Sister Rose Doherty, MM

Born: May 9, 1920
Entered: December 8, 1938
Died: July 8, 1972

Sister Rose Doherty died at 5:30 p.m. yesterday, July 8th, only a few hours after she was admitted to Carney Hospital in Boston. Since March 1964 Sister Rose had experienced poor health. Despite her poor health during these years, she was able to study at Rogers, obtaining her Bachelor’s degree and  subsequently a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counselling from St. John’s University, Jamaica. During this time of study she was also giving dedicated service in the Travel and Registration Office in the Central Departments. On June 5th Sister Rose began a Clinical Pastoral Education course at Central Islip, Long Island. Just recently she had been assigned to the Eastern U. S. Region.

Sister Rose was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, on May 9, 1920. She graduated from St. Thomas High School on June 1, 1938, and entered Maryknoll on December 8th of the same year.

A few months ago Sister Rose gave me a copy of a “personal summary” which she wrote as part of her application to the C.P.E. course. I would like to share parts of it with the Community since these are her own thoughts about herself and therefore can reach us better than anything that others might say about her.

“I think my vocation to religious life developed very young, and I seemed to know when I was in the seventh grade that some day that was what I would do with my life. In high school we had Sisters, and I think they inspired me to do something similar, though I was torn between being a missionary and a teaching Sister. I made a retreat, prayed about it, and talked with the chaplain. He seemed to think the missionary life was what I was most interested in. I wanted to go to China and that area was cut off during the war. Missions in South America opened up and some were assigned there. I was happy that I could wait until China opened up again… In 1946 eighteen of us left for China on a troop ship. Two of us went to South China up-country to very primitive conditions, studied the language for a year, then worked in the villages teaching the women. I think I liked most working with the families in the villages. The Communists infiltrated in 1950, and we were caught for seven months under house arrest, six of us Sisters. In October of 1951 we were escorted by the police to the port city and put on a ship to Hong Kong, where I taught for six years. Those years were very important for me because of conditions of the house-school situation and the group of Sisters in whom I found so much support.

“In 1957 I returned to the States for furlough and after eight months was assigned to Taiwan, where I helped another Sister set up a native novitiate. We also started a training school for catechists… We trained the girls to help us in our work in the villages. Three years later I went to Taipei, the capital city, where we were opening a hostel for college girls.

“When in 1963 I became ill, I tried not to be sick; I didn’t want to be. Then every time I went to the hospital, I don’t think I ever gave up hope that I would be strong again. I wanted to live and be as alive as I had always been, active and healthy. After a few months it began to dawn on me that maybe this was very serious and though no one ever really said outright that this was possibly terminal, I knew it was and everyone was very concerned. At that time when I left for the hospital I talked with a priest about death and admitted I was afraid. He said he thought it was because we are going into the unknown and we have to go alone. That idea of having to go alone frightened me more, though I wondered why I should be so afraid when I had consecrated my life to Christ and He was the one whom I was going to meet. After they diagnosed my case and began treatment, the pick-up was great and my first reaction was ‘I want to live.’

“When I had to come back again in 1970 and had so much pain, I thought again that I was gradually approaching the same thing. A few days before I started treatment, a priest came to see me and I could talk very candidly about how I felt the last time and I could express better how I doubted and how little faith I thought I had. He seemed very understanding and I felt he had great empathy. Again it was going alone and I might not come out of this. However, when I did come out of it, I saw a whole row of Sisters standing there and the doctor came to assure me and tell me everything was all right. The support and concern of all those Sisters, the priest, and also the doctor helped more than I could ever explain. There are times when just being with people, saying nothing, is a special communication and words could never explain. I felt this with people who came to visit me.

“These experiences in facing possible death, my years in China, and all the happy and painful experiences, I think, have been integrated into my life and are a part of me that no one can take from me. I felt this more than ever when I made the decision not to go back to Taiwan and asked to change to the U. S. Region. Cutting myself off from the China Region was like a whole glob of my life taken away, and yet I feel all those years are what made me what I am today.” (March 31, 1972)

Those of us who knew Sister Rose Doherty will always remember her happy disposition, her gentle reverence and respect for people, her love for community, her easy response to other’s needs, and the profound spiritual dimension she gave to life. For myself, I remember well that she was the first Maryknoll Sister with whom I had a personal friendship soon after I entered Maryknoll. She introduced me to our life here at the Center with enthusiasm, joy, warmth, and great patience. Let us remember her in our prayers and have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered for her. We can all rejoice that her years of suffering and anguish are over and that she is with God in eternity, even though she is removed from our presence now and we are saddened at this loss. Sister Rose will be buried here at our Center after the funeral Mass on Wednesday, July 12th.