Helping Children Through their Dark Nights

See how God's love shows us the way of life.  Rule of Benedict

A third grade boy changed Benedictine Sister Rosemary Becker's life. Authorities had found him on the street, digging around in a garbage can, looking for something to eat. After a little investigation, they discovered that his parents couldn't take care of him, so they placed him at St. Vincent Home for children in Davenport, Iowa. And that's where Sr. Rosemary met him.

"I was serving as a house mother to the little boys," Sr. Rosemary says. "And they brought this child in. I remember he wouldn't go to bed one night. He said he was going to go out and find his father. That broke my heart. His father was an alcoholic truck driver. I tried to reason with him. I told him it was late and dark, that he would get lost. Finally he fell asleep in his clothes. I put him into bed and covered him up. But I didn't sleep well at all. I woke up every half hour all night long, worried he would sneak out."

Eddie (not his real name) struggled mightily with his grief that first year, Sr. Rosemary remembers. He acted out in many ways, from stealing money to failing classes. "I felt so sorry for him, but had to be firm. When his teacher called to tell us he was stealing from other kids, we marched him home and set him to washing the stairs. The failing grades were another problem. Finally we realized he had learning disabilities, and got him into special education classes. There, he began to bloom. He completely turned his life around."

Watching Eddie's metamorphosis triggered a passion for helping children that has lasted more than half a century, Sr. Rosemary says. But that new passion came as something of a surprise. "I was a teenager when I discovered I wasn't too keen on taking care of children," she says. "My adult relatives had gone to Ohio to watch my cousin get ordained, and had left eight little children with me on the farm. I was in charge. I spent four days cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and making peace. I said to myself, Do I want to do this the rest of my life? And the answer was No! That clued me in.

"Shortly after that, another cousin, Sr. Madeleine Henkel, came to visit from the Benedictines. She asked if I wanted to go back with her to see what religious life was like. I agreed, and had a wonderful time. Everyone was so happy and nice and peaceful. I decided to enter, and I'm still here!

Ironically,Sr. Rosemary continued taking care of children – only a lot more children at a time now than during that long weekend on the farm in 1947. Until her recent retiremet, Sr. Rosemary served as assistant principal at Holy Trinity Junior High School in Bloomington, Illinois.

Sr. Rosemary says she "tried to model a spirituality of hope to the children. I tried to witness how to be gentle and attentive. I'm not perfect, but God's given me these gifts and I am committed to using them as God wishes."