CHARLESTON—As the applause rose up and out in a warm rush for Sister Rosemary Render, she smiled and raised both hands, like a beloved star waving off accolades.
Sister Rosie, as she’s affectionately called, certainly is beloved, as was demonstrated at a surprise gathering of volunteers and staff at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital to celebrate her golden jubilee — 50 years as a Sister of Joseph of Carondelet.
More than 60 people gathered in the hospital conference room to congratulate the religious, who had resisted staff efforts to organize an official event. Smiling good-naturedly, she pointed at organizers of the surprise: “I’ll get you,” she promised. They just laughed and hugged her tight, obviously not intimidated.
During a short speech, Amanda Jones, director of pastoral care, stood at the front of the room with Sister Rosie. Before she could speak though, her throat clogged with tears.
“Oh no, she’s going to fire me!” Sister Rosie quipped, easing the moment with laughter.
Her ever-present sense of humor is just one of the many qualities that her friends praise about the religious. She’s also known for her dedication to her ministry and the compassion she shows to everyone around her, Jones said.
“Rosie’s just the best,” said Samuel Kennedy, a hospital chaplain. “In my mind she’s the lifeblood of the hospital — the way she manages to care for the patients and staff.”
Shelley Usher, BSN, recalls the first time she met the religious. It was after Mass, and Sister Rosie asked the nurse if she liked to read. When Usher said she loved reading, Sister Rosie promptly assigned her to the readings at Mass from then on.
“You can’t tell a nun no!” Usher exclaimed, laughing. “She’s fabulous.”
As manager of pastoral care, the sister has worked at the hospital for 10 years and provides spiritual support and prayer to patients, families and staff, said Mark Dickson, vice president of missions at the hospital. She also manages the other staff chaplains and assists with mentoring interns and residents of the Clinical Pastoral Education program.
“She is a tremendous role model of Catholic identity and Catholic healthcare in the continuing healing ministry of Jesus Christ in the modern world,” he said.
Sister Rosie has also served as the director of aging for her community for 12 years, and has been a teacher and principal. Jones jokes that the sister’s background in education goes out the window when they’re on the golf course though, when six strokes somehow become three.
Jokes aside, people at the gathering say Sister Rosie has made the hospital a better place. One man gallantly dips her, while others swap hugs and stories.
“Each of you have touched my life,” she said.
Jones and several other close friends are traveling to St. Louis, Missouri, with Sister Rosie this month to help celebrate her jubilee at the motherhouse. While the religious considers St. Louis, and the motherhouse as home, she has nothing but praise for St. Francis and the South.
“The people make it so special,” she said. “It’s the warmth, the caring spirit, the great sense of wisdom and humor.”
As a gift, Joan Perry, director of volunteers, made Sister Rosie a book filled with photos of her years here. In each shot, the sister exudes joy; whether she’s at official hospital functions, the golf course, oyster roasts or Riverdogs’ games.
“Life is too short. You gotta live it and love it,” she said.