Returning with a new season, this episode highlights the story of Sr Rose Tillemans, CSJ and her journey towards the development of Peace House Community.
“This the gift to recognize the gifts that you prize
And to know you yourself are a gift on the rise
If people look sideways at you're all about
Turn, turn, turn and shout, shout shout.
God knows the GIFT that you IS
Even on the days when you don't pass the quiz
And know you are a star midst the galaxies above
Or even a meteor proclaiming your love
This the gift to rebel, this the gift to dissent
When things aren't going the way they should've went
And if you're
rocking a boat or a fort
Rejoice in your cause or any support.
Speak out the truth in your heart
Be glad for this gift even tho' you fall apart
Dance when you win and dance when you lose
Even if you must buy a new pair of shoes.”
-A poem by Sr Rose Welch Tillemans voiced by Kaitlyn Beimert
Sr Rose Welch Tillemans was born in 1923 in Minnesota. She graduated from the College of Saint Catherine, now known as Saint Catherine University, in 1945. After graduating, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1947; she was 24 years old. Sr Rose began her religious life as a teacher and librarian for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. After working as a teacher-librarian for 25 years, Sr Rose began working at the Free Store in Minneapolis.
In Sr Rose’s first book, Savoring Grace: A Year at Peace House she writes, “The Free Store kept all us workers hopping, answering the phone and trying to supply the needs of poor folks requesting furniture, pots, pans, pants, food, eggbeaters, and ironing boards. That work became pressured for me, though, after ten years of dealing with the overwhelming material needs of the poor. I longed for a space where customers and workers alike could sit down and talk, pray, listen to one another’s stories, and hear our own voices as we shared our struggles and triumphs.” With her experience at the Free Store, Sr. Rose set out to create a space where community members were welcomed and not scrutinized.
After spending ten years at the Free Store, Sr Rose founded Peace House Community. Before opening Peace House, Sr Rose met a dilemma. The neighborhood where Peace House was to be opened did not like that there was going to be a new “social service agency” because it will attract troublemakers. After hearing the neighbors opposition, Sr Rose did not feel as hopeful and was not going to open Peace House in that area. However, a phone call to Ed Flahaven, pastor of Saint Stephen’s Catholic Church, changed her decision. He told her to tell the community to give her a three month trial. Peace House Community was opened on 510 East Franklin Avenue on October 17th, 1985.
“Today Mary and I heard Richard Rohr speak at the College of Saint Catherine. The theologians who preceded him seemed too heady for me. Then Richard, a priest, moved to the lectern; he was dressed in a casual jacket with a shirt open at the neck. I became so absorbed in this gutsy man’s message that I wasn’t conscious of time. He said we don’t connect with oppressed people in the world, don’t want to recognize them, and we drown our own pain in money, drugs, and alcohol. He told us that we in this country think everybody in the world should do it our way. We have a superior attitude. Richard has an earthly theology, not a head-trip kind. Although I had to sit through a lot of tedium in the other speakers, I give thanks for the blessings of this man who is in touch with pain and poverty.
The heaviness of living hit me hard this morning. I shared eucharist with my dear Mary-a regular churchgoer for whom Mass is very important-and cried as I realized how much effort it takes to do one’s justice-thing when those I know are so burdened to death with pain almost beyond hope. And there is world pain, so tragic and oppressive.
Someone told me on the phone that the poor could choose to do better. They just don’t make the effort. Where can I go with that? This remark makes me more aware of people’s denial of the pain of the poor in order to assuage their guilt for not getting involved and to justify their own comfortable lives…”
According to their site, Peace House Community “offer a non-violent, welcoming and inclusive community for poor and marginalized women and men who are seeking companionship, safety from the streets and personal affirmation. Peace House Community provides a platform for expressing beliefs, hurts, desperation, hopes and fears too long hidden in so many bruised and broken hearts. Community members are affirmed through mutual sharing, respectful listening and appreciation of each person’s value and worth.” Today, Peace House Community is located on 1816 Portland Avenue South and continues the mission set by Sr. Rose Tillemans.
Sister Rose Welch Tillmans passed away on July 5th, 2002; she was 79 years old.
“Rose recognized that people's spirits and souls needed to be nourished and healed. This became a ministry of listening to the stories of those who had no one to listen to them. It would provide a place for the most misunderstood and least loved in our society to call “home”. It would be about what people need after they have been fed and clothed. Since the beginning Peace House Community strives to understand and love each person.” (Peace House)
A special thank you to Kaitlyn Beimert as the voice actress.
Sr Rose Tillemans: http://peacehousecommunity.org/pdf/PHC%20WEBSITE%20FOUNDER%20PDF.pdf
Peace House Community: http://www.peacehousecommunity.org/about.php