My sister Rosa is living wholly on faith. Each morning at 5 o’clock she goes to the first Mass in the cathedral in order to get nourishment for the day. All is peaceful in the family, but interiorly she is completely alone. I do not yet know how she will spend Christmas. Naturally, she would like, most of all, to be here. But that will not do since she would like to come to my Veiling Ceremony after Easter. She cannot easily be spared at home, you see.
Saint Edith Stein
Letter 250 to Uta von Bodman, Speyer (excerpt)
16 November 1937, Cologne-Lindenthal
Rosa Stein (Lublinitz, 13 December 1883 – Auschwitz, 9 August 1942) was influenced by her younger sister Edith’s conversion; she often accompanied Edith when she visited different convents. Eventually, Rosa chose to follow in her sister’s footsteps. Since Rosa lived at home, unmarried, helping to care for her extended family, she waited until after the death of her mother, Frau Auguste Courant Stein, to seek baptism.
Rosa was baptized and received into the Church at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Cologne-Hohenlind at 4:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 1936 [a stolperstein marks the spot], and made her first Holy Communion at the Midnight Mass (Cf. Letter 231 to Hedwig Conrad-Martius).
Because Frau Stein, in her will, had assigned Rosa to continue as a housekeeper for her sister Frieda’s family in Breslau, it was difficult to foresee the future. “All is peaceful in the family,” Edith says above, but Rosa the dutiful housekeeper couldn’t break free from her family responsibilities. Edith’s letters to friends continue to speak of Rosa’s challenges even to the latter months of 1938.
Edith writes to her friend, Mother Petra Brüning, OSU on the eve of All Saints, 1938: “I already know from [Rosa’s] letters that she is depressed and worn out” because of the continual Nazi harassment. She adds, “If at all possible, we would like to have her here for Christmas. I wrote about that in one of my letters to the family recently so that the others would adjust to it” (Cf. Letter 281).
But the situation changed quickly and dramatically. On New Year’s Eve 1938, St. Edith Stein—with documents and passport in hand—was driven by a friend of the Cologne Carmel to the Carmel of Echt, Holland, where she received a warm welcome.
And Edith’s next letter to Mother Petra on 3 January 1939 says, “Rosa is making attempts to come to Holland” thanks to St. Raphael’s Society (in German, Raphaelswerk or Raphael Verein). “For her, of course, that would be the very best solution” (Cf. Letter 290).
Rosa’s path to the Carmel of Echt in 1939 would be difficult, nevertheless. Edith tells Mother Petra on 16 April (Cf. Letter 300) that Rosa finally was able to make preparations to move to Belgium in April, 1939, “to a Tertiary of our Order.” The plans were that next, she would move to the Carmel of Echt, and Rosa did reach her goal by October.
But Sister Josephine Koeppel, OCD, the translator of Edith’s letters, offers this important footnote:
Today Tertiaries are known more appropriately as Secular Carmelites. Edith here says “tertiary” in good faith. However, the woman was an impostor who defrauded Rosa of all her personal belongings in Belgium. Edith’s sister finally got to Echt but had nothing left of the things she had managed to take out of Germany with her.
Stein, E. 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.