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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2005

Nun started shelter for abused women

Sister M. Rose Therese Lange, 79, who by force of will and personality - and through hard work - opened one of the first long-term shelters in Toledo for abused women, died Tuesday in the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis, Sylvania.

The cause of death was not known. She had been in failing health.

Sister Rose Therese helped start Bethany House in 1984 after she learned that abused women could not stay at other shelters longer than 60 days. Bethany House allowed women and their children to stay for up to a year, during which they'd prepare for a job or further education.

She was director of the house for six years and development director an additional five years. "Domestic violence" then was not even a household term, said Sister Faith Cosky, Bethany House director from 1990 to 1997. "She started on practically nothing," Sister Faith said. "She had to beg for every penny. She was a visionary for the cause."

Kathy Griffin, the current executive director, was an early resident whom Sister Rose Therese urged to take a displaced homemakers class and then attend college. "She was the turning point in my life," Ms. Griffin said. "She believed in us when nobody else did."

Bethany House is a sponsored ministry of the Sylvania Franciscans.

A Cleveland native, she entered the Sylvania Franciscan community in 1945 and professed her final vows in 1951. She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Detroit and a master of religious studies degree from St. Mary's College, South Bend, Ind. She taught at St. Hedwig School in Toledo.

In the 1980s, she was a volunteer probation officer for Lucas County Common Pleas Court and met regularly with convicted felons.

"She liked to represent people on the fringes," Sister Faith said.

There are no immediate survivors.

A welcoming service will be at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Queen of Peace Chapel on the sisters' campus. Arrangements are by Thomas I. Wisniewski Mortuary.

Tributes are suggested to the Sisters of St. Francis, Sylvania.

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