Sister Rosemary Wack, SNDdeN

Sister Rosemary Wack, SNDdeN

Sister Rosemary Wack, SNDdeN

Link to Funeral Mass/Recording

Sister Rosemary Wack SNDdeN
February 18, 1929 – March 24, 2024 

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14)

Rosemary was the fifth of nine children born to Ed and Mary Margaret Wack. They raised their family in Dayton, Ohio, passing on a deep-rooted Catholic faith, a strong work ethic, and a belief in the value of education. The family learned how to deal with challenges as the two gas stations and a grocery store owned by Ed disappeared in the economic crash of 1929. He went to work in the insurance business to support his family. All of the children spent time working in a grocery store, and their earnings were put aside for their future college educations. All of the children also became ill with scarlet fever. The youngest son, Gregory, did not survive. The family’s faith brought them through the challenges and grief, strengthening the parents and nourishing each child to grow their gifts. 

The family prayed the rosary together each night for the intention of vocations. Rosemary later told how, one night during her sophomore year of high school, she said, “Would someone please change the intention, or go and enter someplace so we can pray for something else?” Two younger siblings would eventually oblige, but Rosemary would be the first to “go and enter someplace.” By her junior year God had made it clear she was to answer the call. God also made it clear to her where to find the “someplace to enter”. Rosemary attended Julienne High School which was operated by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Just as it became clear that God was calling her to religious life, Rosemary was also clear that she would enter the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She was drawn by the work of education and the possibility of serving in another part of the world, by the value of equality among the Sisters and the spirituality that shaped their lives. The 26th of July, 1947 found eleven members of the Wack family packed into an old Chrysler and headed toward Mount Notre Dame so Rosemary could enter the community. When they got to the gate at the foot of the property, Mr. Wack stopped the car at his wife’s request. She wanted to get out of the car. Mrs. Wack later joined the rest of the family. Even though she had prayed for years that one of her children would have a call to serve the church, it was difficult for her to let her daughter go. 

Rosemary found the transition from family life to religious life easy. She enjoyed getting to know the women who entered with her, the structure of religious life, opportunities to deepen her prayer and open her mind to new concepts, and the preparation for the ministry of teaching. As a novice she was given the name Sister Mary Immaculata, and was known by that name until 1969 when she reverted to her baptismal name. It was the Novice Mistress who questioned Rosemary’s vocation. In 2015 Rosemary recounted a conversation that took place the night before she was to profess vows, “The Novice Mistress said, ‘You know, I often wondered if you should make vows.’ I said, ‘Oh.’ And being me, of a very curious nature all my life, I said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Because you never much came to me for advice.’ And I said, ‘You know, I’m the middle of nine children, and we went to one another, so we would not be a burden on Mother and Dad and I think I was just formed that way.’ Somehow that satisfied her, and I did not go to bed that night unhappy or restless. I was positive that I had not chosen Him, He had chosen me. And that certitude has been there my whole life.” Throughout her life Rosemary would turn to her Sisters for deep conversations on faith, Church, religious life, world events and where she found God’s presence in all of it.  

Immediately after making vows, Rosemary began her ministry of education. The next nine years found her teaching 4th, 5th and 8thgrades in parish schools in Chicago, IL, Wyoming and Dayton, OH. In 1950 she was assigned to St. Aloysius School, Columbus, Ohio to teach grade 8 and serve as principal. Rosemary loved the work of education and the challenges it brought. She especially loved the people of St. Aloysius parish and her community at Rich Street. No one was more surprised than Rosemary when she returned home one day in 1963 to find a letter informing her that she had been elected to the General Council of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She later recounted she had to go to the rule of life for the Sisters to find out what the General Council was and what she would be doing. When she realized she would be based in Rome and assisting the Mother General in administering the affairs of the Congregation, she admitted to a fit of hysterics – the only of her life. Rosemary finished the school year and then spent the summer finishing her Masters of Education. In August she took a boat to Rome.

When Rosemary was later asked to name two or three memorable experiences in her life, she immediately replied, “Living in Rome during three sessions of Vatican II and beginning the Mission in Kenya with an SND companion.” She loved the opportunities to be at the Vatican as the Second Vatican Council unfolded. Rosemary was like a sponge soaking up the documents, talks, written presentations of the Council as they happened. They broadened her faith, deepened her love for the Church, expanded her ever-curious mind and set her heart on fire with energy. Besides tuning in to what was happening at the Vatican, Rosemary’s first year in Rome found her accompanying the Mother General, Sr. Loretto Julia, on the visitation of all the Sister of Notre Dame missions in Africa. Rosemary had volunteered to serve in Africa in 1962, so this opportunity was a joy that deepened her willingness to serve somewhere on that great continent. The last stop of that visitation was Kenya where a bishop had invited Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to “come and help.” By the end of the visit, Sr. Loretto Julia had agreed to send Sisters in 1965. There was only one problem: five American Sisters would be going, but they needed to finish the school year in the United States. The school year in Kenya started in January. Rosemary volunteered to go, along with another Sister, in January, 1965, to get things started. Their destination was the diocese of Meru where a secondary school and teacher training college awaited them. They were to be staff members at the school to learn the system and have time to prepare for the Sisters who would be arriving later. The Bishop met them at the airport with the news that the Head of School had resigned. He needed Rosemary to begin as Head immediately. She and her companion arrived at the school to find nothing had been done to prepare for the start of school that was less than three weeks away. With the help of two veteran lay staff and the Holy Spirit, they were able to accomplish all that needed to be done and prepare for the Sisters who would be arriving later. 

September 1965, found Rosemary arriving back in Rome just in time for another session of the Second Vatican Council. That session finalized the decree calling for the renewal of religious life. Rosemary later reflected on the time she had in Rome to simply think deeply and study. She read the stories of Julie Billiart, foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. As Rosemary reflected, she realized February 2, the anniversary of the first women making vows as Sisters of Notre Dame and Julie’s vision of her daughters taking the light of the Gospel to the nations, was such an important date for the community. She wrote a rationale for celebrating February 2nd as the Foundation Day of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and presented it to Sr. Loretto Julia and the rest of the Council in 1966. The idea was accepted and, in 1967, the Sisters of Notre Dame began celebrating February 2 as Foundation Day. Perhaps this was a first step in responding to the call of the Second Vatican Council to rediscover our founding charism. The leadership of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur took another step by calling for the first session of a special Chapter in December, 1967. A second session was held in 1969. Rosemary considered it an honor to have been present for both as well as for the canonization of Julie Billiart on June 22, 1969. Forty years after her time in Rome, Rosemary reflected on the fact she outlived so many Sisters who had shared those historic days with her. As she shared her reflections she said, “Those are odd feelings, and yet it’s not when you think of the Communion of Saints, we are all together, right in this room.” 

January 1969 found Rosemary missioned to Kenya to begin training teachers at Kenyatta College. The country desperately needed schools and the teachers to staff them. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were responding by educating teachers. Rosemary loved the work, the people, and the Sisters in Kenya. She came back to the United States in 1974 for a year of renewal during which she spent time at Xavier University as a student and a member of the campus ministry team. Rosemary returned to Kenya in September, 1975. She continued teaching at Kenyatta College and served as a counselor and dean of women. In early 1978 one of the Kenyan tutors came to her door. He was one of the best teachers Rosemary ever met. He said to her, “Sister, you are now holding a place we could hold.” Rosemary asked, “Peter, is it time I leave?” He said, “You are now teaching alongside those you have taught.” That night Rosemary reflected on the Notre Dame mission in Kenya and thought, “We didn’t come out here to take their places. We came out here to get them ready to take any place we’veoccupied.” So she decided to return to Ohio and retrain as a nurse because there was such a need for nurses in Africa. 

When Rosemary told the Ohio Provincial she’d like to retrain as a nurse, it was suggested she spend a few months working in the Infirmary at Mount Notre Dame. Rosemary agreed and found the experience wonderful. She worked with experienced nurses, got hands-on experience, felt the call to train as a nurse confirmed and enrolled in a program to earn an Associate Degree in Nursing at Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio. She started classes in 1979, right before her 50th birthday. Rosemary was delighted to be back in her hometown, near family, and living with Sisters of Notre Dame of her own province. She was also delighted with the quality of training she received at Sinclair. 

What Rosemary thought would be a couple of years back in Ohio turned into 16 years. After finishing her training, she began ministering at Good Samaritan Hospital to gain some experience before returning to Africa. Then began a series of illnesses and deaths in her family. She and her siblings accompanied both parents as they died, and helped close the family home. Rosemary supported her family through the loss of a brother, a brother-in-law and a sister while gaining additional nursing experience in Martin, Kentucky, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton and at St. Joseph Residential Treatment Center for Children in Dayton. 

By the summer of 1994, Rosemary felt free to begin discernment to return to Africa. She focused on the Notre Dame Mission in Zimbabwe because it had the fewest personnel, the Notre Dame presence there reflected unity in diversity and her nursing skills were desperately needed. Rosemary was welcomed by the Sisters there and served in Zimbabwe for the next eight years. Her first ministry was in the Bulawayo area teaching nursing at St. Luke’s Hospital. It was not easy work because one third of the population was HIV positive. Young doctors and nurses burnt out quickly as they watched not just adults but children suffer and die as the disease continued to spread. Rosemary also took opportunities at the secondary school in Pumula to teach students how to avoid contracting the disease. There was a desperate need to teach home based care to help relatives of the dying safely care for their loved ones, so Rosemary started a program to meet the need. Even as she was asked to take on leadership responsibilities for the community and pastoral work in Harare, Rosemary continued to find time to train people in home based care. The country became more and more fragile politically and economically during the time Rosemary was in Zimbabwe. The car she was driving in 2002 was hijacked and she was fortunate to get away with her life. As much as she loved serving in Africa, she realized she risked becoming a handicap to the community if she stayed. Rosemary returned to Ohio towards the end of 2002. 

Rosemary joined the Julie Community at Mount Notre Dame. She renewed friendships with Sisters she had known before, and formed new relationships with others. Slowly Rosemary began reaching out to help not just the Sisters in her own community, but also residents of Mount Notre Dame Health Center. Soon she was doing regular medical driving, staying with Sisters in Cuvilly during Mass, keeping watch with Sisters nearing the end of their journey and so much more. Her Sisters appreciated her presence, her concern about their health and well-being and her willingness to explain medical terms and implications. Rosemary also took opportunities to reconnect with family members from Minnesota to Washington, D.C., and was grateful for the freedom to spend extended time helping in times of injury, illness or death. When neuropathy began to cripple her, she gave up driving rather than put the lives of others at risk. Realizing she was in need of more and more assistance in daily life, Rosemary asked to move to the Health Center in 2012 where she continued to accompany her peers on their journey. Rosemary commented, “I am finding this place as interesting as any other place I have been. It’s a time to reflect, to integrate your life, to be with people who have given their lives to the spread of the Gospel and sometimes, to watch some go into confusion when you know what they’ve accomplished and what they’ve done. Well, I frankly like the journey.”

A coworker once commented on Rosemary’s ability to establish a nurturing, non-threatening atmosphere, and her perseverance and patience in helping her coworkers discover new strength. Her Sisters experienced the same gifts in how Rosemary lived community. Everyone appreciated her good judgment, sense of humor, deep spirituality, contemplative outlook on life, openness to each individual, and ability to walk compassionately with others. If Rosemary asked how you were, she truly wanted to know and gave the time to listen. There was no judgement. Instead, she often took a few moments of silence and then offered a reflection that not only showed how deeply she listened, but echoed God’s goodness in what she heard. Her ministerial experience meant she developed deep friendships with Sisters throughout the Notre Dame world. She relished opportunities to connect with Sisters far and near. The Notre Dame communities in Africa always held a special place in her heart, prayer and ongoing interest. Rosemary was an excellent conversationalist, a deep thinker, an avid reader and especially appreciated access to the New York Times, The Tablet, and PBS’s World News Tonight. Hers was a contemplative soul that loved the out of doors, and time simply to reflect on the mysteries of life. Her poetry and art were ways for her to contemplate the outward reality and try to express the inward reality. Her interest in Notre Dame history, sparked when she was in Rome, continued throughout her life. Rosemary’s nickname. ‘Sister Mary Statistics’ reflected her love of studying and talking about the annual statistics of the congregation. She clearly saw great diminishment and signs of new growth, reflecting deeply on both as she saw God’s continuing movement and call in our lives. Rosemary shared, “I have as much faith – or more – in the religious life as I had back in ’47… I for one believe there is fire in the ashes, but am finding that every day is an act of faith in the journey. It’s a wonderful thing that every Sisters of Notre Dame, somehow in a unique way reflects the charism – every single Sister….I like Merton’s expression: There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.(Thomas Merton,~Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander) What a privilege to journey along with the Gospel women in Notre Dame.”

Rosemary’s family was her first community, and she shared her family with her Notre Dame community throughout her life: the fruit of nightly conversations with her sister the hermitess, letters and phone calls from nieces and nephews. Her Sisters are so happy that family members, former students, and friends regularly visited Rosemary when she could no longer go to them. It is so appropriate that Rosemary died on Palm Sunday: accepting God’s call to enter into resurrected life to continue her contemplation this Holy Week. As all of us, family, friends and Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, gather to celebrate the gift of Rosemary’s 95 years to the world, we give thanks that she is enjoying the presence of our good God in the Communion of Saints, reunited with so many loved ones who have gone before her. We give thanks for her example of faithfulness on the journey, for all the ways she made known God’s goodness to us and helped us find that goodness in ourselves, the Church and world. We ask Rosemary’s continued prayers. We see her smile and the twinkle in her eye as she might respond, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7) 

Bio Data

  • Born February 18, 1929 in Dayton, Ohio
  • Parents: Edward Paul Wack (born in Piqua, Ohio) and Mary Margaret O'Brien (born in Piqua, Ohio)
  • Note: some records have Wach as the spelling of the family name
  • Siblings: Dr. Mary Margaret Wack Knoedler, Edward Wack Jr., Madonna Wack, Dr. Joseph P. Wack, Sr. Regina Wack, Raymond Wack, Fr. Lawrence J. Wack , Gregory Wack
  • Baptized on March 3, 1929, at St. Agnes Church, Dayton, Ohio
  • Confirmed on May 31, 1940, at Sacred Heart Church, Dayton, Ohio
  • Entered July 26, 1947, at Mount Notre Dame
  • First Profession: January 28, 1950
  • Final Profession: August 13, 1955


  • Julienne High School, Dayton, Ohio, 1947
  • Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, 1958
  • Masters of Education from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1963
  • Associate of Nursing Degree, Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio, 1983

Assignments Included:

  • 1950-1951 St. Robert Bellarmine School, Chicago, Illinois
  • 1951-1953 St. James School, Wyoming, Ohio
  • 1953-1959 Holy Family School, Dayton, Ohio
  • 1959-1963 St. Aloysius School, Columbus, Ohio
  • 1963-1969 General Councillor, SNDdeN Generalate, Rome, Italy
  • 1969-1974 Engoji Teacher Training College, Engoji, Kenya
  • 1974-1975 Student/Campus Minister, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1975-1978 Engoji Teacher Training College, Engoji, Kenya
  • 8/1-12/1/1978 Nurse's Aide, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
  • 1978-1983 Student, Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio
  • 1983-1987 Nurse, Our Lady of the Way Hospital, Martin, Kentucky
  • 1987-1990 Nurse, Good Samaritan Hospital, Dayton, Ohio
  • 1990-1994 Nurse, St. Joseph Residential Treatment Center for Children, Dayton, Ohio
  • 1995-1998 Pastoral Agent/Nursing Tutor, St. Luke Hospital, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
  • 1997-2002 Provincial Leadership Team, Zimbabwe
  • 1998-2002 Pastoral Work/Religious Education, St. Martin Parish, Harare, Zimbabwe
  • 2002-2004 Sabbatical, Mount Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
  • 2005-2012 Community Service, Julie Community, Mount Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
  • 2012-2024 Ministry of Prayer and Presence, Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
  • Died at Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio on March 24, 2024

Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
March 25, 2024