Sr. Rosemary Melsopp
Sister Rosemary Melsopp was born in New York City on September 15, 1923, the third of ten children of Mary Lynch and Rhody Melsopp. Having become familiar with the Marianites at French Hospital, Rosemary requested admission into the Congregation and entered the novitiate in New Orleans on September 8, 1944. On May 8, 1945, she received the habit and the name Sister Mary Severin. Temporary vows were made on May 9, 1946 at Holy Angels in New Orleans, renewed at French Hospital and made forever on August 21, 1949 at Our Lady of Princeton.
Nursing was to be her ministry and Rosemary received her training at St. Catherine’s Hospital in New York. Shortly after having earned her R.N. in 1949, she was assigned to French Hospital, but less than four years later she was granted her wish of fulfilling her vow of foreign missions by working with the sisters in the leprosarium in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Her arrival there in 1953 coincided with the centenary of the arrival of the first of Fr. Moreau’s sons and daughters in Bengal.
Sister had to spend several months studying the Bengali language before she became a welcome addition to the staff in the very busy dispensary at Comilla. She loved her work there and once told her sister, Carol, that she would be happy to stay there forever. After six years, Rosemary returned to America and was assigned to the operating room at St. Joseph Hospital in Lac Megantic, Canada, a ministry she fulfilled for six years. .
On July 28, 1966, Rosemary was informed that she had been selected to leave in September for Rome where she would study at Regina Mundi School of Theology. Sister’s talent and her gift for languages were remarked by the Marianite general administration and she was missioned to the motherhouse in France as a translator, a task she fulfilled at several general chapters. At the 1969 chapter, when permission was given to the sisters to return to their baptismal names, Sister Severin was known thenceforth as Sister Rosemary.
From 1969 to 1972, Sister was busy nursing at Manhattanville College and at Helen Fuld Hospitals in the USA. Having earned her bachelor of science in nursing education, she returned to Bangladesh as a nurse in Jalchatra Hospital from 1972 – 1977. Unforeseen circumstances forced the withdrawal of the Marianites from the hospital and Rosemary returned to the States where she served as nurse in the infirmary and a welcome member of the local community at Our Lady of Princeton.
However, they say, “Once a missionary, always a missionary,” so no one was surprised when Rosemary asked to work in a poor mining community in the Appalachian Hills where she ministered at St. Mary’s Hospital in Norton, Virginia. While there, she filled her free time with tracing her family history, a hobby in which she became very involved. Following another brief time at Our Lady of Princeton, Sister was assigned to Mater Dei Nursing Home in Elmer, New Jersey where she served as Staff Developer and nurse and was reunited with her earlier companions from French Hospital. Her ministry there lasted six years until dialogue with her superiors led to Rosemary’s return to the missions, this time in Haiti. A serious bout with dengue fever weakened her physically and she finally had to return permanently to life in the States.
And there again Rosemary found “missionary work” as she distributed medicine to AIDs patients in New York City. While working at St. Clare’s Hospital, Rosemary lived with the Presentation Sisters and enjoyed walking the long city blocks to and from work. Ever close to her family, Sister was returning from the family’s celebration of her 75th birthday when she was struck by a city bus as she exited Port Authority. As a result of this accident on September 27, 1998, Rosemary was left partially paralyzed and unable to speak. After many years of speech therapy, she was able to say only two or three words: yes, no, and oh God.
A resident of McAuley Health Care Center for twelve years, locked in a body that knew four languages and had traveled the world over, Sister bore her infirmities courageously, patiently and silently. On January 15, surrounded by her Marianite sisters and her family, Rosemary received once again the anointing of the sick. On January 16, 2011, she was called to heaven to claim her inheritance.
A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated in the chapel at McAuley Health Care Center on January 20th, feast of our Founder, Blessed Basil Moreau. Present were family, friends, Marianites, Sisters of Mercy, Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, residents and staff of the facility. Burial was at Our Lady of Princeton cemetery, Princeton, New Jersey.
May Sister Rosemary’s truly valiant soul rest in peace!