Sister Rosemary Stanton, missionary and educator, celebrates golden jubilee
FORT WORTH — When Rosemary Stanton graduated from Nolan Catholic High School in 1967, her goal was to join the Peace Corps. Teaching religious education one day a week to disadvantaged youngsters, and a summer spent working for Head Start in the same poverty-stricken neighborhood, kindled a desire to help the less fortunate.
“I became aware of my many blessings and felt I wanted to give to others some of what I had received,” the Fort Worth native said, remembering her teenage years.
Thoughts of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer in a third-world country paired the opportunity to serve with youthful adventure.
Her father nixed the idea.
“He thought it was too dangerous,” she explained, citing her dad’s protective nature as a reason for the decision.
At the time, her parents, Baldwin and Bernice Stanton, could not have imagined that within five years their daughter would begin a lifetime of ministry in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Cameroon, and Brazil as a Sister of St. Mary of Namur.
Family, friends, and former classmates of Sr. Rosemary gathered inside the Hartnett Arena at Nolan on Sept. 15 for a Mass of Thanksgiving to celebrate the former missionary’s 50 years as a member of the religious order. Taught by the Sisters of St. Mary at St. Ignatius Academy, Our Lady of Victory School, and Nolan, the former cheerleader entered the community in 1968 after attending the University of Texas at Arlington for one year.
“Although I was very involved in my social life, I still felt something was missing,” said Sr. Rosemary, who enjoyed parties and dating in high school. “I often wondered what God wanted me to do in life. I would have loved to marry, have a family, and raise them as good Christians but I also felt the call to religious life.”
Inspired by her religious educators, she decided to enter the convent at the age of 19.
“Since then, I’ve been abundantly blessed by the experiences I’ve been given,” said Sr. Rosemary, who spent nine years teaching religion and homemaking skills in Africa and 26 years in northeastern Brazil doing pastoral ministry in parishes and schools.
Living in different countries among people of different cultures fostered a sense of global awareness in the Texan.
“I know close-up about the beauty, the human richness, and, at times, the great material poverty and unjust situations in these places in the world,” she pointed out. “And my religious life is different because of this.”
Thanks to her life in the missions, Sr. Rosemary has a keen awareness of how people live in underdeveloped areas.
“Their presence in my heart and life make me hear a continuous call to live in solidarity with them,” she added.
After returning to Fort Worth, Sr. Rosemary went to work at her alma mater as a pastoral minister organizing liturgies and retreats for students. She also serves on her congregation’s General Council — a team of five women who manage the needs and mission of sisters working in 10 countries.
“The charism of the Sisters of St. Mary just bubbles out of her,” said Paul Combest, a former Nolan coworker who now lives in San Antonio. “I wanted to be here today to honor Rosemary. She’s just wonderful and takes care of this community — the students, staff, and alumni.”
Father Joe Pemberton, a Nolan classmate of Sr. Rosemary, concelebrated the Mass along with Bishop Michael Olson, Nolan’s chaplain Father Maurice Moon, Father Tom Craig, and Father Anh Tran. During his homily, Fr. Pemberton thanked his longtime Nolan friend for her faithfulness to the Church and religious life.
“It is good for us to be here today,” he said resolutely. “At a time when the Church is wrestling with so many issues — an element of our Church that is so broken — Christ brings us to this joyful moment to remember there are many men and women who courageously stand before Christ and His Church as a witness to the Gospel.”
The jubilee celebration honors such a woman, he told Mass participants.
“Sr. Rosemary Stanton and her 50 years of commitment to religious life remind us that even in the midst of brokenness, Jesus is present.”
Offering remarks at the end of the Mass, Bishop Olson thanked the jubilarian for her ministry, vocation, and dedication.
“Today is a day of Thanksgiving for all the sisters,” he said. “I thank God for the gift of the Sisters of St. Mary — for the charism of the order and the spirit of your founders that is in tandem with the voice of Christ — especially in serving the needs of the poor.”
Sr. Rosemary’s father may have quashed dreams of the Peace Corps, “but he was proud of her, we all are,” insisted her eldest sibling Ed Stanton.
Hearing his popular, college freshman sister wanted to join the convent was a surprise, he admitted.
“But that was her decision and we were for it,” Stanton added. “She’s done a lot for people. I’d say my father would be full of joy about this 50th jubilee.”