Sister Josette Rotering
Born: March 5, 1926
Died: March 3, 2012
Died: March 3, 2012
Sister Josette was born on the family farm in Buffalo County between Arcadia and Waumandee, Wisconsin, on March 5, 1926. She was named Marcella and was the fourth of eight children born to Joseph and Gertrude Rotering. One brother, Joseph, died as an infant and her brother Jerome died on November 15, 1998. Three sisters, Bernetta Haines, Marian Cavanaugh, Florence Nelson, and two brothers, Mathias and Sylvester, are still living.
Marcella attended St. Boniface School in Waumandee for all eight grades. The family lived five miles from St. Boniface. Catholic education was important and sacrifices were made so they could receive a Catholic education. And so when Jerome was in fourth grade, Bernetta in eighth grade, and Marcella in first grade, Papa Rotering purchased a horse that was small in stature and gentle with children, to be hitched to a top-buggy the family had to transport the students to St. Boniface. A small shed in Waumandee was rented to house the horse until it was time to go back home. The horse was fed hay in the morning upon arrival at school and at noon she was given a bag of oats and a drink of water. Then, after school, it was the five-mile trek back home.
Marcella was a good student. She liked school and loved music. The family had a piano which her mother and older sister played. She was fascinated at how her mother’s fingers would fly over the keys and wanted to learn to play herself. She was allowed to take lessons while in the eighth grade.
When Marcella graduated from eighth grade in May of 1940, she began preparations to enter St. Joseph Convent. On August 27 of that year, Sister Leonard, who was Marcella’s eighth grade teacher, accompanied her to Milwaukee on the train. They arrived about 6.30 that evening. The next day was cry day all day long, from before breakfast right straight through until bedtime. That, however, was the end of the tears, until the first visiting Sunday in October. As her parents were getting ready to leave, the floodgates opened once again. Her mother looked at her and said, “Do you want to come along home with us?” Through her tears, Marcella answered “No-o-o.” Several weeks later, after that crying episode, Marcella was walking down the first floor corridor and suddenly a strong feeling came over her saying, “You are here to stay.” That was it! On June 13, 1943, Marcella was received as a School Sister of St. Francis and given the name of Sister Josette.
Sister Josette continued her music education along with her college classes and received her degree in music. Her ministry began early. In her senior year of college, she was sent to Frankenstein, Missouri, to replace a sister who had become ill. Since Josette was a teacher-organist, and that ministry included teaching grades one, two and three and a two-week period to practice and prepare the choir for all the Holy Week services and for Easter. The other sisters were very supportive and gave her much help. Without them, Sister said she would not have lived to tell the story. From there she went to Germantown, Wisconsin, for 12 years. Josette spent some years in Aurora, Illinois, and Chatsworth, Illinois, where she served as teacher, organist, choir director, and sacristan.
When the Catholic School in Chatsworth was closed due to declining enrollment, Josette chose to stay there and helped in the neighboring parishes with the teaching of religion. Sister ministered there for 31 years.
In 1992, Sister came to Milwaukee, to Marian Hall, to be a driver for the sisters needing transportation. She was available to anyone who needed a ride. She continued her ministry of driving at the Motherhouse in 2002. In 2006 Sister Josette’s health was declining and she needed more care so she began her residence at Sacred Heart Convent where she began her ministry of prayer and presence.
Sister remained close to her family, spending vacation time with them whenever she could. She always kept in close touch with her many nieces and nephews, and with her grand nieces and nephews, as well as her many cousins. She could always be counted on to be a powerhouse of prayer when needed.
We will always remember Sister Josettes’s feisty spirit, great sense of humor, warm smile and beautiful brown eyes that were bright and alert to everything and everyone around. Her fierce determination was evident in the last month of her life after hip surgery when she struggled to return to her former self.
God had other plans for Josette. He called her home on March 3 and we know that she has now joined the choirs of angels enjoying and sharing the music that was so much a part of her life from little on.