Obituary

Sister of Mercy Rosalima Wilkinson followed caregivers’ example at St. James orphanage

The Sisters of Mercy left an early and lasting impression on a young Merdith Wilkinson when they cared for her for nine years at the former St. James Orphanage in Omaha.

She set out to follow their example and became Sister of Mercy Mary Rosalima Wilkinson. The sisters “gave me the care and love I needed to grow,” she later said.

Sister Rosalima died May 17 in Omaha at age 90.

Private services included vigil and remembrance services May 27 and a burial service May 28 at Resurrection Cemetery in Omaha. A public memorial Mass will be held later.

Sister Rosalima was born in Omaha to George and Phyllis (Finley) Wilkinson and was cared for by her grandmother until age 4, according to information from the Sisters of Mercy.

Then Merdith and her younger sister and brother were placed in the orphanage, with their grandmother maintaining contact through visits every Sunday, the sisters said.

“They fed us and took care of us,” Sister Rosalima later said of her caretakers. “Most kids want to be like their mothers, and that’s what we knew. To think that people would dedicate their lives to taking care of all those kids – that was inspirational.”

At age 13, she was sent to live with a family while attending the former Cathedral High School in Omaha. She graduated in 1947 and entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1949, professing her temporary vows in 1952 and perpetual vows in 1955.

For much of her 70 years of religious life, Sister Rosalima was a teacher and later principal for schools in Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, California, Washington and Nebraska.

In the Omaha archdiocese, she served as a teacher or principal at schools that included, in Omaha: St. Margaret Mary, 1954 to 1955; the former St. Agnes, 1959 to 1962; St. Wenceslaus, 1963 to 1964; the former St. Peter, 1969 to 1971; and College of Saint Mary, 1975 to 1981.

She was principal of Holy Trinity School in Hartington from 1991 to 1992 and principal and music teacher at St. Wenceslaus School in Dodge from 1992 to 1997.

Sister Rosalima also served as a parish pastoral associate in Rushville and Gordon, Nebraska, and a volunteer at Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Survivors include the Sisters of Mercy; her sister, Servant of Mary Sister Evangeline Wilkinson; sister-in-law Mary Jeffries; nieces, nephews and many friends.

Memorials were suggested to the Sisters of Mercy.