Sister Rosemary Gillen’s love of children and teaching marked a 75-year tenure as a Long Island nun.
After several years of failing health, she died July 27 at age 94, according to the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville.
Gillen was born in Brooklyn to Francis and Mary Gillen, who moved the family to Woodhaven when she was a young child. At 17, she entered the Novitiate in Amityville under the name Sister Mary Callista, and pronounced her vows in 1942.
She began her teaching career under her original name, Sister Rosemary, shortly afterward at St. Barbara’s school in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where her gift of working with young children became quickly apparent. In 1948 she was transferred to the parish school St. Fidelis in College Point, Queens,where she spent the next 11 years as a kindergarten teacher.
“She proved herself an extraordinary teacher, one who possessed patience and the ability to work with young children to learn cooperating and the basics of what they would need to be successful in their future school experiences,” the Sisters of St. Dominic said in a statement. From there she moved to St. Bartholomew’s parish school in Elmhurst to teach first grade and established herself as a “legend,” according to the Sisters of St. Dominic.
In 1962, she moved to Our Lady of Lourdes in Massapequa Park, where she taught kindergarten, then in 1970 moved to New Hyde Park and the parish school of Notre Dame, where she worked for a decade. She finished her teaching career at St. Catherine of Sienna Roman Catholic Church’s parish school in Franklin Square in 1980.
Through her teaching years, Sister Rosemary continued her education, obtaining a bachelor of arts at Molloy College and a master’s degree at Adelphi University. She retired from St. Catherine’s, most recently as a clerk, in 1997, and moved to Our Lady of Consolation Convent in Amityville.
She later moved to Motherhouse in Amityville. In retirement, she liked watching the Mets, playing bingo and card games, and participating in committees, where her creativity in problem solving was evident.
“She had a quick smile for everyone and was most appreciative of every kind word and favor offered to her, especially by her health care professionals,” the sisters said.
She was predeceased by a sister, Sister Anne Gillen, as well as her brothers and a second sister whose names were not available. Services were held at St. Albert’s Chapel at Queen of the Rosary Motherhouse in Amityville, and she was buried in the Sisters’ cemetery.