Montgomery City native Sr. Rosemary Brueggen notes 60 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet


Montgomery City native Sister Rosemary Brueggen has always loved Creation and working with people.

That’s how God led her into consecrated religious life as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet (CSJ) 60 years ago.

“For me, it means I’ve been specially chosen, and I hope that I am living up to that having-been-chosen,” she said.

“I think I am,” she added.

Now engaged in a ministry of prayer and presence at the Nazareth Living Center at the CSJ motherhouse in St. Louis, Sr. Rosemary recently noted her diamond jubilee with fellow residents, and will take part in a congregation-wide celebration of jubilarians on Aug. 6.

Her roots are in the country.

Born in Sedalia, Sr. Rosemary moved with her family a short time later and grew up on a farm just outside Montgomery City.

She is the oldest of 10 siblings — seven girls and three boys.

“It was fun on the farm!” Sr. Rosemary recently recalled. “There was lots of hard work, because we planted just about everything we ate.”

“I loved it!” she said. “I was really enjoying life!”

She started first grade at Immaculate Conception School in Montgomery City around the time the current school building was completed in 1950.

Her parents, eventually having children in almost every grade at the school, got close to all the teachers, including Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

There wasn’t a Catholic high school in Montgomery County, so the Brueggens sent their daughters to Mercy High School, a Catholic co-ed high school just outside of St. Louis.

That’s where one of Sr. Rosemary’s sisters, Agnes, became acquainted with the Sisters of Mercy. She entered that congregation in 1965.

Meanwhile, Sr. Rosemary developed a strong bond with the sisters that taught her in grade school — the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

Originally established on the Missouri frontier nearly 200 years ago, CSJ became known for educating children, including those with hearing impairments, and serving people in need in surrounding communities.

“I certainly felt the call,” said Sr. Rosemary. “I remember saying to Mom and Dad, ‘Would it be okay if I become a sister?’”

The answer was an overwhelming yes — if that’s what she thought God was calling her to be.

“And here we are, 60 years later,” she said.

A few of the many

Not all of Sr. Rosemary’s siblings and friends knew what to make of her decision.

“I don’t think they even knew what I was doing,” she recalled. “I wasn’t even all that sure of what I was doing myself! That came later.”

She entered CSJ in 1963 as a postulant and was received into the novitiate the following year.

There were 53 girls in her postulant class. Many of them discerned other callings in the Church before the next stage, known as novitiate.

Of those who remained, 10 are celebrating their jubilee this year.

“One of us has been missioned in Peru for many years and just loves it,” Sr. Rosemary noted. “The rest of us are serving in various colleges and high schools and grade schools and parishes and other ministries.”

Before the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, most religious sisters were given a new name upon being formally received into religious life.

Sr. Rosemary asked for and received the name of both of her parents, becoming Sister Margaret Raymond.

Several years later, the CSJs were given the option of returning to their baptismal names.

“And a lot of us did, but a few kept the religious names they had chosen,” Sr. Rosemary noted.

She has little doubt about the course her life would have taken if God had not called her to religious life.

“I think I would have made a good housewife and mother,” she said. “I loved to be on the farm and do farming things like gardening and keeping the house clean.”

She learned a lot from her mother, who for years prepared meals for a large family.

“As I think about it, I wonder how she did it all,” said Sr. Rosemary. “She’d do the laundry and we’d help her put it on the wash line and bring it in and fold it and put it where it goes.

“If something needed mending, you put it on the mending pile,” Sr. Rosemary recalled. “We had a treadle sewing machine. I learned how to mend everything that was stacked on the dryer.”

Some items, like her Dad’s overalls, were an easy fix. Others were quite a bit more complicated.

Behind the veil

The postulancy and novitiate were a time of pulling away from family life for the sisters and drawing closer to God through their former and fellow discerners in the community.

“We were pretty much isolated, but we did get to see our families once or twice a year,” Sr. Rosemary recalled.

“It was always a big deal when they came for visit,” she said. “We’d have time to spend with them and be out in the yard if we wanted to.”

The girls and their families would sprawl out into the manicured grounds overlooking the Mississippi River.

“And when the excursion boats headed down the river, we’d hear the music,” she said. “We always told visitors, ‘They’re playing the calliope for the Sisters of St. Joseph!’”

Sr. Rosemary missed her family and the bucolic days on the farm, but she never felt an overwhelming desire to leave formation and go back home.

She remembers the day she professed religious vows in the community — promising to live the rest of her life in chastity, communal ownership of property, and holy obedience — and received her religious habit.

This took place in the glow of the magnificent mosaics in the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis.

Two people apiece helped each sister put on her habit and cut her hair in the Cathedral undercroft.

“I had long, long red hair that I kept in a ponytail all through high school,” Sr. Rosemary recalled. “And they cut it short because you can’t take care of all that. It would have been a lot to put under the veil and cornet and have it look presentable.”

Staying busy

These past 60 years have brought an impressively diverse slate of ministries and activities to Sr. Rosemary’s vigorous spirit.

She said her superiors were good at letting the sisters move into new lines of ministry before they got burned out or complacent.

She completed a bachelor’s degree in deaf education from what is now Fontbonne University in St. Louis in 1968.

She then served for 13 years as a primary educator to children with hearing impairments at St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis.

She also served as recreation assistant director, houseparent, receptionist and resident flight coordinator at the school.

In 1981, she entered the next phase of her religious life as a dietary aide at the Nazareth Living Center, a retirement community for her fellow CSJs.

She then served as a teacher’s assistant at St. Joseph’s Educational Childcare Center from 1989 until 1991.

She then served in geriatric care as an assistant manager at Manresa House and then at St. Elizabeth Hall as an activities director until 1997. Both are in St. Louis.

Sister Rosemary then worked at Walter Knoll Florist for five years as an arranger and greenhouse caretaker.

From 2002 until 2007, she served as assistant activities director and receptionist at the Mary Ryder Home senior care for women; as the receptionist at The Charles Home, a senior care facility; and as a service partner in the dietary department of Mercy Hospital and the Sisters of Mercy/Catherine Residence.

She then worked at Nazareth Living Center, serving the sister residents of her CSJ community, until her retirement in 2019.

Since then, she has resided at the Nazareth Living Center, carrying out her mission of prayer and presence.

“That’s certainly different for me because I’m such an active person,” she noted. “But taking time to rest and setting aside time just for prayer is always good.”

She’s been passionate all through her life about doing things for others.

She noted that over time, she’s learned to know and live better within her limits.

Leaning on God

God continues to draw Sr. Rosemary to himself in a special way through the time she spends outdoors.

“I love to get out!” she stated. “And we have the opportunities and privilege to do that.”

She enjoys helping tend the garden at the Nazareth Living Center and spending quality time with her fellow residents there.

“Just sitting with someone and talking with them or listening to them,” she said.

“And sometimes, reading short stories out loud that I find in different magazines. I enjoy doing all those things, and I think they are appreciated.”

She’s grateful to God for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet for supporting her in her vocation, and for the home and responsibilities she has in the Nazareth Living Center community.

In keeping with her first 60 years of religious life, she’s very comfortable not knowing what the future holds.

“I know I’m ready and willing to handle whatever it is, so long as the Lord gives me the strength and grace to do that,” she said.

 “And that is exactly what he’s already been doing.”

She asks for prayers for health and strength as she works toward full recovery from recent hip surgery.

She also requests prayers for her to remain engaged in activities that keep her healthy and in tune to God’s continuing guidance.

Mindful that religious life has changed profoundly in the past six decades, she offers special prayers for the men and women who are being called to such a vocation.

“If that’s you, I suggest you start by praying about it,” she stated.

“Also, talk to people who you know can guide you through making those choices,” she said. “And maybe come and try to live it to the best of your ability.”

She cautioned against thinking everything will fall into place right away.

“No, it actually comes with years of growth,” she said. “I’m 60 years in, and it’s still happening for me.”