Rosemary Everett, SNJM ‘65 has lived a life committed to empowering students, working for social justice, and promoting the SNJM Core Values. She was the recipient of Holy Names University’s 2020 Alumni Recognition Award.
Sr. Rosemary was eight-years-old when her family moved from Indiana to Alameda, California. It was 1942 and the U.S. had just entered World War II. The rustle and sirens of war were ever-present, and she found school and church peaceful refuges.
Sr. Rosemary knew from an early age that she wanted to join a religious community. She entered the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) in 1952, when she was eighteen, and took her final vows in 1959. As a young Sister, Sr. Rosemary’s college experience wasn’t traditional. She worked full-time as a teacher and took classes when she could: on weekends and in the summer. She graduated from Holy Names 13 years after she first started taking classes.
A passionate educator, Sr. Rosemary taught all grades from 2-12 (except third). And she “loved them all.” “Those were the days when it was wall-to-wall children. We had 50 or 60 students in every class and didn’t think anything of it,” recalls Sr. Rosemary. “We taught with compassion and, somehow, it wasn’t chaos.”
After teaching for over 30 years, Sr. Rosemary transitioned to different positions in education and Campus Ministry. While engaged in all of these ministries, Sr. Rosemary was a constant advocate for justice and for the rights of the incarcerated, trafficked persons, and immigrants. She served on multiple social justice committees and was a regular fixture at protests and rallies in the Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
In 2003, while working as the SNJM social justice coordinator, she began studying the issue of human trafficking. She was deeply impacted and appalled by what she found—an estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern-day slavery [2017 report from the International Labor Organization]. In 2004, the SNJMs took a formal Corporate Stand Against Trafficking in Women and Children. And Sr. Rosemary went to work.
“Working against human trafficking is my passion,” says Sr. Rosemary. “I will do all I can to raise awareness and empower survivors.”
She joined forces with other groups in Santa Clara Valley and No Traffick Ahead, a multi-county workgroup in the Bay Area. She helped train hotel workers and others to recognize human trafficking victims and how to report them.
She conducted presentations on human trafficking as a member of the San Jose Diocesan: Catholic Network to End Human Trafficking. And for the past four years, she has worked with Community Solutions, a Bay Area comprehensive support services agency, to hold retreats for Human Trafficking survivors. The retreats are funded through SNJM Ministry Grants.
“Increasingly, the retreat’s focus is on empowering the women to lead their fellow survivors,” Sr. Rosemary explains.
While Sr. Rosemary is technically retired, she continues her important advocacy work and also enjoys teaching English as a Second Language—via FaceTime during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order.
Sr. Rosemary is thankful to her SNJM community for allowing her to live a life of service and activism: “There is really only one reason to join a community and that is to increase your love for Christ. The ministry has to flow out of that. That is the heart of the vocation.”
This article appears in the Winter/Spring 2021 issue of HNU Today.