3 sisters grateful for religious life

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Siblings reflect on their many decades of ministry

Patricia Bartos
Senior Staff Writer

"I say, 'Thank you, God,' every morning," Sister Eileen Scott said of her 64 years as a member of the St. Joseph sisters in Baden. "It's been a very fulfilling life."
Her words are echoed by her two younger sisters, Sister Jeanne, who has been a St. Joseph sister for 62 years, and Sister Rosaleen, celebrating her 60th jubilee this year. (See Religious Jubilarians supplement inside this issue.)
The three today live together in the family home in Green Tree near SS. Simon and Jude Church.
Sister Eileen, now retired, helps care for the house. Sister Jeanne, former religious education director for the parish, volunteers by teaching religion to 3- and 4-year-olds. Sister Rosaleen is a receptionist for Weight Watchers on nearby Green Tree Road.
All three devoted many decades to education, and Sister Eileen also managed to add a 30-year nursing career to her ministry.
The sisters entered religious life from St. Joseph Parish in Natrona, where they had been taught by the St. Joseph sisters.
"There was something about the sisters, they seemed so happy," said Sister Eileen. "They just enjoyed each other so much."
Sister Jeanne added, "It was their kindness. They liked one another."
Sisters Eileen, Jeanne and Rosaleen share the same cheerful, mellow, even-tempered outlook on life.
Their story begins with their younger brother, Jim, brain-damaged since birth.
"That began our ministry to others," Sister Jeanne said.
Doctors predicted he might reach age 18, but cared for lovingly at home by his parents and older sisters, he lived to be 67, passing on in 2002.
Sister Rosaleen said that in watching over a severely handicapped child who suffered frequent seizures, "we learned that God will take care of us if we take care of others."
The sisters praised their religious order for allowing them to help at home.
"It's a tribute to our community that one of us was always able to take care of Mom," they said, with each sister permitted a year at a time to remain home to help.
The sisters grew up with faithful parents and talk of saying the rosary on their knees and attending holy hours and novenas. Sister Rosaleen usually met her father at work and together they stopped en route home to say a quick prayer at St. Joseph Church.
Sister Eileen entered in 1947 after completing studies at both St. Joseph grade and high school.
She taught and served as principal for 25 years, and at age 45 received permission to follow a lifelong dream -- to become a nurse. Her superior allowed her to enroll in St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing and she served at St. Francis, at Jefferson Center, the Allegheny County Jail and the order's infirmary over the years.
Today, she is 81 and doing well after recent cataract surgery.
Sister Jeanne entered in 1949 and taught every level, including three years at St. Veronica in Ambridge, where she had a young David Zubik in high school.
She remembers him as "an excellent student and a fun young man to be around. My fondest memories are of how wonderful his Mom and Dad were."
"He's never forgotten me," she said of the bishop.
She later did personnel work at the Ebensburg Center for people with mental challenges for many years.
In 1999, she became religious education director at SS. Simon and Jude, and for 11 years also taught religion in the school, oversaw the RCIA program and served as safety director.
Today at age 80 she volunteers as a religion teacher in the school's "booming" preschool, where the children refer to her fondly as "the lady who knows God."
Sister Rosaleen entered in 1949 and taught in the Greensburg and Altoona-Johnstown dioceses.
"I just loved those mountain kids," she said, to the agreement of her sisters. "There's just something special about them."
Sister Rosaleen, now 78, successfully completed the Weight Watchers program years ago and the local office offered her a job.
That was 23 years ago. "It's always very rewarding to see people progress," she said of the work.
The sisters speak as one in summing up their lives.
"I thank God for everything, every day -- for life, first of all, for good health," they said.
"We're very happy with our lives," Sister Rosaleen said.
And they know their ministry -- and that of their fellow religious sisters -- is appreciated.
Sister Jeanne has given the appeal for 24 years at SS. Simon and Jude for the national Retirement Fund for Religious collection and the response has been tremendous, "raising more than $250,000 from the people in this parish," she said.
Sister Rosaleen celebrated her 60th jubilee with her classmates March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, but she added, laughing, "if anyone wants to celebrate, I will."