66 • Part I. The Creed: The Faith Professed
where George worked as assistant editor of
The Atlantic Monthly
these years, Rose wrote poetry and short stories for magazines such as
. Their only child, Francis, died at age four.
The Paulist Fr. Alfred Young received the Lathrops into the Catholic Church
in 1891. George Lathrop died in 1898.
The story of a poor seamstress who died of cancer on Blackwell’s
Island occasioned the spiritual turning point for Rose. “A fire was then
lighted in my heart, where it still burns. . . . I set my whole being to bring
consolation to the cancerous poor.” In Rose’s time, cancer patients were
marginalized by society much as patients with AIDS (Acquired Immune
Deficiency Syndrome) have been in modern times. Yet Rose recognized
that they were more than helpless poor people. They were made in the
image of God.
Rose devoted the next thirty-three years of her life to caring for victims
of incurable cancer. She proved to be an able administrator and fund-
raiser, establishing a number of hospices for cancer victims in the New
York area. Rose and her friend Alice Huber were living a semi-monastic
existence in the city, when Dominican Fr. Clement Theunte received them
as Third Order members.
Then,as Sr.M.Alphonsa and Sr.M.Rose,they established the Dominican
Congregation of St. Rose of Lima, incorporated as the Servants of Relief
for Incurable Cancer. They established a cancer hospice in Hawthorne,
New York. Funds were sought by the then-Mother Alphonsa through her
appeals in her magazine
. Other similar facilities were estab-
lished around the country.
Mother Alphonsa composed essays that appeared in every issue of
. She believed it was possible for every parish to have two
houses for the relief of the sick poor. She answered God’s call with faith,
energy, and imagination. Her spirit burns brightly to this day through her
community and through the poor who still need such help.
This chapter focuses on two fundamental aspects of human nature
as seen from the viewpoint of faith: we are made in the image of God and
yet bear the impact of Original Sin. These truths account for the inner con-
flicts we experience. Made in the image of God, we find ourselves drawn
toward him. As burdened by the effects of Original Sin, we experience the
tendency that takes us away from God.
We chose the story of Rose Hawthorne Lathrop in this context, primar-
ily because she saw the image of God in the cancerous poor of her day.