sister rosemary junak

August 7, 1934 – March 26, 2012
A loving, accepting presence

Most people remember S. Rosemary Junak for her gentle spirit, her welcoming presence, her love of gardening, and most of all for her warm smile. Rosemary grew up during the Depression years in Ishpeming, Mich., and while its effects were devastating to many others, she and two brothers and sisters experienced having “everything,” secure in the care of loving parents who “saved us with our large garden, our cows and a few chickens.”

Rosemary met the Sisters of St. Joseph first at St. John’s Grade School, but it wasn’t until later that she considered religious life. Quite by chance, while she was attending to an exhibit of career possibilities at her high school, the Sisters came by the displays. “Out of the clear,” Rosemary said, S. Jovita Melody posed the possibility of her becoming a nurse at St. Joseph’s School of Nursing in Hancock. Her response was immediate: “I think I would like to go to Carondelet. I think I would like to be a sister and a nurse.” Rosemary entered the community in 1952.

Rosemary, now known as S. Leona Stephen, was directed to education, not nursing, and was both a teacher and a principal. She loved being an educator and for the next 17 years, served at Nativity in Chicago; Saints Mary and Joseph and St. Thomas of Aquin in St. Louis; Little Flower and St. Matthew’s in Mobile; and at Blessed Sacrament in Atlanta. After that time, she determined to undertake a new focus.

Having completed four summers of graduate work in pastoral theology at the University of Notre Dame and a course in pastoral care from St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Ill., S. Rosemary embarked on a fresh path. She brought her newly acquired pastoral care and chaplaincy skills to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kirkwood, Mo., and to three Upper Peninsula hospitals. And while she was not to be a nurse, as a pastoral care minister she accompanied patients and their families with her comforting spirit. Of this service, she said, “The primary purpose of a pastoral program is to provide for the spiritual and emotional support that the patient and family might need during the hospital stay.”

As the supervisor of pastoral care at St. Joseph’s in Kirkwood, S. Rosemary set up and guided seminars for nurse aides, ministers, seminarians, and various community groups. In her work with staff and patients, she integrated her prayer life with her counseling skills in support of patients and families of all religious denominations. Priests, whose parishioners were hospitalized, admired and respected her professionalism and care as they met weekly with her.

In 1978, S. Rosemary happily returned to Ishpeming. There, as chaplain in three hospitals, she counseled the critically and terminally ill and their families, providing emotional and spiritual support at time of great need. She realized that patients often suffered loneliness or fright; she sought to bring them comfort.

Not only to patients and their families, but to all others, especially her sisters in community, S. Rosemary brought joy and acceptance. Her sister companions saw how she planned get-togethers with her sister siblings at Bittersweet. Motivated by her example, they planned similar outings with their siblings. It must have been her parents’ example of growing wonderful gardens that instilled in S. Rosemary her love for gardening. Once spring arrived in the Upper Peninsula, she would be outside planting vegetables or flowers.

S. Rosemary moved to Nazareth Living Center in 2009. She was a favorite to staff and other residents. One staff person said, “Even if she had nothing to smile about, she always tried to smile through it and we loved her for that.”

We pray in gratitude for her and the model of kindness, acceptance, and prayerfulness she left with us.

S. Rita Louise Huebner

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