How it began - In December of 1936, Rhoda Wise accidentally stepped into a sewer drain, which severely damaged her right leg, causing an infection and turning her foot inward. Thus began a long series of hospital visits, necessitating many leg casts in an effort to repair the damaged leg. Additionally, it was discovered that the earlier incision in her abdomen had reopened, causing a severe infection surrounding the incision.
While in the hospital her sufferings grew worse by the day, but the nursing sisters at Mercy Hospital were a great consolation for her in the midst of it. She spent so much time at the hospital that she knew most of them by name. Dressed in their long white habits and veils, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine looked like angels of mercy to her. She became especially close to one named Sister Clement. Sister Clement was greatly devoted to Saint Therese of Lisieux, and she gave Rhoda a little shrine to St. Therese, “the Little Flower”, enclosed in a glass ball, and she told Rhoda a little about her.
Rhoda didn't pay much attention, but kept the shrine at her bedside. Sister Clement also gave her a prayer to Jesus and the Little Flower which Rhoda said only because she thought so much of Sister. When Sister Clement explained that St. Therese could help her in many ways, Rhoda told Sister flat out she didn't believe it, even laughed at the idea -but it didn't harm their friendship in the least.
Rhoda dearly loved the Sisters who took care of her at Mercy. In September, Rhoda was attracted to the crucifix on one of the Sister's rosary. When Sister came over to her bed Rhoda took the crucifix and held it in her hands. Heat radiated from the crucifix as she held it. "Sister, will you teach me how to pray the rosary?" Rhoda asked. The Sister initially said no, as perhaps she had heard about Rhoda's reaction to St Therese. But Rhoda kept asking, and Sister eventually taught her. This Sister also gave Rhoda her first rosary, prayer book, and Sacred Heart Badge. From that time on, Rhoda prayed a rosary for the nursing Sisters every morning and night.
As Rhoda continued to pray the rosary, she began to have questions about the Catholic faith. When they came to mind she would write them down and ask Sister Clement the next time she saw her. One time Sister Clement explained about nine days of prayer called novenas that could be made to Jesus, Our Lady, or the saints for a special intention. She suggested a novena to St Therese- the Little Flower, but Rhoda wasn't yet ready for that.
As month progressed and she remained in the hospital, Rhoda's spirits fell. As each day passed, she was getting worse, not better. In early December, Sister Clement found Rhoda crying and when she asked what was wrong, Rhoda answered, "Sister, can we make that novena to the Little Flower now?" They began the Novena to St Therese that night. And, from that night on, Rhoda grew closer and closer to the Little Flower and prayed to her constantly. She was in such discomfort that often she could not sleep and would spend her days and much of her nights in prayer.
*This is the Novena to Jesus through St Therese that Rhoda and Sr. Clement would pray together:
"O beautiful Rose of Carmel, Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus, deign according to
your promise to descend from Heaven to visit those who implore you. Pour down upon us in profusion those Celestial Graces that are symbolized by the shower of roses that Jesus, your Spouse, had put at your disposal.
Your power is great with his Heart. He can only listen and hear your prayer. I have recourse to you then, O Saint Therese of the Child Jesus; assist me in this need. Speak for me to Jesus and to Mary and obtain for me the grace to live a holy life and die a happy death. Amen"
And now, Rhoda’s thoughts were centered on becoming Catholic. The Protestant patients in her ward tried to discourage her from continuing the Catholic practices that were absorbing her time and attention. Some of them even sent their ministers over to dissuade her. But her heart and will were steadfast.
Sister Clement told Rhoda that she needed to talk to a priest to become a Catholic, and she immediately knew which one she wanted to talk to, although she did not know his name. She had seen him visiting other patients in her ward. When she described him, they told her he was Monsignor Habig of St. Peter's Church.
The nurses called Monsignor Habig and he quickly responded. He questioned Rhoda regarding her faith, her reasons for converting, and her family. Satisfied with her answers, he asked if she was willing to take some instruction on the Catholic faith. Rhoda responded yes. Because she was so ill, Monsignor Habig gave her a small catechism and instructed her himself during the seven days between Christmas and New Years.
On January 1, 1939, Rhoda Wise was brought into the Catholic Church. She received her First Holy Communion on January 2, the anniversary of the Little Flower's birth.
Learn more about these events [here] and at [RhodaWise.com], Read a biography on Rhoda Wise [here].
Rhoda Wise's home or [obtain] copies of The Rhoda Wise Story
call 330-453-0322 or write 2337 25th St. NE Canton, Ohio 44705.
Visit the Rhoda Wise Home Religious Center [Facebook].