, Sister loved being able to walk down the hall “to say good night to God” in the chapel. As the disease worsened in the days before her death, she quietly advised those close to her that “God was near.”

Many Maryknoll Sisters had grown accustomed to Sister Rose Anna’s first reaction to something new or to an unexpected change of plans. Unfailingly she would quickly adjust and be the gracious collaborator, hostess and generous gift giver that she was, always preparing treats for others. It was these traits that seemed to make it difficult for her to receive visitors in her last days, knowing that she was too sick to attend to them as was her manner. One month before her death, however, she was delighted by the visit of her sister, nieces, grandniece and her children, to whom she was pleased to give her treasured family keepsakes. Her gift giving was an important part of her concern for those in need as well. While in Residential Care she was pleased to still receive her personal allowance, saying that she now had more “to put in the box for Haiti’s earthquake survivors.”

We extend our love and sincere condolences to all of the family. We also wish to thank the nurses, aides and staff of Residential Care, and the Housekeeping team for their faithful and loving attentions to Sister. We welcome Father Timothy Graff, Associate Maryknoll Father from the Newark, NJ, Archdiocese who will preside at today’s liturgy of Christian Burial.