Benedictine sister called to serve in four countries

Missionary Benedictine Sister Philomena Roche, a native of New Zealand called to serve in four countries, died Sept. 6 in Norfolk. She was 85.

A funeral Mass was held Sept. 8 at the religious order’s Immaculata Monastery, and burial was at the order’s section of Prospect Hill Cemetery, both in Norfolk.

Born Verna Roche and taking the religious name Sister Philomena, she served for decades in Australia, Spain and the Philippines, including 22 years as a contemplative, then helping in day care centers and a kindergarten, a chapel, a library and an infirmary. She even helped with weather observations in Perth, Australia.

She moved to Norfolk in 1995, assisting in the monastery kitchen before joining the Native American apostolate in Winnebago, where she visited nursing homes, people in jail in nearby Macy and the sick in hospitals and their homes. She also served at St. Augustine Indian Mission, supervising recess, the library and kindergarten classes.

In 2003, declining health prompted Sister Philomena to move back to Norfolk, where she continued to serve, visiting nursing homes, taking weekly Communion to patients in the hospital and writing letters to people in prison.

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