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Hague Native Sister Rosalind Gefre Inducted into the U.S. Massage Therapy Hall of Fame

Haas, Tim. "Hague Native Sister Rosalind Gefre Inducted into the U.S. Massage Therapy Hall of Fame." Emmons County Record, 22 January 2009, 1.


Sister Rosalind Gefre has been a huge proponent of massage therapy for years, and that work has branded her name into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame.

She has been inducted into the hall of fame for her pioneering efforts to bring massage therapy mainstream. She is mentioned alongside many other noted massagists currently working and from ancient times, including the Greek "Father of medicine" Hippocrates.

Sister Rosalind earned her place in the hall of fame for her efforts in creating huge strides for massage to be more accepted by mainstream America not just for relaxation and stress relief, but also for very effective healing. Some doctors think that some of the effects of massage may simply come from the touch of another human. Sister Rosalind realizes this, often remarking that people are "skin-hungry and God-hungry."

The sister bases her massage ministry on the ministry of Jesus, who usually touched people to heal them, according to the Bible.

Sister Rosalind loves to hug people, which is her way of telling someone that he or she is important. It’s the touch factor. She has witnessed firsthand that any form of touch is reassuring to people. Patients have come to her for massages and have in turn shared personal information on what has them so stressed. Sister Rosalind listens, always telling her patient the beauty that she sees in him or her. She simply tries to see people as Jesus sees them.

The sister has been featured in books, magazines and television programs, always touting her message of healing and individual importance.

Born on a farm outside of Hague just before the Dirty Thirties, Sister Rosalind grew up amid a rough time in history. Her father died when she was six years old, so her mother took over raising the family, growing the food and caring for the animals.

Sister Rosalind has always had a special love for God, even as a child, and the calling to sisterhood came early for her. She joined the Order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet at St. Paul, Minnesota in 1948. She had difficulty being accepted there, and she was given the most despised job she could think of: cooking. But the sister patiently did the duties her superiors commanded, all the time praying and finding comfort in God.

Sister Rosalind moved on to nursing school to become a licensed practical nurse in 1968. Once graduated, she asked the convent to send her to a smaller place, so they sent her to Fargo.

When her mother became ill, Sister Rosalind spent three years caring for her at her mother's home. During that time her mother wanted to see a massage therapist. Sister Rosalind took her and decided to have a massage herself. Once the sister experienced the healing effects of massage, she immediately wanted to learn how to use this so she could minister to others in this way.

So began Sister Rosalind’s "Ministry of Massage." She began to use massage in the convent after her mother had died, but many of the Sisters were uncomfortable with such a physical ministry. Although massage has been used throughout history as a very effective healing technique, it had been given a bad reputation in the 20th century because of "massage parlors" opened up by prostitutes as guises.

Despite the negative feelings towards her ministry, Sister Rosalind knew that God had called her to heal through massage. So she opened her first massage center in 1983 in St. Paul.

Sister Rosalind opened the center not expecting much opposition. Individuals setting up businesses to practice massage were supposed to undergo many different procedures for the city before opening, including getting a mug shot, recording his or her fingerprint for the police department and paying a $475 fee. These were precautions to get control of the prostitution rings that so often disguised themselves as massage parlors. Sister Rosalind assumed that people would realize that she, being a sister, genuinely cared about healing people, so she decided not to go through the troublesome procedures. She simply passed the city-licensing exam and opened up her business.

Two weeks later the St. Paul Vice Squad showed up and declared that they were shutting down Sister Rosalind’s clinic. She didn’t quite understand why. She showed them her massage license, but they wouldn’t listen.

Sister Rosalind was heartbroken. It had been hard enough to get her superiors in the order to allow her to open the clinic with all of the stereotypes surrounding the practice.

She had to move out of the convent soon after the closure of the clinic. There was just too much pressure coming from some of the sisters who still saw massage as dirty.

But in the face of opposition, Sister Rosalind was encouraged by the St. Paul city government. They looked to her for help in amending the sauna and massage parlor ordinance so that massage clinics like her own wouldn’t be as deterred from opening. The city also helped her reopen the clinic.

Sister Rosalind used the media to get her message of healing out. She really didn’t understand much about the news business, but once they started getting a hold of her because of the closure of the clinic, she almost embarrassingly submitted tons of information that brought much of the false views of massage to an end.

In 1984 Sister Rosalind started teaching massage. There wasn’t a huge demand at first, but since then the fledgling school has multiplied into five Sister Rosalind Gefre Schools and Clinics of Massage located in St. Paul, Mankato, Rochester, Sauk Rapids, Minn., and Fargo, N.D.

Graduates must have undergone 750 hours of training, which usually calculates to 12 months for the day program and 16-18 months for the night program. Graduate programs include professional massage therapy (800 hours), chair massage (330 hours), reflexology (330 hours) and a new program for graduates, soft tissue injury rehab (200 hours), which is offered only on the West St. Paul campus.

Sister Rosalind has also found a need among the fans of the St. Paul Saints. She has been giving chair massages to attendees of the Saints games since the team’s founding in 1993. She takes some of her students from the massage schools there to help out, and there are three to four massage stations at each game.

The Saints showed the sister their appreciation in 2006 by honoring her with Sister Rosalind Day, on which they gave the first 1,500 fans a Sister Rosalind Gefre "bobblehands" figurine that they had specially made for her day. On a separate occasion they also honored her by giving her her very own Saints baseball card.

The baseball chair massages have spread from St. Paul to Fargo, where students from Sister Rosalind’s Fargo school give massages for RedHawks fans.

Sister Rosalind takes no credit for the growth of her industry or the way in which she has helped massage become mainstream. She humbly praises God for simply carrying out His plans in her. Although many people have been in Sister Rosalind’s hands, she believes she is in God’s.

The biography on Sister Rosalind, Hands That Touch, Hands That Heal, shares a much more detailed account of her life not only as a sister but also as a child growing up on a farm by Hague. The author, Joan Holman, was also born and raised in North Dakota. The first two chapters of the biography can be read for free at www.amazon.com, and it is also available for purchase at the Emmons County Record office.

Information about Sister Rosalind’s schools can be found on her website at

www.sisterrosalind.org.

(Sources: Richards, Sherri. Ministry of Massage. The Forum: August 13, 2004.

Holman, Joan. Hands that Touch, Hands that Heal. Sister Rosalind Christian Ministries: 2003.

Beal, Dave.  Rubs the right way. August 8, 2004. Twincities.com.

Luscombe, Belinda. Massage Goes Mainstream. Tim Magazine: July 29, 2002. Vol. 160 No. 5.

Keller, Edward. Sister Rosalind Gefre–a Strasburg native. News and Reviews. Emmons County Record. February 17, 2005.)

Sister Rosalind is shown here massaging a Saints fan during a game. She has been a beloved part of the baseball team since the team’s beginnings in 1993.

Sister Rosalind massages fans of the St. Paul Saints at every home game, and the team decided to thank her by making this commemorative "bobblehands" figurine for the first 1,500 fans to attend the game on Sister Rosalind Day. A bobblehand is on display at the Record office.

Here Sister Rosalind is on her very own St. Paul Saints baseball card.

Sister Rosalind was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame on November 4, 2006. She has been handling patients through massage for over 30 years.

Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.

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