Written on: February 4, 2015
Each Grey Nun carries on the work of Marguerite d’Youville in her own way, her life path illuminated by her interests, her passions and her unique gifts. Sister Rosalie Bertell, GNSH served God and humanity as an environmental epidemiologist, studying diseases caused by non-living materials such as chemicals and radiation. A Grey Nun for more than 50 years, Sister Rosalie was a tireless researcher, a courageous writer, an intrepid traveler and an outspoken advocate for the lives and health of people struggling with the effects of industrial, technological and military pollution. Recognized as both scientist and humanitarian, her work earned her many prestigious awards as well as international recognition.
In 2005, Sister Rosalie became one of 1,000 women from more than 150 countries and one of 40 U.S. women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005. Her nomination came from the Association 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005, a Swiss-based international project that sought to recognize and exemplify women throughout the world who work for peace and social justice.
Sister Rosalie, a humble Buffalo native and a D’Youville College graduate, downplayed the importance of her nomination– and her fame–and saw her work as her way of fulfilling the Grey Nun mission to be “signs of God’s unconditional love for every person.” “My mission,” she said, “is to encourage people to maximize the health left on earth and to take responsibility for life—their own lives and the lives of their fellow human beings and the future generations.”
From Bhopal to Chernobyl, from Manila to the Marshall Islands to her final days in the Yardley Motherhouse, Sister Rosalie carried on Marguerite’s mission of caring for the “neglected, rejected and uncared for people” to the four corners of the world.
Sister Rosalie Bertell died June 14, 2012. Upon her death, there was a worldwide outpouring of condolences and support. To us, her Sisters, she was simply “our Rosalie.” Her research and knowledge about the effects of nuclear disasters led the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart to adopt a Nuclear Free Zone stance. You can read the details of the stance here