Nun, scientist, biometrician, protector of future generations. Born April 4, 1929, in Buffalo, N.Y., died June 14, 2012, in Langhorne, Pa., of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, aged 83.
In 1973, Rosalie shared her expert understanding of the risks of radiation associated with nuclear facilities at a meeting in Niagara County, U.S., on a proposed nuclear power plant near farms growing produce for Gerber's baby foods. Shortly afterward, Niagara County legislated a moratorium on nuclear power.
Thus began her life's work of bringing to public attention the effects of ionizing radiation on present and future generations. It was also the beginning of efforts to silence her.
Rosalie had dual citizenship, so when censorship and denigration in the United States turned to violence against her, she came to Canada to continue her work. In Toronto, she became the energy and public health specialist at the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice. In 1984, she co-founded the International Institute of Concern for Public Health.
She was particularly concerned about the vulnerability of children to environmental toxins. Armed with a Geiger counter and a health survey of children, she put pressure on authorities to take corrective action in a Scarborough suburb with radioactive contamination.
Appalled by the suffering of the Marshall Islands' people, whose babies were being born boneless after extensive nuclear testing there, Rosalie took their case to the U.S. Congress.
She worked on behalf of marginalized people in many countries who were struggling with industrial pollution, radioactive contamination and destructive militarism. She conducted research, convened tribunals and served as an expert witness.
As a newborn, Rosalie suffered from pneumonia, and illnesses kept her frail throughout her life. However, her mental strengths and optimistic spirit more than made up for limitations in physical robustness. A stiff breeze could push her off balance, but the raging winds of opposition could not fell her.
People and giraffes made her laugh; nature was a source of joy; and she held to her belief in the essential goodness of humanity.
She achieved a BA magna cum laude, a masters degree in mathematics and philosophy, and a doctorate in biometrics.
Rosalie began her 54 years with the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in 1958. She became known as the "anti-nuclear nun," and the "angel on our shoulder," earning honorary degrees and numerous environmental and peace awards.
A voice of truth in a wilderness of propaganda, Rosalie challenged decisions that cause harm to the health of the planet. Her hard-hitting and hope-filled writings integrated careful research with discernment and courageous public witness.
She was never afraid to confront the establishment, whether medical, political or military. Her message continues to be heard and respected.
Shirley Farlinger is Rosalie's friend.