MERIDEN – Mother Rosemae Pender, 94, foundress of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, died suddenly during a Mass of Thanksgiving for Consecrated Life celebrated at the order’s motherhouse on Sunday, June 26, to honor her 75 years of consecrated life.
The event also marked jubilee celebrations for four other sisters in the community.
After renewing her vows with the other sisters, Mother Rosemae presented the Constitutions of the religious community to Archbishop Emeritus Henry J. Mansell, principal celebrant, during the offertory procession. She returned to her chair and was taken to a nearby room, where she received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick from Father Jeffrey Romans, then died during the Mass.
Mother General Shaun Vergauwen, co-foundress of the order, made an announcement of Mother Rosemae’s passing to the attendees before the conclusion of the Mass. The Mass was attended by 260 friends, religious and priests in the standing-room-only Chapel of St. John.
The other sisters who joined Mother Rosemae in celebrating a combined 260 years of consecrated life were Mother General Shaun, for 60 years; Sister Kieran Foley and Sister Suzanne Gross, for 50 years; and Sister Naomi Zimmerman, for 25 years.
The international congregation of more than 80 Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist was founded on Dec. 2, 1973. Mother Rosemae and Mother Shaun, along with 53 other Sisters of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of La Crosse, Wis., made up the newly founded order.
Among women religious in attendance were Sister Anne Walsh, provincial superior for the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hamden; sisters from the Daughters of Mary in New Britain; Sister Dolores Liptak from the Sisters of Mercy; and sisters from the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, including Benedictine Mother Abbess Emerita David Serna and Mother Dolores Hart.
Mother Rosemae was born Sept. 11, 1921, in Elgin, Il., the second daughter of George and Rose Pender, and was named Norma Joan. She entered the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in La Crosse and professed her first vows in 1941. She administered and taught in elementary schools in Iowa and Wisconsin and, later, taught English at Viterbo College in La Crosse.
She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Viterbo College in 1951 and a Master of Arts degree in English from The Catholic University of America in 1957. From 1959-1960 she studied at Regina Mundi in Rome in preparation for directing the religious formation of young Sisters. She also pursued post-masters studies at St. Louis University.
From 1960 to 1964, Sister Rosemae was the director of postulants, and from 1964 to 1970, the director of junior sisters. In 1964 she was elected to the General Council, the administrative body assisting the mother general in the governance of the community.
In the 1960’s, as the Vatican Council asked religious communities to initiate programs of renewal to revitalize and update religious life to meet contemporary needs, Sister Rosemae, along with other formation directors and provincial leaders in the community, formed a group for the purpose of renewal. This group was approved by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration as a province named the Provisional Province. In 1973 the Vatican approved the transition of members of the Provisional Province to a new religious order of pontifical status which was named the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. Mother Rosemae was named as the superior and, subsequently, was elected as the mother general, serving until 2005. She is known as the mother foundress with Mother Shaun Vergauwen as co-foundress.
As foundress, she was considered by her community as the rock of foundation and revered for her many gifts, especially her intense and abiding love of the church, her maternal wisdom and perception and her attentive love for individuals and each one’s particular needs.
Mother Rosemae is survived by her sisters in the community, the Franciscan Brothers of the Eucharist, the Franciscan Apprentices and numerous others throughout the world.
Funeral arrangements are pending and are under the direction of Sister Patricia Glass of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, funeral director, and Wallingford Funeral Home.