Sister Rose Mary: Be God’s yes to the world

Sister Rose Mary was surprised when her name was called as the recipient of this year’s ATHENA Award.

Sister Rose Mary Rexing, OSB was named the 2023 ATHENA Award winner Wednesday evening at a special banquet held at the Huntingburg Events Center.

Sister Rose Mary was nominated along with four other deserving women — Annette Altmeyer, Dana Kunz, Dr. Kristi Nord and Erin Rauscher — for the annual award honoring women in the community. The event was created and sponsored by the Rotary Club of Dubois County and is in its 11th year.

Sister Rose Mary has impacted many in her fifty years of ministry and following God’s call in her life.

Sr. Rose Mary served as a math/chemistry teacher and head of an all-male science department at Forest Park High School. She continued her ministry to youth and “being present to each person in the moment” as a Pastoral Associate at St. Ferdinand Parish.

Her next position as Vocations Director involved helping numerous young adult women to discern how God was calling them. She was awarded the University of Notre Dame Exemplar Award and recognized for her outstanding contribution to vocation ministry by the National Religious Vocations Conference.

She also led the fundraising efforts to renovate the monastery church as director of mission advancement and established a special relationship with Florence Henderson during that time.

She helped start a women’s philanthropy group, Women of the Rule, which funds community projects.

Many friends, fellow Sisters, and individuals personally impacted by Sr. Rose Mary’s leadership and involvement lined up to congratulate her.

While serving as Executive Director of Mission Integration at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, she started the Prayer and Presence Program, training volunteers to sit with the sick and dying and also providing spiritual formation programs for the staff.

She currently serves as Director of Hospitality and Spirituality at the Monastery.

Looking forward, she is excited about providing new opportunities for the area, such as partnering with Purdue Extension to create a cultural awareness workshop for businesses.

Sr. Rose Mary stated she was deeply honored to be chosen by the Rotary Club. She only agreed to be nominated if all the credit goes to God, family and her community, the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana (SoSB).

Sara Reed worked for Sr. Rose Mary as her administrative assistant at Memorial Hospital for five years. She said those years were deeply impactful in her life. The two teared up as they embraced after the convocation.

Sister Rose Mary chose Women of the Rule to receive the proceeds from this evening’s event. The group helps women take part in philanthropy together. “It’s a unique approach to philanthropy for women,” Sr. Rose Mary explained. “Because women come together, form relationships and make decisions together about the support with other women who have the same values.”

In her short acceptance speech, Sister Rose Mary pointed to scripture as the driving factor in her life decisions. “The Gospel of Matthew says, don’t lose your saltiness,” she said. “Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket. But let your light shine for others so that they can see your good deeds and give glory to God.”

During her acceptance speech, Sr. Rose Mary credited saying yes as the simple act that allowed her to be involved in so many worthwhile endeavors.

“Say yes to God. Say yes to life. Say yes to others. Say yes, and enjoy the journey,” she implored the crowd at the Huntingburg Events Center. “Be God’s yes to the world.”

Organizer Dan Collignon presented Sr. Rose Mary with the ATHENA Wednesday evening. Collignon helped establish the annual event honoring women in Dubois County as he was considering ways to inspire his two daughters.

Sr. Rose Mary joins ten previous Dubois County Athenians and will be added to the display at the Dubois County Museum. Those Athenians include Jane Chappell, Brenda Stallings, Kathy Tretter, Nancy Eckerle, Connie Nass, Tonya Heim, Kim Messmer, Dr. Tracy Lorey, Kelly Clauss and Rossina Sandoval. In 2020, the Rotary Club of Jasper recognized the essential worker.

“We are proud to host this event honoring the female leaders of Dubois County,” said Rotary Club of Dubois County ATHENA Event Chair, Manda Combs. “It was an extremely difficult decision for our committee to decide on a recipient this year. Sr. Rose Mary Rexing only agreed to be nominated if all the credit went to God, her family, her community, and the Sisters of St. Benedict. Her fifty years of ministry in following God’s call has led her to many different paths of leadership that I think we can all learn from.”

Due to an illness, the keynote speaker, M. Susan Hardwick, President and CEO of American Water Works, Inc., was unable to attend. In her place, Lori Sutton, Chief Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Officer of American Water Works, Inc., gave an inspiring talk on the career decisions she made and the people, including Mrs. Hardwick, who helped guide her through her life and career.

In speaking about the impact coaches, counselors, and mentors had on her life, Mrs. Sutton encouraged the crowd to take on those roles and bring others up with them; to help others succeed and be fulfilled, authentically.

She commended the women nominated for the award and acknowledged the women in her life who have helped and inspired her.

“I think about these women (in her life) and even the women in this room, the path that you have laid for other women, and you may never see the fruits of your labor,” Sutton said. “But the things that you’re doing today, they will carry on for other women and other young ladies, especially those who are here with us today.”

The Rotary Club of Dubois County would like to thank its 2023 ATHENA Awards Platinum Level Sponsors: Dentons Bingham Greenebaum, German American Bank, Kimball International, Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, and Old National Bank. 

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