By Jennika Baines
Sun Associate Editor
When Sister Rose Bill, MFIC, was a little girl, she watched as her mother helped to run a farm, cook and clean, raise three children, care for three elderly family members and still had time to visit neighbors who were home-bound or sick.
“She was always giving and yet she took time for other people, too,” Sister Rose said.
That taught Sister Rose the importance of ministering to those in need. Now, Sister Rose has written a children’s book about her mother to teach a new generation of children about kindness and compassion.
The book is called The Cookie Lady and is published by PublishAmerica. It takes its title from what the neighbors used to call Anna Bill, Sister Rose’s mother.
“She was very generous, quick-witted and very compassionate,” Sister Rose said. “She was always bringing cookies to people’s houses, or if they needed meals she’d cook a little extra and after she fed us she’d bring the rest over to them.”
Sister Rose, who has taught at elementary schools, said she started writing the book in the fall. While the story came easily, she also wanted to be sure that the language didn’t rise above a second- or third-grade vocabulary level. “I was trying to keep it in simple language for small children but also to the level that adults could get the message, too,” she said. Sister Rose created the illustrations for the book, which she said she tried to make look like drawings the children themselves would do.
The story begins with a description of Anna Bill and what life was like out in the country where neighbors knew and cared about each other. It tells how she brought cookies and sometimes meals to shut-ins and the elderly and the kindnesses — small and large — she tried to fit in each day.
Anna Bill not only inspired her daughter to become a woman religious, but her son, Msgr. Ronald Bill of Immaculate Conception in Fayetteville, to become a priest. Her other son, Leon, is very involved in Sacred Heart Parish in Cicero. It is at this parish that a food pantry called Anna’s Pantry was started in her name.
“After she died people in my brother’s parish wanted to do something in her memory to help contribute to the seeds that she wanted to grow,” Sister Rose said. “Mom’s service to others is carried on in this food pantry,” Sister Rose said.
This is Sister Rose’s second children’s book. The first, The Flower Lady, is based on a story told to Sister Rose by her neighbor. When she was a little girl she saw a beautiful garden on her way home. She asked the woman who owned the garden if she could have a flower to bring back to her mother. “And she said ‘No, you can’t have any! Don’t touch my garden!” Sister Rose said. The little girl resolved to one day have a big garden with a greenhouse that provided flowers and vegetables she could give away to people to make them happy. And so she did.
That book, Sister Rose said, shows children how to turn a negative experience into a positive one.
Her new book, Sister Rose said, “teaches children to reach out to others and to serve them and to bring others God’s love through service.”
The Cookie Lady can be ordered through www.publishamerica.com.