KINGSTON – One afternoon Sister Rosemonde Deck went to her office in the Convent of the Sisters of Divine Providence, sat at her piano and let the music flow.
“I’ve just finished my 400th piano composition,” she said after many hours over many weeks. “I was so excited, more excited than any other song I’ve written. I call it ‘The Strength of Love’ and I just loved it.”
She spends many days like this now.
While the pandemic has meant running out very little, she can compose and play for the other sisters and staff at the monastery.
“We pretty much stay indoors because of this illness,” she said. “We are very careful with our masks and are examined. We pray very hard every day about this disease and feel what is going on in the world.”
Hopefully Sister Rosemonde’s story, inspiration, and the power of memories to find can help others through these troubled times.
The music pouring started 8 years ago after the death of her older sister Rosalie in 2012.
Sister Rosalie was also a nun who sang with her as “The Singing Sisters”. Sister Rosemonde turned to music for comfort and inspiration in her grief, composing 400 pieces between 2012 and 2020.
With titles like “Musical Splendor” and “Wonders of a Rainbow”, her performance increased with increasing losses: her younger brother, a priest, died in 2016, another sister died in 2018.
“God wants me to keep going for some reason,” she said. “I’m still strong and I don’t feel my age. I’m very much alive and I think it’s mostly because of my music. It’s God who blessed me with it.”
The 89-year-old can think of the music at any moment – she goes upstairs and reads in her room.
Compositions entitled “Valley of Peace” and “The Magic of Starlight” reflect that nature is also a source of strength. She is also working on a new mass, one of half a dozen in her life.
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She remains a memorable influence on her former students more than 45 years later. After watching a video interview with her five years after its release, Tony Benivegna wrote, “How exciting it is to see Sister Rosemonde. In 1975 she taught my father’s Upward Bound program in our hometown of Loretto, Pennsylvania, Music Ferd Made Me taught how to play the saxophone, but it is Sister Rosemonde who sparked a lifelong love for classical music. We had a record of her and Rosalie as the singing sisters – such joy and enthusiasm! And how interesting to hear her piano compositions now! “
Another student, Billy, replied, “My dear Sister Rosemonde, my high school choir teacher … at Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, MA. 1975-79. You and Sister Rosalie learned so much about performing in front of crowds taught to sing, present oneself and always smile – year after year the auditorium was only standing room for our outstanding Christmas and spring concerts.
“Many times at corporate meetings I have lightened the mood at strategic moments by putting out a show tune! I miss these days so much.”
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The two sisters began singing together as children. You were born in Indiana, belonged to a musical family with five children, and grew up there and in Pittsburgh. Her father, Ferdinand, played the first chair clarinet in the Fort Wayne Symphony Orchestra while at IBM. Her mother, Gladys, was a singer, composer and singing teacher.
They taught music together at Sacred Heart High School for 45 years and performed as “Singing Sisters” in this country and nine other countries.
Sister Rosemonde knows chords from her studies for a Masters in Music from Duquesne University. The week after Sister Rosalie died, she wrote a song called “Inspiration” and stated, “It got me through this week”. For the next week she tried another, and then another.
“It fills my soul,” she said. “It’s work, but it touches my soul from the bottom up.”
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