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 | By Mary D. Dillard

‘Now It Is Her Turn to Be Welcomed Into Heaven’

Beloved Cathedral Housekeeper Laid to Rest

Twenty-eight years ago Father Patrick Cullen, rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul at the time, hired Rose Marie Rouss to be the Cathedral rectory cook, which later evolved to add housekeeping duties. “As rector, one of the best things I ever did,” Father Cullen reminisced, “was to hire Rose to work in the Cathedral rectory.”

Devout Catholics willing to serve the Lord is nothing new in the Diocese of Birmingham. Rouss, however, was not only a prime example of one willing to serve, but she was able to serve in a very unique way. “Aside from her delicious cooking and care of the rectory, she made every resident and visitor - seminarian, priest, bishop, archbishop, or cardinal - feel truly welcome,” said Father Cullen. Rouss was the constant at the rectory. In his homily for Rouss’ Mass of Christian Burial, the current Cathedral Rector, Father Bryan Jerabek, noted she had served “a total of four bishops, four rectors, and countless assistant priests, seminarians, and other guests who have passed through what we lovingly refer to as, ‘Hotel St. Paul.’”

Another former rector of the Cathedral, Father Richard Donohoe, had the fortune of being a witness to Rouss’ example of service both during his time at the Cathedral and as her pastor for seven years at Our Lady, Queen of the Universe in Birmingham. “She loved the parish, and she loved the music. During her first Christmas, she brought to give to parishioners dozens of bags of fig cookies. The parishioners did not know the Sicilian tradition, but the next year a parishioner, just before Christmas, asked Rose, ‘Where are the cookies?’ They arrived the next week. Our Lady, Queen of the Universe parish will miss Rose and her love for the people of Queen.”

Rouss took joy in serving others. Father Jerabek commented: “Rose had that knack for making things special, and all benefited from her hospitable, gracious, and generous spirit. The Gospel was that familiar passage about the place that our Lord Jesus Christ is preparing in Heaven for those who love and serve Him here below. ‘In My Father’s house,’ He says, ‘there are many dwelling places.’ I like to think that Rose meditated on this passage regularly in her daily traversing of the three floors of the Cathedral rectory, as she went about preparing a place for the bishops, priests, and guests there.”

While her cooking and hospitality made her “a dear friend to everyone” on the Cathedral’s staff, Father Jerabek pointed to something deeper. “There was something more that you could see in her eyes and heart: her love of the Lord and of His Blessed Mother and ours; her deep spiritual connection with God and His saints. She prayed unfailingly for all the priests she served and for many others besides. I first met Rose as a guest of the Cathedral rectory some years ago – and one day, after I came here as rector, she told me how she had been praying for me ever since that first meeting…. She sanctified ordinary daily life by weaving her faith into it and living it out in a simple and consistent way. We can all learn from Rose’s example of steady faith, and we would do well to imitate it through the ups and downs of our own lives, too.”

Concluding his homily, Father Jerabek confessed: “Communication between Rose and me was never very easy because of her bad hearing and my bad voice, but it was extremely clear during those final visits that she understood perfectly what I said and did as I administered the sacraments to her. And she mouthed the words ‘thank you.’ Now, we all say, ‘thank you’ to Rose, dear WoWo, a beloved family member, faithful friend, joyful servant, and most devoted Roman Catholic.”

As Father Cullen pointedly remarked, “Now it is her turn to be welcomed into Heaven.”