Golden Jubilarian, 2017 - Sister Rosemary Fleming, SC
Prior to entering the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill on January 1, 1967, Sister Rosemary Fleming, SC, worked at the Diocese of Pittsburgh Chancery Office with the late Bishop Anthony Bosco. Father Bosco (at the time) untiringly urged Sister Rosemary to listen for God’s call to a religious vocation and encouraged her to talk about religious life with a Sister of Charity. “He nagged me!” chuckled Sister Rosemary. Happy with her career and her single life, Sister Rosemary resisted his advice. Eventually, she did seek guidance from her former high school business teacher, Sister Mary Rose Knorr, who like Sister Rosemary, was part of the “working world” before becoming a sister. Bishop Bosco’s persistence paid off when Sister Rosemary joined the Sisters of Charity who taught her at Saint Kieran Grade School and Elizabeth Seton High School. Sister Rosemary will celebrate 50 years of religious life at a special Mass of thanksgiving on July 9, 2017.
Sister Rosemary was equipped for ministry with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and theology from Seton Hill University and a masters’ degree in parish social ministry from Seattle University. In her early years of ministry, she taught at Saint Jane de Chantal School, Bethesda, MD, and coordinated adult religious development programs for the Diocese of Greensburg. In 1970, she was one of two sisters hired by Catholic Charities to plan and administrate a small group home of unwed mothers at Roselia Manor, in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The ministry was a smaller offshoot of the Roselia Foundling and Maternity Hospital where the Sisters of Charity had ministered to women and their babies from 1891-1971. “The two years I spent working with the unwed mothers at Roselia Manor was both a responsibility and a privilege,” recalled Sister Rosemary.
In 1973, Sister Rosemary took on two new roles when she began her first pastoral ministry position and was appointed Moderator of the Ladies of Charity of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. With only a one-year hiatus to complete her graduate studies in social work in 1988, Sister served six parishes of the Diocese of Pittsburgh over the next 40 years: Saint Joseph, Port Vue (1973-75); Saint Luke, Carnegie (1975-88); Saint Joseph, Mt. Oliver (1989-93); Saint John Vianney (1994-01); Saint Kilian (2002-05); Saint Sylvester, Brentwood (2005-13). During these years, she extend her care for the poor and vulnerable in her involvement in ecumenical and community activities. She was involved in the Institute for Today’s Ministries at Seton Hill University, helped with the Fund for Neighbors in Need, provided counseling in the Diocese of Greensburg, worked with South Hills Hospice, served on an Energy Assistance Committee, and belonged to Carnegie Concerned Citizens.
Parish ministry responsibilities included parish record keeping, hospital and home visits, bereavement counseling, ecumenical involvement, diocesan work, and social justice and direct service outreach. Sister Rosemary met with parish councils and planned para-liturgies and prayer services. She trained servers, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and volunteer ministers to the homebound. In addition, she established caregiver and bereavement groups. “For me the most special aspect of parish ministry was the people––whether they were coming for food, furniture, clothes, or if they were parishioners who reached out to the poor and needy,” Sister explained. “The volunteers and concerned parishioners who assisted my ministry were true witnesses of Christ–followers.” Sister Rosemary led parishioners in her example of seeing Christ in each person she served.
Throughout her years of parish ministry, Sister Rosemary also served the Diocese of Pittsburgh as Moderator for the Ladies of Charity for 37 years (1973-2010). During her tenure, the organization was comprised of as many as 1900 women from over 80 parishes who were prompted to minister to the spiritual and material needs of ill, elderly, or financially stressed persons in their local communities. Sister described her supportive role for the diocesan chapter by saying, “I encouraged women to express the charity in their hearts in action for the poor.” The Ladies of Charity nominated Sister Rosemary and she received the Pittsburgh Diocese Manifesting the Kingdom Award in 2003 for her dedicated service to the Church. “What began as an assignment in 1973 developed into a passion! You couldn’t be a Lady of Charity and not be motivated by Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac and what they did in establishing programs to serve the poor,” Sister explained. “It just caught hold of you!”
Sister retired to Caritas Christi, the motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity, in 2013. She continues to serve those in need by making phone calls to the home bound as a volunteer representative for Greater Greensburg Faith in Action. “I have felt a close connection with the Vincentian-Setonian charism of my congregation throughout my religious life. I saw the evidence of concerned parishioners who did what Saint Vincent de Paul urged those of his day, ‘seek out the poor.’ Working with the Ladies of Charity was a wonderful sign of how Christians take the words of Christ to ‘love the least’ to heart,” Sister Rosemary reflected on her 50 years of ministry. “In retrospect, I am glad Bishop Bosco hounded me about becoming a Sister of Charity!” she laughed. “He was the ‘Hound of Heaven’!”