In her 61 years as a Sister of the Divine Savior, Sister Rosa Yepes, SDS, always held the needs of her beloved Hispanic community in her prayers. Rosa Elvira Yepes was born April 19, 1923 to Rosendo Yepes and Maria Trinidad (Lopera) Yepes, in San Pedro, Antioquia, Colombia. She was the eleventh of fifteen children and grew up on a coffee plantation. Rosa stayed with her oldest sister in town to attend elementary school but returned to the farm on weekends to help pick coffee beans. Many years later, Sr. Rosa’s oral history recounted her joy in playing among the big sacks of coffee.
Rosa began to reflect on her call to religious life after meeting Sr. Bathilde Feder, SDS, in Bogotá, Colombia. When Rosa eventually spoke with her mother about entering the convent, she responded, “If you think you’d be happy, go!”
Rosa entered the Sisters of the Divine Savior Congregation in Milwaukee on 1948, and received the religious name Bernardita when she entered the novitiate a year later. Sr. Rosa pronounced her first vows on August 14, 1950. The next year she returned to Bogotá, where she professed perpetual vows in 1956. While in Bogotá, Sr. Rosa ministered as a cook, housekeeper, Spanish teacher and procurator.
Sr. Rosa returned to the United States in 1961 and became a citizen in July 1966 in Milwaukee. She earned a certificate as a nurse’s aide and for several years assisted in geriatric nursing at St. Mary’s Convent. She also became certified in child care and was a teacher’s aide in the Milwaukee Area Technical College Day Care Center. Eventually, Sr. Rosa studied at the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio to fulfill her desire to minister to Hispanic populations. Her first such ministry was as a pastoral worker at Sacred Heart Parish in Phoenix. She also served in the Spanish Speaking Apostolate at Queen of Peace Parish in Mesa, Ariz.
In 1981, Sr. Rosa returned to Milwaukee where she served in the Religious Education Office for Hispanic Ministry of the Archdiocese. She was later hired as coordinator of Religious Education at St. Hyacinth Parish in Milwaukee. Her ministry in the parish included preparing parents for their children’s baptisms, and working to preserve Hispanic faith traditions such as Our Lady of Guadalupe observance and Las Posadas. Giving up this cherished ministry might have been her greatest adjustment when Sr. Rosa retired and moved to the Salvatorian Sisters Residence in 2001.
Sr. Rosa transferred to St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus skilled care unit in 2007 when her health diminished. Her declining health over the last several months hastened on October 21 and Salvatorian Sisters began vigil keeping. Sr. Rosa died peacefully that afternoon at the age of 88.
Sr. Rosa is survived by members of the Salvatorian Family, her brother, Jorge Yepes, nieces, nephews and friends. Sr. Rosa’s Mass of Christian Burial was held on October 25 in St. Anne’s Salvatorian Campus Chapel. She was buried the following morning at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee.