Mother Mary Alphonsa, OP

(Rose Hawthorne Lathrop)

Rose Hawthorne (1851-1926), the second daughter of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1891 and founded a religious order to care for victims of cancer.

Born in Lenox, Massachusetts, May 20, 1851, Rose grew up moving from place to place. She lived in West Newton, Massachusetts; Concord, Massachusetts; and as an infant in Liverpool, England; then London, Paris, Rome, and Florence, Italy. After her family returned to Concord in 1860, her father died in 1864; and her mother and family moved to Germany and then England.

She had an unhappy marriage to George Parsons Lathrop, who became assistant editor of Atlantic Monthly, and who edited a collected edition of Hawthorne’s works in 1883. Lathrop was an alcoholic. Their son, Francis, born in 1876, died of diphtheria five years later.

Mrs. Lathrop wrote short stories and verse. A book of poems, Along the Shore, was published in 1888.

She separated from her husband and moved to New York. There she trained as a nurse in order to aid cancer victims. To help raise money, she wrote Memories of Hawthorne, 1897. She opened a refuge for cancer victims on New York’s Lower East Side. Her husband died in 1898 and a year later she moved to a larger house, Saint Rose’s Free Home for Incurable Cancer.

Rose made her vows as a Dominican nun Dec. 8, 1900, taking the name Mary Alphonsa. With her first companion, Sister M. Rose, she founded the Dominican Congregation of Saint Rose of Lima, later called the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer.

In 1901, Mother Mary Alphonsa, OP, opened Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, New York (now the mother home of the order). She died there July 9, 1926, the anniversary of her parents’ wedding.

In 2003, Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York, approved the movement for Rose Hawthorne Lathrop’s canonization. She now has the title “Servant of God” in the Catholic Church.