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Monastery prioriess described as ‘the most docile, generous and unaffected soul’ in 1950 letter

January 15, 2019

Services are scheduled Tuesday at Cristo Rey Catholic Church for Mother Rose Teresa, prioress at the Carmelite Monastery on Santa Fe’s east side for almost half a century. She died last week at the age of 89.

Born Marilyn Lois Prem in March 1929 in Evanston, Ill., to Frank and Margaret Prem, she attended Catholic schools in Chicago, including Loyola University, and graduated from St. Francis School of Nursing shortly before entering the Carmelite Monastery in Santa Fe in October 1950.

According to a published obituary, “She came to Santa Fe from Chicago by train, and never wanted to leave the Sangre de Cristo foothills and the beauty of New Mexico.”

Her letter of recommendation from her confessor in 1950 described the future Mother Rose in the same way many of her grieving friends have talked about her in the past week: “She is the most docile, generous and unaffected soul I have had the grace to meet.”

Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne appointed her vicaress in 1960 when several nuns at the Santa Fe monastery were invited to found a new monastery in Missouri. Because Mother Rose was too young at the time, permission was needed from the Vatican for her to become prioress. Later that year permission arrived and she stayed in that position until her death.

“She was holy but down to earth,” the Very Rev. Msgr. Jerome Martínez y Alire said Monday. “She had a particular love of priests. She knew how hard and lonely it is being a priest. She would get the number of the rectory and call late at night and visit with us.” Years ago, she gave Father Jerome a medal of the Blessed Mother that he still wears.

“If a friend or family member was ill or having difficulties, you would go before her and ask her for the Carmelite’s prayers,” said Cecilia Luján Matic, whose family had known Mother Rose for years. “Her presence made you feel welcomed and loved. She was always sincere in her concern for your family. … She just had an aura to her voice. You would think you were in the best company of the Lord.”

Luján Matic said that her mother, Frances Luján, would take homemade biscochitos for Mother Rose and the other Carmelites. She would leave the cookies on a lazy-Susan that was in a wall of the monastery. People would put packages or letters on the turntable, which would deliver things to the Carmelites, who kept out of view. Days later, when all the biscochitos were gone, Sister Rose would call Frances and ask to have Cecilia pick up the tin.

Once, when they knew her even better, she asked them to come into the parlor, saying she would meet them there. It was a room with chairs where the family sat, and a curtain obscuring Mother Rose’s side of the room. “One day she opened the curtain and it was the first time we ever saw her,” Luján Matic said. “It was the most breath-taking thing! She was very simply dressed in her brown garb. The relationship just kept blossoming.”

Mother Rose is survived by her natural sisters Joan and Nancy and their extended families; and by her brother Larry.

Viewing will be at at Cristo Rey Catholic Church, 1120 Canyon Road, from 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, with a rosary immediately following. A Mass of Christian burial is scheduled for 11 am. A reception will be held at Cristo Rey. Committal Service is private at the Monastery Cemetery.

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