CHILDHOOD dress-up games at the Webb family house often heard an unlikely name floating around the children’s play – Sr Rose.
It was no miraculous apparition of a long-lost religious sister.
It was young Nancy Webb’s playtime pseudonym and the name she recently took at her profession to the Sisters of Life – Sr Rose Patrick O’Connor.
Her father Paul Webb said the name Rose held special significance to her.
“St Rose of Lima has been a patron of hers for a long time, as well as Rose being a family name for both my side and my wife’s side of the family,” he said.
“Since she was about eight or 10 years old, in games around the house, that was her pseudonym in a lot of the games she used to play around the house – she was Sr Rose.”
Her last name O’Connor was for Cardinal John O’Connor, founder of the Sisters of Life, who died in 2000.
As for her second name, Patrick, Mr Webb said there were a few sides to that.
Patrick was part of her family’s Irish heritage, something Sr Rose learned about from family history.
It was also because of a relationship Sr Rose developed in the past 12 months with St Patrick.
“(Building) an understanding of the situation in Ireland, where (St Patrick) had to take some courageous steps in a land where he didn’t speak the lingo,” Mr Webb said.
“(He) managed to form people in the faith in such a way that Ireland became a strong point of the faith for 1500 years after that.”
A link to her spiritual twin
And Patrick was also a link to her “spiritual twin”, her younger brother Nathan Patrick Webb, who is in his fourth year at Holy Spirit Seminary, Banyo.
“She now calls him her spiritual twin,” Mr Webb said.
Both Nathan and Sr Rose attribute their vocations in no small part to Toowoomba’s Sacred Heart Parish and to former parish priest and long-time family friend Fr James Byrne.
Mr Webb said his daughter was always interested in a religious life.
“(Sr Rose) in 2008 met the Sisters of Life at World Youth Day, and she would’ve been 12 or 13 at that time,” he said.
“From then on she’s been very clear that the Sisters of Life are her calling.”
Occasionally the Webb family get in touch with Sr Rose and hear of the many “little miracles” of her religious life.
Mr Webb said one day a young woman came into the convent Sr Rose was at, and the visitor was distressed because she was expecting twins.
“It was a very awkward situation socially, economically and … interestingly enough the tipping point, the focal point, was that she didn’t have a double pram.
“And there were a whole lot of other things that were arguably much more important at the time.
“But that was the one that was really tipping the bucket for her.”
The young lady showed the sisters a picture of a double pram she had seen in a magazine and asked if they’d seen or heard of anywhere she could get one.
“The sisters were on their way to Morning Prayer and included that lady in their intentions, and they got out of Morning Prayer and there was a pram donated to them that morning,” Mr Webb said.
“And it was actually the same brand, almost identical, to what the lady had showed in the picture. It’s just remarkable.”
Mr Webb said when Sr Rose talked to him and the family, she could cite one miracle after the other.
He said there was something every day that happened as an answer to a prayer.
“It’s just amazing to me the sisters are out there in the world in real and practical and tangible ways but they’re still very much rooted in relying on God to provide,” he said.
Mr Webb said the family, the parish and friends in Toowoomba missed her, especially the joy she brought to others.
“She’s sorely missed in the local community but nobody begrudges the fact that she’s tailor-made for the calling she’s got with the Sisters of Life,” Mr Webb said.
Learning like Martha and Mary
Towards the future, he said it was reminiscent of the recent Gospel passage of Martha and Mary.
He said in the next 12 months she was going to be like Mary, at the foot of Jesus and taking in the spiritual formation.
The following 12 months would be like Martha, the more practical and hands-on formation work, he said.
The Sisters of Life charism is to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life, and at the heart of this is a spiritual motherhood.
Cardinal O’Connor said the Sisters of Life existed to mother the mothers of the unborn and mother the unborn; to mother all those who were frail, vulnerable, ill and in danger of being put to death; and those whose lives the world considered useless.