Born 1991 in Illinois USA, has moved from the United States to Scotland, where she completed a Masters of Science in Modern British and Irish History at the University of Edinburgh, and gained her PhD History at the University of Aberdeen. Rose started the group which would eventually become the Schoenstatt Women’s Professional League (SWPL) in the United States. Rose currently works on a joint project which seeks to establish the importance of Irish religious sisters in developing Catholicism across the Irish Diasporas, particularly in the Americas, Africa, and Oceania.
This is difficult question to answer, because it’s really about the nature of a woman; selecting one quality is challenging.
One of the things that I believe is most valuable about women is our capacity and drive to endlessly love, whether it’s the love of a friend, care for another human being, helping a colleague, or simply wanting to see others succeed. From this perspective, what has been most formative to me is the Schoenstatt community: I spent so many years working in various capacities in the Waukesha Retreat Center with the Sisters, for the families, the Girls Youth, the Rosary Campaign, random visitors…you name it, I was there. Thinking back what strikes me most is that all of that work between the branches was done purely out of love for one another as individuals. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the person: every interaction was with a smile, with grace, all born from love. We were a spiritual family because we chose to love one another.
That spirit has carried with me over the years, and is why I chose to become a professional academic. Sure I like the research, but what drove me was that I wanted to help guide young adults to understanding what drove them, what they loved, and who they could be. The contact with my students in classrooms and in meetings is driven by the same desire to service that I learned in my adolescence and teenage years in Schoenstatt, all driven by loving the individual person. Those years in Waukesha were life-altering in developing my understanding of what it means to love. I cannot imagine who I would be without them.
I think God has been most evidently present in my life in drawing my adolescence and my adult life together in my career.
While I was in the Schoenstatt Girls Youth, I spent a lot of time with the Schoenstatt Sisters. Because I was there at the Retreat Center so often, I had the unique and unusual privilege of observing and understanding the Sisters together as a family, and sometimes being involved in their corps d’esprit. These experiences are wonderful memories and were formative in how I viewed Catholicism and Schoenstatt in action, and as an adult they became something more – an understanding of charism and the inner workings of religious life that is much deeper than that possessed by the majority of scholars who study them.
This knowledge and instinctual understanding of religious orders and secular institutes positioned me to take up a post under one of the leading scholars of the history of women religious, on a project which will radically shift the secular understanding of how women religious live, what they do and why they do it, and of their importance to human history. This topic is not what I would have chosen for myself, and it is clear that all of my life experiences are being drawn together by the hand of God for this purpose.
The challenge today is to live authentically – not in a broad sense of the “authentic woman”, but rather as related to the personal ideal. Our personal ideals are inherently private, intrinsically spiritual, and often difficult to live up to. All of these characteristics are opposed to what the world is or tells us to be: social media asks us to overshare and people feel entitled to information about us or our lives no matter how personal or sacred; the spiritual or religious are seen as diametrically opposed to the secular and are therefore discarded, attacked, or sneered at; and if something does not have an immediate effect or purpose that is deemed valuable by the standards of success set by the world, we are told it has no value.
Thus in the personal ideal we are asked to live constantly as the authentic, God-willed version of ourselves in a world which is directly opposed to it, and this can often be discouraging and isolating. As women I think this can be more challenging simply because authentic femininity, to which we are each called in our own way, is also under attack and here women face a double-threat. Our greatest challenge is thus to live the personal ideal moment-by-moment in an authentic way as women.
When I significantly shifted historical topics while starting a new job under my former doctoral supervisor, he asked me: “Why is this project so important to you?”
I realized then that although my interests had shifted, there was something at the core of both of ideas that resonated within me: I want to bring secular scholars and persons to understand why faith is so important; I want to reconcile the religious with the secular; showing the importance of understanding faith in driving action in the world.