Rose O’Donnell

COUNTRY: Nicaragua
CITY/TOWN: Esquipulas
FOCUS: Economic Development, Education and Pastoral Ministry

Rose was born in Portsmouth, Ohio and spent her youth to young adulthood in Peru, Illinois. She participated at St Joseph Parish in Peru, Illinois but her most formative years were spent in Normal, Illinois at the Newman Center of the Illinois State University. The Newman Center ministry was a critical component in the formation of her desire for work with impoverished communities and support their efforts for justice and peace.

She studied Special Education at Illinois State University and obtained her teacher certificate in 1987. Immediately after graduation she joined Witness for Peace and spent the next 9 months in Nicaragua as a witness to the US war and its effects on the population.

In 1992, she returned from Nicaragua and moved to Chicago, Illinois to work at Esperanza Community Services – a day program for adults with disabilities. She worked as one of the coordinators of adult services for 5 years and then decided to return to school to become an Occupational Therapist. She married Joe Sloan in 1994 and gave birth to their first child, Theresa, in 1998. She graduated from Occupational Therapy school in 1999 and moved to Westminster, Colorado to be near Joe’s family. She completed her internship and started her career in school system practice. Her second child, Jack, was born in 2001. Rose and Joe live and work in Colorado and their children have thrived surrounded by family and good people.

Economic Development – Juan XXIII project: Rose worked with a revolving agricultural loan fund through the Juan XXIII program out of the UCA (University of Central America) in Managua. European funds were available for micro loans. She worked with local leaders to form development communities at each project site. Funds were given for cows, chickens, large community corn grinders, seeds, fertilizers, etc. Each committee had to spend funds on training/classes and then pay back the loan to another local committee for another project.

Education: Bringing local health care leaders together to share information regarding natural medicines and traditional remedies. Participated in support and formation of the Casa Materna – a local residence for women in their last trimester of pregnancy who were at high risk for difficult births.

Pastoral: Accompanied local church faith group to visit the sick in the community.

Rose was led to begin a life of service by the pastoral team at the Newman Center on her University campus. Through her study of the life of Jesus, she was inspired to be an advocate for the voiceless and the poor. She has always been drawn to people who experience life differently and who look at life from a different lens than her own. This interest brought her toward an oversees mission.

A revolving loan fund was established with the local community which continued to operate long after Rose left Esquipulas. Rose and Joe built mutual, lasting relationships with people in the community and sustain them to this day. Those relationships changed them in ways that they don’t fully understand.

Rose and Joe worked closely to other Maryknoll Lay Missioners such as Mary Coonan and Kitty Madden.

Rose is an Occupational Therapist in school system practice for the past 19 years. She was inspired in this career by another former Maryknoll Lay Missioner – Teresa Glass. Teresa hosted her at her hospital work site and inspired Rose to further her career.