My parents were married in 1932 and lived in central Indiana. Times were difficult as we 12 children came along in the Great Depression and World War II. At 5 years of age, we each received a homemade fishing pole and a little hoe to help garden.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of Tipton, Indiana, always sat in the pew behind us at Mass. I loved it when they invited me to sit with them. I wanted to be a missionary from childhood when I saw pamphlets about children who needed help. It was just what I wanted to do: help families!
When I was in high school, our diocese promoted a vocational encounter, which led me to meet Sister Kathryn Marie (Gibbons), CSC, [then] Midwest provincial, in South Bend, Indiana. There, I began my way in Holy Cross. In 1953 I received the habit and a new name: Sister M. Rose Martin (Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres, saints of South America). My first mission experiences involved teaching elementary grades in Illinois.
In 1959 Mother Kathryn Marie, [who became] the Congregation’s superior general, invited me to “come prepare for foreign missions.” Two years later, I was sent to Brazil—what joy!
I taught at our school, Colégio Santa Maria, which grew rapidly, becoming one of the best and most complete educational complexes of São Paulo.
When Vatican II came, it brought an “openness” that helped God’s kingdom move forward. There was such joy in all that had to be done: literacy, land and water rights, homes to be built, health to be restored. I was involved with a government program to end illiteracy and get personal documents for everyone.
In 1973 I was sent to Paraná. The Church began the Pastoral Land Movement because almost no one had land titles. Families had been in these areas for generations. The battles with big landowners brought violence and deaths. We also began literacy classes
and formed women’s groups. In 47 years in Paraná, we [Pastoral Land Movement] have [acquired documents for] and settled 14,000 families who can support themselves.
These 59 years in Brazil have been fantastic, but I haven’t stopped for rest yet. At 85, I feel there is still much to be done! Welcome to Telêmaco Borba, Paraná, Brazil!