Sr. Rose Tillemans

Sister of St. Joseph (1923–2002)
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Photo courtesy of Peace House Community.

Rose Tillemans was raised in a devout Catholic family in Minnesota. Growing up, she didn’t give any thought to religious life. It was only following her graduation from college, and finding herself bored with a library job, that she felt a calling to join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. It was in some ways a surprising choice. The order was primarily engaged in teaching and nursing, occupations which did not interest her. 

The discovery of her true mission came in 1974 when she volunteered to take over a community store operated by the congregation in Minneapolis. In her interactions with the poor people who came to the store for free food and household goods, it occurred to her that they needed something more. Sister Rose conceived the idea of a community day center for poor and homeless people. This was the genesis of what would become “Peace House”—a place where “all belong.” She “wanted it to be simple, safe, and friendly, a gathering center for sharing stories, praying together for those who were falling through the cracks.” 

Peace House eventually opened in 1985, and before long it had become a vibrant center, an oasis of friendship and community in the midst of the inner city. Sister Rose was the welcoming heart of the house, where she served until her unexpected death on July 5, 2002, at 79. 

“I dance every day to the truths that express for me what makes sense: giving love, caring for others in their needs, working for justice, sharing tenderness, accepting the things I cannot change, working with the poor who must often face insurmountable obstacles, caring for the Earth and all its children.” 

—Sr. Rose Tillemans, CSJ 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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