Sister Rosemary Wilcox, archdiocese’s first lay chancellor, founding Machebeuf principal, dies
By Jean Schildz
Sister Rosemary Wilcox, S.C.
Loretto Sister Rosemary Wilcox, formerly Sister M. Thomasine, who was the first woman to serve as vice chancellor and chancellor of the Denver Archdiocese and was the founding principal of Bishop Machebeuf High School, died Sept. 18 in Denver. She was 89 and in her 67th year as a Sister of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross.
Born Dec. 21, 1922, in St. Louis, Mo., to Helen (Cunningham) and Charles Wilcox, she entered the Loretto Sisters in 1944. She was received into Loretto on April 25, 1945, taking the name Sister Thomasine. She made her first vows on April 25, 1947, and her final vows on Aug. 15, 1950.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Loretto Heights College in Denver in 1955, and a master’s in education from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1962.
She taught at St. Philomena School in Denver from 1947 to 1955, was superior at the Loretto convent at St. James Parish in Highwood, Ill., from 1955 to 1957, and was superior at the Loretto convent from 1957 to 1958 at Blessed Sacrament in Denver, where she also taught.
In 1958, Sister Wilcox became founding principal of Bishop Machebeuf High School, serving in this role until 1967. During this time, she also served for different periods as superior of the Loretto community at Machebeuf and as Fourth Provincial councilor of the Loretto Sacred Heart Province in Denver.
From 1967 to 1969, she was superior of the Loretto community serving at St. Mary’s Academy in Englewood, Colo. She lived at the Loretto Education Center in Littleton from 1969 to 1972, when she became secondary school coordinator for the Catholic Education Office in Denver.
In 1983, Denver Archbishop James V. Casey named her assistant director of administration and planning for the archdiocese. A year later, he appointed her vice chancellor.
In 1988, then-Archbishop now Cardinal J. Francis Stafford named her chancellor, making her the sixth woman religious to be elevated to such a high rank in the U.S. Catholic Church. She served as chancellor until 1996, when she retired.
“With the arrival of Archbishop Casey many changes took place in the archdiocese including the arrival of many non-clerical staff,” said Msgr. Thomas Fryar, moderator of the curia. “As vice chancellor and chancellor, Sister Wilcox was a great supporter to the archbishops and their ministry. She was a wonderful woman and she will be missed.”
Current chancellor of the archdiocese, J.D. Flynn, also affirmed Sister Wilcox as a trailblazer.
“The Archdiocese of Denver has a great tradition of lay leadership in ministry and service. Sister Wilcox was a part of that tradition from the beginning,” he said. “Like all of the laypeople privileged to serve the archdiocese, I’m grateful for the path she helped to pave.”
In 2000, Sister Wilcox received the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (“Cross for the Church and Pontiff”) from Pope John Paul II for sacrificial service to the Church. She moved to the Loretto Center in Denver in 2001.
The Sister Rosemary Wilcox Scholarship, funded by a Machebeuf alumnus who wished to remain anonymous, was established by Bishop Machebeuf High School in 2005.
Preceding her in death were her parents; her sister, Loretto Sister Jane (formerly Sister John Joseph) Wilcox; and her brother, Maryknoll Father Tom Wilcox. She is survived by her brother and sister-in-law, William and Jane Wilcox of St. Louis and their children, and the members of her Loretto community. Burial will be at the cemetery on the grounds of the Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky.
A wake will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Loretto Center, 4000 S. Wadsworth Blvd. in Littleton. A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Sept. 28 at All Saints Church, 2559 S. Federal Blvd. in Denver.