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 Saints of the Season Spring 2018
Rose Hawthorne Lathrop – America’s Mother Teresa (1851–1926)
Everybody knows about the marvelous work of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, but
do you know that the United States had its own Mother Teresa in the early
20th century? She is Rose Hawthorne Lathrop, born May 20, 1851. She was the youngest child of Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the greats of American literature. Rose grew up in an atmosphere of learning, traveled widely in Europe, and had some of her own works published.
Both of Rose’s parents died while she was in her teens. She married a writer, George Lathrop, when she was 20. Her marriage was unhappy. George became an alcoholic, and the couple’s only child, a son, died at the age of  ve.
In 1891, both Rose and George entered the Catholic Church. Such a step was
highly unusual for New Englanders of their class at that time. Most Catholics in
America were recent immigrants and were usually from the lower classes. Upper-class New England society tended to look down on these new immigrants and their religion.
Becoming Catholic didn’t save the Lathrops’ marriage. They separated two years later, and George died in 1898. Rose was alone and unsure of what to do with her life. By chance, she heard the story of a destitute woman with cancer who had been sent from a hospital to a poor house to die. Here the dying woman would receive no treatment, no kindness, and no care except for the most meager food. In those days, cancer was thought to be contagious. Cancer patients who were dying were removed from hospitals and generally shunned.
Rose had found her vocation. She trained as a nurse and began to visit those who were alone and dying from cancer. She even brought patients to her apartment where she cared for them. Soon other women joined her in her work. They became the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne (NY) with Rose, now Mother Mary Alphonsa, as their superior. Rose’s work with the sick poor continues to this day with houses for patients, who are called guests, in New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.
The sisters accept no payment from patients or their relatives. Their task as Dominicans (the Order of Preachers) is to preach the love of God by caring for those most in need of the love and kindness Jesus asks us to share.
Rose, who died in 1926, may be recognized by the Church as a saint. In 2003, the archbishop of New York gave his approval to begin the process of canonization, and a guild was established to pray for the success of this cause.
         A Service of
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