Sister Rose Marie was loved in many communities for her joyful spirit, her generosity, and her gifts for leadership, caring and friendship. Among the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, she holds a special place as a Province Leader who helped sisters navigate the changes in religious life after Vatican Council II.
Born in Spokane, Washington in 1930, she was educated at St. Aloysius School and Holy Names Academy before entering the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in 1954. Sister Rose Marie has strong bonds with her Italian family, especially with her brother, Father Armand Nigro, S.J., a charismatic preacher and retreat leader.
Sister Rose Marie was missioned to teach, and taught elementary school for nine years, in Port Angeles and Wenatchee, WA and Van Nuys, California. She earned her BA at Seattle University in 1961 and an MA in Theology from Gonzaga University in 1969. Between those two degrees, she served as Assistant Novice Director and Postulant Director.
Sister Rose Marie used her experience of teaching postulants and novices well in her next ministry, as Director of Adult Education for the Archdiocese of Seattle (1968-73) and then for the Diocese of Nelson, British Columbia (1973-76). During those years she was co-developer of the SUMORE program at Seattle University, trained and developed liturgical programs for lay ministers, and taught scripture courses and sacramental theology.
In 1976, she was elected Provincial (Province Leader) for the Western Province of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, and took the lead in steering the community through years of dramatic change. She was a member of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Northwest Association of Bishops and Religious Superiors, and NETWORK (Catholic Social Justice lobby) and a Board Member for PeaceHealth. She also visited the CSJP Sisters who were ministering in the Cameroon. And, they tell how, after a long and exhausting trip to their clinic in a very remote area she offered to take everyone out to dinner. The only problem was that the nearest restaurant was 75 miles away.
After her experience as Province Leader, Sister Rose Marie was the perfect choice to direct a Leadership Program at Gonzaga University for five years. She studied theology in Berkeley during a sabbatical year (1985-86), then ministered at PeaceHealth as Director for Values and Organizational Management. From 1995 until 2006, she was Director of Community Ministry at St. John Medical Center, Longview, a time when she said, "I saw and heard for myself the pain and struggles, successes and joys of the homeless, battered women and children, minority groups, the unemployed, and the low income neighborhoods."
Sister Rose Marie retired in 2006, but continued to play an active part in the life of the Longview community for many years. She moved to St. Mary-on-the-Lake in 2014.
"The important thing is that we remain open to God as he reveals himself to us in the circumstances of life and do everything possible to bring the body of his Son to completion."
Catherine O'Connor, CSJP