Tell us about your growing up years and family.
My parents: Morris and Anna Catherine Rossmaier Lehman were married in March 1943 just after Dad returned from Basic Training at Fort Ord, CA. He fought in the African Campaign and then with other tank commanders crossed to the Italian Peninsula. He fought his way North of Rome, Italy. When his time was up in theater, he was sent to Fort Hood, Texas to serve out the rest of his enlistment. He and Mom traveled from Western Washington to Texas by taking the inland route in 1944. I was born March 20, 1945. When Dad was released from the army, we traveled in a 1939 Dodge with a trailer behind, this time they decided to see some of the country that they had never seen. They traveled across Texas into New Mexico Mountains where they encountered a September snowstorm. They drove into a gas station in order to stop driving in the snow. A lady in the station seeing Mom holding me in the front seat rushed out and grabbed me and ran into the station. Mom was sure I was being kidnapped, but they later found out that she thought that we were cold in the car. Dad had that Dodge running well and we were not cold. They continued to travel through Arizona and then into California. When they were in Northern California and could smell evergreen trees, Dad vowed that he would never leave Western Washington. He never did!!
They bought a house east of the city of Napavine, six miles away from where Dad was raised. They stayed in the house from 1946 to 2004 when my siblings and I sold the house. My parents were a product of the Great Depression, so we gardened and raised chickens and then preserved the produce by canning and freezing. I learned to do all that work from my mom and dad. My brother, John Morris was born in 1948 and my sister, Christine Marie was born in 1952. I played with my dolls doing for them whatever Mom was doing for John. John was given his name because Mom thought that Dad would not remember his name as Dad had trouble remembering names of his co-workers. Christine was given her name because no one in the family had that name.
Please share a favorite story about your early community service.
My first assignment was to the Motherhouse, Mount Alverno in Redwood Ciy, CA. I was to work in the sewing room in the morning as I had for the 3 years of the Novitiate. I was also the substitute cook if she didn’t arrive on the bus on time. I had Phone and Doorbell for the rest of the day and evening until I went to bed. I was also a “free” driver so I spent many hours in waiting rooms waiting for sisters to finish their appointments. We changed our habit to a simple brown dress and a modified veil in 1968. Since I lived on the lower floor next to the elevator where the older sisters resided, I pinned their new veiling. They would put the veil on a chair outside their door and I would go from chair to chair pinning the veils for the next morning. Once when I was walking along with Sister Macaria, she remarked that I needed roller skates so that I could travel the long corridors more easily. We had a good laugh over that.
Why did you decide to become a sister?
I entered the Sisters of St. Francis because they were the only sisters I knew. I had attended CCD classes while I was in grade school, weekly between the Sunday Masses and Summer School each year at St Francis Xavier Mission, Toledo WA. There was some kind of scandal at the time I was supposed to go to Napavine High School, so my parents decided that I would be a day student at St. Mary’s Academy, Toledo WA. I rode my bike to Highway 99 and caught the Greyhound Local Bus the nine miles to St. Mary’s for the 4 years I was there. Sisters, Manuela and Helena, were the most influential teachers that I had. It was difficult for me to go from the public grade school to St. Mary’s because I didn’t know how to study and I was in class with students of Catholic Grade Schools from western Washington and Oregon. I only got one A and that was because in Sr. Monica’s Science Class we had to collect insects. My Dad make the frame for a net on a pole and Mom sewed the netting for the butterfly catcher. My brother John was a great help in catching the insects. I had over 90 in my collection. I even traded for insects that I did not have in my collection.
How do you share your Franciscan values and spirituality now?
Now I live at Marian Convent, Santa Maria CA, where I work in the garden and arrange flowers
that are given to us from Trader Joe’s. In May of 2017 the administrator came to the sisters and asked for them to take on some tasks that would free up the caregivers and cooks. When she arrived at the bottom of the list she asked if anyone knew about growing roses. I volunteered to take on the care of the roses. I have done that ever since. I work with the hired gardeners and create a to-do-list for each week. I usually walk the gardens with them each week and they take the flower clippings to their composter and give back some of their fertilizer to enrich our gardens.
I try in all my dealings with these people to be the one who shows Franciscan values, lifestyle and spirituality. As I interact with the sisters here in the care center and who live in this House, I try to be a helpful, smiling, and gracious Sister to them.
What would you like us to know about being a Franciscan?
I have been professed for 57 years. In those years I have seen many changes and lived through them. I am happy that I was able to know the older ways and I am glad for all the changes in religious life that make us more accessible to the people with whom I have lived and worked. I have had the opportunities to serve the people of God in so many places: Mount Alverno, Redwood City CA; Sacred Heart School, Altadena, CA; St. Jude’s School, Havre, Montana; St. Bernadette’s School, Seattle, WA (2); St. Ann’s School, Tacoma, WA. St. Francis International School, Rome, Italy; St. Turibius School, Los Angeles, CA, Caregiver for my Mother, Chehalis, WA; Sacramento, CA as Literacy Tutor for 3 different people who wanted to learn to read; and Marian Convent, Santa Maria, CA, Roses and Gardens
The community gave me my College Educational opportunities. I got a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in Havre, Montana (1977). I attended Seattle University and became a Reading Specialist (1994). Using the skills learned as a Reading Specialist in my classroom to help the children overcome reading difficulties was the greatest joy in my teaching days.
Please share a favorite quote or verse.
“God will provide.” (Mother Magdalen) “Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is a Mystery, Today is a gift.” (Eleanor
“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
Karle Wilson Baker (1878-1960)
From a short poem “Courage” published in
Poetry magazine in October of 1921.
By Karle Wilson Baker
Courage is armor
A blind man wears,
The calloused scar
Of outlived despairs:
Courage is Fear
That has said its prayers.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I was in my 3rd year of teaching at St. Jude’s School in Havre, Montana. I had 36 students in the 5th grade. I announced that the students could use pen or pencil for this assignment. One
student from the back of the room kept asking to sharpen his pencil. Finally, exasperated I said, “Tim, go parpen your sencil”. The students gasped. Shouts of “what did you say”, came from all over the room. I said, “Tim, go sharpen your pencil.” The class said that I did not say
that. When the students repeated what I had said I realized that I said a “spoonerism” for the man who had done that as easily as I had done it that day. We all had a good laugh and then went on with the class. I have said spoonerisms many times since.
Another example is “birthington’s washday” (Washington’s Birthday)