Stories run wild among unique group of Rosati-Kain alums
The St. Louis question is unavoidable at Our Lady of Life Apartments in Shrewsbury, where the answer has led to fun gatherings of residents who have an answer in common.
"You know St. Louis, when you move in somewhere, people say, 'What high school did you go to?' You move in here one day, and the next day we know if you went to Rosati-Kain," said Helen Guenthel, Class of 1942.
On one morning in late February, a new resident arrived, and by noon it was well known that she was a Rosati-Kain graduate. It also was the occasion of a gathering of the alumnae-residents — 18 of them in the 207-unit apartment community for seniors.
The attendees were from graduating classes ranging from 1942 to 1952. A 1930 graduate, Jo Rogers, who is 104 years old, was unavailable to attend the event at the apartments on the Cardinal Ritter Senior Services campus in Shrewsbury.
At the gathering, someone shouted "the bar is open" — a couple of bottles of wine along with sparkling grape juice — "so bring your ID."
Two visitors, Sister Joan Andert, SSND, president of Rosati-Kain, and Jen Shephard Guidici, Class of 1987, joined the alums in singing the school song — appropriate lyrics proclaiming that "we'll sing your praises forever."
Some of the alumnae peppered Sister Joan with questions about former teachers and classmates who entered the convent. One asked about Sister Kathleen Murphy, a School Sister of Notre Dame who taught home economics. Sister Joan said their former teacher, who later was in charge of the motherhouse, was well known for painting rooms green.
Pat Miller Sullivan, a member of the Class of 1950, followed her four sisters in attending the school. Her oldest sisters were in the same class because the youngest skipped a grade. Marie was very tall and Gert quite short so "they went through Rosati as Mutt and Jeff," Sullivan said. At 20 years younger, Sullivan remarked that "no matter how old I get, I'm still the baby."
Rita Bruemmer Huels, class of 1945, said, "Rosati girls stick together." She recalled joining her friends after school visiting with the School Sisters of Notre Dame and Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who staffed the school.
Joan Lehmann McDonald recalled "a lot of good times there." Her class of 1948 had about 340 students and an outstanding basketball team. One player, Emily Padberg, who later entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame, was about 6 feet tall and talented, McDonald said.
Mary Wertz, class of 1949, said she enjoys visiting with fellow alumnae at Our Lady of Life. "I feel very fortunate that I could come here," she said, mentioning her friends, the activities and the administrator who makes it such a good place to live. "It's wonderful that we can go to church every day here."
Jen Shephard Guidici, a 1987 graduate who volunteers at Rosati-Kain, has helped students learn about school history through the stories of former students. She introduced students to Guenthel, who told them of her time at the school, when the country was just coming out of the Depression and entering World War II. Only about a half-dozen or so students at that time went to college, she explained.
Guidici said papers and items that the school saved only tell part of the history. "These are my sisters, and I don't know the stories unless we hear them," she said. "We went to a really good school and need to celebrate our legacy."
Sister Joan said "Rosati girls always have great stories of their lives. They meet challenges. They do great things for other people, and they love Rosati."
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Since 1911, Rosati-Kain High School has conferred diplomas to more than 13,000 young women. In the beginning, the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet charged no tuition and earned no salaries at what is now the only all-girls' high school in the City of St. Louis providing a premiere Catholic college preparatory education to young women from 90 zip codes. Rosati-Kain relies on the financial contribution of alumnae, parents, grandparents, faculty, staff and friends to support its operating budget and provide scholarships and tuition assistance. Visit www.rosati-kain.org/support-r-k-2.
Rosati alumnae can stay in touch at www.rosati-kain.org/alumnae-2.
Our Lady of Life Apartments
At Our Lady of Life, senior adults and couples remain active and involved with the option of participating in a variety of activities, from parties to road trips. Our Lady of Life has an entrance fee and a monthly service charge. A portion of the entry fee is refunded upon resale of the apartment.
Residents point out that moving to the independent-living facility was a good choice for them because it enables them to enjoy a retirement from an endless list of chores that come from being a homeowner. Some note that living at the center gives their children independence, too, since they no longer have to be responsible for their parents' home maintenance as well as their own.
For information or to arrange a tour, call (314) 968-9447.
Rosati-Kain graduate Helen Guenthel, class of 1942, told this story to current high school students:
"I know you won't believe this, but one of my classmates, when we had study period on the first floor, wanted to go skating at the winter garden. She wanted to get an early start, and it was our last class, so she just raised one of the windows and went out. Everybody told her "Bye, bye, good luck!" And she made it, and nobody ever knew except our class that she went out the window. You'll be happy to know that she later became a Notre Dame nun!"
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