Sister Rosalyn (Benedictus) Hengstebeck was born to Frank and Alice (Francis) Hengstebeck in 1924 in Detroit where she grew up, the sixth of 11 children. She had five brothers and five sisters. She says of her childhood that “it was a happy life” and that her family was “very close.”
The children attended St. Catherine School on the east side. It had been affordable for her parents to send Sister Rosalyn and her siblings to St. Catherine because tuition costs were so low. Sister Rosalyn wonders today how the IHMs made ends meet back then! She credits her time at St. Catherine for her desire to become an IHM, “I always knew I wanted to be a sister. I suppose it had a lot to do with the nuns I had. I loved them all…loved the habit,” Sister Rosalyn recalls.
When she shared her decision to join the IHMs with her parents, she recalled that “my mother was happy. My dad did not seem to be.” In fact, when her family would visit her at the Motherhouse during her time as a novice, her father would say “got clothes in the trunk for you.” Sister Rosalyn later learned that her father truly was proud of her decision to become an IHM and would brag about her at work. As a novice “every minute of the day was scheduled from 5:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.” she recalls. “Thank goodness it is not like that now,” she laughs.
As a novice, Sister Rosalyn began teaching third grade at St. John in Monroe in 1944. The following year, she was sent to St. Matthew in Detroit to take the place of Sister Leola who was “burned badly when her cape caught fire…she never returned to teaching,” recalled Sister Rosalyn.
Sister Rosalyn taught third grade at St. Matthew until 1947 and then went to Pontiac where she taught at St. Frederick School. In 1955 she returned to Detroit to St. Cecilia for five years, teaching grades five through eight. In 1960 she went to Mt. Morris and taught eighth grade and ninth grade Latin at St. Mary. She then went to Flint and taught at St. Michael before going to Luke Powers in 1970 where she taught religion, Latin and English. She then left the classroom and became the attendance officer in 1991 and the assistant librarian in 2006.
Sister Rosalyn retired to the Motherhouse in the fall of 2012. Today she spends her time going “down to the Amazon room after Mass. I shelve books for them and take books to the mailing room.” An avid reader, she enjoys a good mystery novel and also plays card games nearly every night, bridge being her favorite.
She admits she has yet to delve into the options available to her in the art room because she believes she is not creative. “I am a detail person,” she said.
One of Sister Rosalyn’s favorite places is the summer cottage her father bought in 1948. Sister Rosalyn did not see the cottage until 1957 and even then it was only for one day. “In the beginning we could go home one day a year,” she said. The cottage is located 10 miles west of Pontiac and Sister Rosalyn still tries to visit the cottage every year for family reunions with her four remaining siblings, 39 nieces and nephews and “who knows how many great nieces and nephews.” Only now she does not need to limit her visits to just one day.
Sister Rosalyn died on Feb. 16, 2014.