Sr. Rose Raymond first became familiar with the Sisters of St. Francis when she attended Little Flower High School, in North Philadelphia. She was pleased to find her Franciscan teachers well grounded, encouraging, challenging, “normal,” and—especially—both prayerful and able to have fun. They showed “how to serve God and not be so stiff.” Sr. Rose Raymond notes that the sisters of St. Francis at her school could identify with teenagers and that many were probably quite young themselves. When she first told her parents that she would enter the convent, her mother—not yet familiar with Franciscans—thought she was talking about becoming a missionary.
Instead, before coming to Assisi House, Sr. Rose Raymond served as a nurse in Philadelphia’s St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Agnes Hospital, where she was a burn-center nurse for ten years, work she found extremely fulfilling. Her nursing degree is from Neumann University—then Our Lady of Angels College. As she observes, “You take with you a little of every experience, and you build on that.” Among the experiences she brings to her current work is service on the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia congregational leadership team.
Sr. Rose Raymond recognizes working with the elderly as a special calling. When she was growing up, her grandmother lived with her family, giving her appreciation for the elderly—for their needs and for the many blessings they offer. In her position at Assisi House, Sr. Rose Raymond oversees the functioning of the facility, assuring that it is running smoothly and that the personal and medical needs of the sisters are being followed and fully met. Using her nursing degree and experience, she works closely with the director of nursing. She also oversees the Assisi House finances and budgets. Among the help she provides the sisters is seeing that any bills coming in for them are directed to the proper person.
Sr. Rose Raymond develops close relationships with the sisters at Assisi House. While a heavy challenge of her work is seeing sisters decline in health, a great blessing is getting to know the residents and their histories and stories. She values being able to serve as part of a thoughtful, caring administration that supports the spiritual and emotional needs of each sister, as well as her physical wellbeing. “The sisters deserve our best because they gave their best. We’re building on their shoulders.” According to Sr. Rose Raymond, the staff rarely says no to requests—having visitors or going out, for example—but tries to accommodate these requests. During the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, when Assisi House residents needed to remain in their rooms, employees served more than 100 trays, three times each day. The isolation caused by the pandemic was difficult for the residents, but the Assisi House sisters have now returned to the pleasure of being together for the full range of activities.
Just as she appreciated her Franciscan high-school teachers’ sense of fun, Sr. Rose Raymond sees the ready sense of fun among residents and staff at Assisi House as one of the wonderful aspects of living or working there. She cites as an example “Worst Joke Wednesdays”; sisters, employees, and visitors contribute jokes from which three are chosen to be read over the public-address system each Wednesday. Even the very worst jokes prompt a happy response. Another source of fun is the Assisi House juke box, as well as occasional live music. As the music plays, sisters are encouraged to get up and dance. The Assisi House administration banters with the residents. Sr. Rose Raymond feels it is important for them to see the administration laughing and having fun. “You’re rowdy,” sisters will occasionally tell her—a comment she loves.
When she has spare time, Sr. Rose Raymond enjoys cooking, especially Italian food. She lives in a Philadelphia row house and so grows her seasoning herbs in pots. In addition to her affection for such cooking as preparing pasta “gravy” and trying new recipes, she enjoys baking butter cookies according to her mother’s recipe and then giving the cookies as gifts.
On vacation, she likes to go crabbing and deep-sea fishing, usually going to Avalon or Cape May with friends. She cleans the fish and crabs they catch and may prepare a fish breakfast for her friends and herself. Such pleasures have been lifelong for her; as a child, she got up early and had fun going fishing with her parents. Sr. Rose Raymond was an only child but “didn’t feel like one” because of her cousins who lived in the same neighborhood and “were like brothers and sisters.” She and her cousins continue to get together for holidays and an annual fall hard-shell crab fest. “We keep the family together that way,” she says.
Sr. Rose Raymond’s emphasis on family and community clearly extends to her work in Assisi House. She underscores the Franciscan atmosphere there: both grounded and spiritual. “All was gift in Francis’ life,” she says. She explains that Assisi House is a “powerhouse of prayer,” including prayer for the intentions in the intention book and those shared over the PA system. At the same time, Assisi House has a family atmosphere with a multitude of activities, including trips to the shore and retreats. The goal is for the sisters’ lives to have meaning. Assisi House, Sr. Rose Raymond stresses, is not a nursing home; it is home. And Sr. Rose Raymond Barba makes enormous contributions toward creating that strong sense of home.