|Birth: ||Nov. 9, 1912|
|Death: ||Oct. 16, 2008|
Sister Mary Bernadette of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was born Theresa Rohling to Theodore B. Rohling and Stella Heger Rohling on November 9, 1912, in Covington, Kentucky. An older brother, Leonard, and four younger brothers made up the family. It was in high school at LaSalette Academy in Covington that Theresa received her call to become a Religious. While not feeling called to an active Order as were some of her classmates, Theresa was uncertain where her aspirations seemed to draw her, so she sought guidance from Fr. Louis Driscoll, a Passionist serving at the Passionist Community in Cincinnati, Ohio. As Theresa's Spiritual Director, Fr. Louis gently guided her to discern God's call to the Passionist Nuns of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Theresa wrote to the Community's Superior who was one of the original five foundresses who came to the United States in 1910, from the first Monastery of Passionist Nuns
established by St. Paul of the Cross in 1771, in Corneto, now Tarquinia, Italy. Theresa was accepted but was advised, possibly by Fr. Louis, to remain at home after graduation, to help her mother care for the four younger brothers. After two and a half years at home, Theresa was at last able to leave for the Monastery. On November 19, 1932, she and her father arrived at the door of St. Gabriel's Monastery in Scranton, tired from an all night train ride, but happy that their destination was reached. Later, Sr. Mary Bernadette confided that when she told her parents of her desire for religious life, her mother said she thought it was a good idea. Her father said that if that would make Theresa happy, it would indeed make him happy. Early homesickness in the Monastery was relieved by the knowledge that her father would be visiting each year, thanks to free passes he received as a railroad employee. Her mother accompanied him occasionally, and Leonard visited a few times before dying of cancer at the early age of 27.
Her older brother's death was an acute suffering for Sr. Mary Bernadette's young heart. She cherished the fond memory of Leonard's parting words as she left for the Monastery: "Give it a good try, Sis." We say to him, "Good advice, Leonard, which your sister took seriously, giving it a 'good try' for 76 years!"
Theresa received the Passionist Habit and the Religious Name of Mary Bernadette of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on October 3, 1933. The following year on October 11, 1934, she made the profession of First Vows andM received her Passion Sign, the distinctive emblem of her Congregation. On the day of her final profession, October 11, 1937, Sister never dreamed that in less than ten years, she would be leaving the Monastery in Scranton, and traveling toward, instead of away from, Covington, Kentucky. Chosen as one of the five foundresses of the Owensboro, Kentucky Monastery, along the way, the five travelers stopped at St. Aloysius Church in Covington to visit with her parents and family members. The founding band of Nuns reached their destination on 1420 Benita Avenue in Owensboro on October 7, 1946, and observed this date as the official establishment of St. Joseph's Monastery. A few days later, Sr. Mary Bernadette's father who was a master carpenter, arrived to help the Nuns convert the three story pre-Civil War home into the semblance of a Cloistered Monastery. Theodore Rohling was Building Superintendent in Cincinnati for NYC Railroad and was known for his skills in building, repairing and renovating. At the end of his two week vacation, this kind and generous man, with the help of a few local workers, had succeeded in providing the Nuns with a "double" chapel - an outer space for visitors and retreatants and an inner cloistered space for the Nuns.
Mr. Rohling had crafted a lovely altar and pews for the chapel and made other furniture as well. Over the years, he continued to dedicate his carpentry skills to the Nuns by making a writing desk for each Nun's bedroom, wooden tressels for the Nuns' strawfilled mattresses, tables and small stools for the retreat house guest rooms, and many other things as well. Most of these items are still in use in the Monastery to this day.
Sr. Mary Bernadette inherited her father's carpentry skills. It was not unusual to see a trace of sawdust on her work habit. At ease with an electric saw like her father, Sister made many pieces of furniture for the Monastery. One Sister remembers that shortly after she entered the Postulancy, Sr. Mary Bernadette put an electric saw in her hands and helped her make a set of elaborate wall brackets for devotional statues. Throughout her religious life, Sr. Mary Bernadette engaged in various projects, especially as Novice Directress, possibly as a way to help new members keep their minds off home sickness. On entering the large recreation room of the Novitiate, one would likely see a stuffed animals project, or various arts and crafts. Since the six large windows of the recreation room had the benefit of the morning sun, Sr. Mary Bernadette turned the room into a hot house one spring, where all the formation Sisters were enlisted to plant and nurture flower seedlings.
One Sister, who couldn't tell the difference between a flower seedling and a weed, would hear "O sweet Mother!" from Sr. Mary Bernadette, who then patiently taught her not to pull up daisies, asters, marigolds, sweet williams and other flowers!
Besides serving the community as Novice Directress, Sr. Mary Bernadette held the office of Assistant Superior for many years. She also served on the Superior's Council and as Retreat Directress.
Possessing a great generosity, she gave her very best to a variety of duties, for instance, serving as Econome - the Sister in charge of supervising the kitchen - and as seamstress who made the habits and other clothing, to mention only these few.
Having lived under an earlier text of our holy rule for several decades, Sister found the changes required by Vatican II quite a challenge. Once she was assured, however, that a proposed change in the customary way of doing things did not infringe on essentials of doctrine or charism, Sr. Mary Bernadette was more at ease, and others could sense that she was at peace in her heart beneath the surface of situations.
Throughout her two and a half years in the Carmel Home Infirmary, Sr. Mary Bernadette received attentive care, to which she responded gratefully, though sometimes without words. She spoke less and less as time went on. Finally, even her smile faded, but she always manifested great peace, holiness and an uncomplaining abandonment to God. Often the Sisters would offer a large Crucifix to her, and she would reverently kiss the wounds of Jesus. At any time of the day or night the staff members would find her quietly gazing toward the Crucifix on her wall.
On October 13, 2008, the staff at Carmel Home alerted the Nuns that Sr. Mary Bernadette's condition had suddenly worsened, and were advised to keep watch with her as it seemed the end was near. At 2.10 pm., on October 16, a sudden change came over Sr. Mary Bernadette. It was the feast of St. Margaret Mary, and Sr. Margaret Mary of the Community, happened to be the one staying in prayer with Sister at the time. Sr. Mary Bernadette was conscious because she gave a definite "yes" to the question, "Sister, is it hard to breathe?" As the nurse could not measure Sister's vitals, she called the Nuns to come immediately. While the Community gathered in Chapel to offer prayers for the dying, the Divine Bridegroom, took to Himself His faithful bride who for so many years, had kept her lamp alight and ready for His coming.
Sr. Mary Bernadette peacefully breathed her last at 2.22 pm. Funeral Mass was celebrated on October 22, at St. Joseph's Monastery of the Passionist Nuns.
Passionist Monastery Cemetery
Created by: Eman Bonnici
Record added: Mar 25, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 87329029
Rest In Peace, Most Beloved Sister Mary Bernadette!|
Added: Mar. 25, 2012