Interview with Sister Rosalind
Conducted by Carol Just
1 February, 2003, St. Paul, Minnesota
Editing Transcription by Lena Paris
and Proofreading by Peter Eberle
CJ: They have an outdoor market. The people are
very slavic looking. They are Ukrainians. There are virtually
no Germans there anymore, but the architecture remains. The
homes our ancestors built there on the steppes remain standing,
and they’re beautiful.
RG: Everything they did they did well.
CJ: They did very well. They continue that style
on the plains of the Dakotas, so it was very interesting. The
people I was traveling with were all former North Dakotans,
I believe. We were struck by how much the landscape looked like
the Great Plains, like North Dakota. It was a very spiritual
trip for all of us, especially as each of us went to our [ancestral]
villages and realized that if our parents or grandparents had
not left, that that would be our story. It's a very humbling
experience to go there.
RG: And still as we get older I think back. My
grandparents who came from over there were months on the ship—they
weren’t over her in three days—and the hardships
they endured. We’re just writing a book about yours truly.
CJ: Yes, I understand April, 2003 your book will
be published. I'll be anxious to read it.
RG: We’re hoping. Joan sort of put the skeleton
down, and I've been filling in. It is tremendously time consuming.
Every minute I have I add to it. The cooking, for instance,
the younger people depend upon it. Several of my nieces and
nephews have said, "I'm going to come and write down how
to make Knepfla or noodla." Slowly they’re coming
back to realize that when ones like my sisters are gone, then
CJ: You are the torch bearers right now. Those
of you who are the senior generation will be passing the torch
before long, so it’s a time-limited effort on the part
of my generation to gather this knowledge. But there is so much
more available in a written form than there was 25 or 30 years
ago. And of course the World Wide Web has made the German-Russian
community much more cohesive. We've all made friends of people
we've never met via the internet because we share that same
Do you know what Brauche is?
RG: I have often wondered—of course now
these old people give Brauche—I don't know if there is
any living—but I received the result of it. My ears were
just running. I don’t know what it was. They were just
running, not the inside but the outside—and crusty. Open
sores is what it amounted to. They were just wet all the time.
I was young. I went to the doctor, and he couldn't do anything.
Then someone said, "Elizabeth (my mom’s name), why
don't you take her to Mrs. Biegler's house?" So we went,
and I remember her putting her hands on my ear and saying something.
I had no idea what she said because I speak a different German
from hers. But she said, "Now you go home and every day
you say three Our Father's and three Hail Mary's to St. Anne,
and I'll do the same." And that's what I did, and in a
short time, maybe three days or so, it started to dry up. I
also had a doctor's appointment, and I thought I better go.
So we went, and he looked at these ears and said, "What
are you doing?" Of course me and my mom lying said: "We
are not doing anything." He said, "Well, you are doing
something because the sores are healing, and they are not healing
the way this would heal naturally." But he said, "Whatever
you are doing, continue to do it." So I continued to pray,
and the sores were totally gone.
CJ: Did it require another visit with Mrs. Biegler,
or was it just that one time?
RG: I think we probably went twice. I think she
just wanted to see what was going on. But they just were dry
in a very short time. The doctor had given me some salve which
didn't do anything. So that was my personal experience with
CJ: Why would the family
get a remedy or cure outside of the home if they had—you
know, I grew up with Watkins liniment. Do you remember your
family having cures?
RG: We had all of those.
Do you remember the green drops? They cured everything. Depending
what your sickness was, it was put either in hot or cold water,
or you put it on a teaspoon with sugar. So we used those a lot.
We used mustard plaster
when we had colds and lung problems. They were put on our chest,
but you had to be very careful not to leave it too long because
they would burn. Then there’s liniment – a tablespoon
everyday. Now that I am older, I look at the directions and
it says not to use internally, but we’d take a spoonful
every day and you stayed well.
Chamomile tea was another
thing for certain diseases. You could either drink or be put
on [tape cuts out]. My sister just last year used Chamomile.
Her husband had sores—I can't remember where the sores
were—and they simply wouldn't heal. So she took Chamomile
tea and sprayed that on his hand. The sores wouldn't go away,
and doctors couldn't help. But she said in about two days the
sores were practically healed.
CJ: Were there other things that went with this:
prayers or incantations of any kind?
RG: We basically did not pray; but my sister,
the one I just mentioned, who is about 85 or 87 years, prayed
for whatever she was healing. I made a week’s seminar
way back when and learned how to pray. We either said the Prayerful
Prayer or said the Rosary, but generally we wouldn’t pray
out. For healing we wouldn't lay hands on people and pray for
healing. We most likely did it quietly: which we did, we prayed
or with a family prayer we prayed for Aunt Mary for whatever
she had. I do lots of it and some of it is hands on; like yesterday,
I was spending time with a friend who had cancer, and before
I left she said, “Would you just lay on hands.”
I did [A84?] a lot to lay hands on people and pray. Another
thing that I’ve been thinking a lot since you asked me
about this interview: You know what I see tremendously healing,
and people I think have no idea. The one thing is touch; just
touching people. The other thing I see a lot is hurting people.
Some people call me and say, “I just need to talk with
you.” They’re upset or whatever. That just happened
the other evening, this young woman called just needing to talk.
I started to respond and just sort of carried on in my own.
When she finished, she had tears over the phone saying, "I
don't know what it is about you, but always when I talk to you
I feel healed." I have reflected on that, and I have heard
that a lot. People say that to me a lot.
This gentlemen—I have no idea who he was—but
at the [A100 saints, I massage at St…called saints] he
took my hands and said, "Oh, those hands are so beautiful,
and they are such healing hands." Now whether he experienced
something [I don’t know], but God can do that. You know
I couldn’t claim, but I do pray a lot with people. I pray
a lot for healing, but I can’t claim and say all this
healing has happened.
But I am back in "natural healing" again
[A09 -12]…I have a real desire. Years back, I wanted to
start going back and asking [Brauche] people who are still alive
and ask, "What did you do? And how did you do it?"
They are mostly old people and live so far away. The young people
just lay hands on people to heal them.
CJ: When you were a child living in that community
there was Mrs. Biegler that you identified. Do you know of other
people who were in her category, either in midwifery role or
any men who did bone setting or that kind of healing?
RG: You know there was a [A122 Gutskenien], and
she in the olden times did everything. They did massage. They
didn’t spend an hour like we do doing massage, but they
would do massage; they would do adjusting of bones. They would
know what to give you for certain sicknesses. Another help was
Camphor [A126] that was used a lot. I had asthma when I was
younger. One of these natural methods was that I should take
hot boiling water, put it in a pan, and then put a towel over
me, and put Camphor in the boiling water. I just hung over that
and breathed that in.
CJ: Where do you suppose they got their knowledge?
RG: I think that was from way back at home. Like
my grandmother—I think it was a hand-me-down.
CJ: If that's true, they must have known, like
you know. Although you are not eager to call yourself a healer,
you know that you have healing skills. They must have known
that also. What I'd like to know is: Did somebody identify them
and say, "I have knowledge to share with you, like you're
doing with your massage schools?" How did they get trained?
RG: I can call my sister and she can fill me in,
because she has a good mind. Another thing which I can remember
my family doing: We were out running around and stepped into
a nail, and we had pussy sores. She would take milk and put
bread in it. Again she made—I don’t know what you
call it —and put that on the damaged area. We rarely
went to doctors when we grew up; it was all these natural things
that mom did.
CJ: So there were the healing arts within the
family that everybody just sort of knew. Then there were those
areas where your mom's skill wasn't good enough for your sore
ears, and clearly the doctor of western medicine, his skills
didn't work either. So your mom knew about this Mrs. Biegler,
who was an immigrant herself. She might have gotten her training
from someone in the old country. Of the healers with whom you
had a familiarity with in Emmons County, were they all female
or were there any males?
RG: What I can remember they were all women.
CJ: And did they also serve in a midwife capacity,
do you think?
RG: Yes, Maude was a midwife. When you got babies
Maude would come to the house.
CJ: What was her last name?
RG: All I know is Maude. All of us were born at
home, and most of my sister’s children were born at home.
Maude was there. My mom would sometimes deliver if it was stormy,
and you couldn't get to these people. Then Mom would do deliveries.
CJ: So your mother had some midwife skills too.
RG: She did it sometimes for her own children.
CJ: How many children did your mother have?
RG: There were thirteen of us.
CJ: So she knew what the process was. And all
RG: Yes, every one of us. I had a little brother
that died when he had whopping cough. He was about one. But
all dozen of us lived. My brothers all died younger, but the
oldest one died at the age of 80, the other two in their 60s,
and one in his 50s. But all my eight sisters: I think my oldest
sister is 92, and the youngest [A129 tape cuts] and my oldest
sister is now in her 90s and all-in-all she had 21 children.
She has 16 children still living; 5 died within a year or two,
but they were alive. All the rest of the 16—one of them
died. [A190 tape cuts] and none of my family is in nursing homes.
They’re all taking care of themselves and their husbands.
CJ: In the Strasburg area?
RG: One of my sisters just had to stop gardening.
She had the garden in but around July or August she had a heart
attack. She came home from the hospital where she had by-pass
surgery and in two weeks time, against doctor’s orders,
she was out in the garden hoeing. She can't wait until spring.
CJ: They go to traditional doctors for that kind
of care, but do you think they still do a lot of their own medication?
RG: Magdalene still does.
CJ: What would she be doing?
RG: Well, like her husband had these sores. The
doctors couldn't do anything. That’s when she put that
Champol on. Every now and then a grandchild was sick, and she
worked on him.
CJ: So wonderful, that's how healing skills are
RG: When I go home I always wanted to bring a
recorder—and either I don’t bring the tapes or I
forget the recorder—because I know the time is limited.
And Magdalene’s the sharpest of them.
CJ: If I could find someone to interview her,
do you think she’ll be willing?
RG: She'd love it.
CJ: What's her full name?
RG: Magdalene Mastel.
CJ: And where does she live?
RG: I can call and give you her phone number.
RG: Magdalene Mastel 701-493-2473.
CJ: And where does she live?
RG: Edgeley, ND.
CJ: Oh really.
CJ: And she lives in her own home?
RG: Yes, she's sharp.
CJ: How old is she—about 85 you say?
RG: I think about 85.
CJ: Have you been to the Hague church? Katie Wald
wrote the history of that church. I have forgotten what her
maiden name is [Glatt].
RG: Katie Wald is from Edgeley.
CJ: No, she's from Hague. Yes, there are Walds
RG: Do you know Longs?
RG: Well my niece is married to one of the Longs.
CJ: Susan is married to—are they the ones
with the triplets? They rented my farmhouse for a few years.
So then are you related to Mrs. Schmidt? Do you have a sister
named Schmidt? I am thinking of the wrong Susan, because Susan's
grandmother was midwife when my brothers were born. My parents
lived in the Zeeland area until 1944 and then moved away like
many families did: the Longs, Aberles, Matherns and Mastels.
RG: The Mastels were some of the first ones around
Strasburg that moved to Edgeley. It seems like there was kind
of an exodus.
CJ: There was, from that community and then from
Wishek. More of the evangelicals that moved were the Ketterlings
and the Justs; like my dad and my uncles moved in 1944. But
I worked in Edgeley when I was in high school at an implement
dealership, so I know that I met your brothers-in-laws. No,
it was Heidinger Implement.
RG: There's a Miller from Wishek and he’s
got a TV station by Coon Rapids [Minnesota] and also Edgeley
area. He called me about a year ago. He had never met me, but
he had heard lots about me. Believe or not, he had me on for
a whole hour. It was so neat, and he's German. We talked about
the Wishek sausage. When I go home, I might go to Edgeley and
to Linton where my sister Mary Vetsch lives and I’d bring
CJ: Well, George Just who makes the Wishek sausage
is my dads' second cousin.
RG: Is that right! Well every loves that sausage.
CJ: Here’s another small world story: George
Justs' niece is my good friend Char Wiest, and she is another
person I'll be interviewing. She is a "Healing Touch"
practitioner. She’s a licensed HT practitioner. And you
two are my primary candidates for the part of this project where
I want the readers to understand that Brauche continues today.
And that it was not witchcraft. It was not something to be suspect.
It continues today with practitioners who take that mandate,
who recognize that calling and learn what they can about a person's
body—their bone structure, their muscles—and try
to help people in contemporary life. And have an awareness of
what they eat, how they feel, what they think, and their connection
with the higher power: How all of that contributes to their
illness or their wellness.
RG: That's very true. I have a niece from Wishek
who is married to Joe Holzer. She's my oldest sister and they
had a daughter who went on a fast because she thought she was
fat. She really wasn’t, but she thought she was, and she
didn’t eat. Basically, she was dying. Then she went to
one of those people [Braucher] and is alive and well today.
I think it was…I have to check this with Katherine…but
I think it was a teaspoon or tablespoon of oatmeal.
CJ: So this happened in recent years?
RG: Recent years, yes.
CJ: So she took her to someone who had a healing
gift because western medicine couldn't help.
RG: I am going to call Katherine to see what it
was. Also, I don’t know where we got it—maybe from
calves or cows—but we used to have these things we’d
get on our hands. We called them [A304 vartzna], warts I guess
you’d call it, but you couldn't get rid of them. I know
my sister Caroline's son had some of those, and she took him
to one of those women (Braucher), and they [the warts] practically
fell away in no time at all. Another time one of them also took
vitamin E. I'll call my sisters and see what I can find out.
CJ: We might need another session. I don't want
to take more than an hour of your time; so we have about fifteen
RG: [A315 tape cuts out often for the next few
minutes] all these hard things that had gone on [A317-18] so
I dropped dead, and they put me in the hospital. He put me in
there and everyday he came and said what happened. I told [A325-26]
and he made me promise that I would complete high school, as
I had no high school or college education, and he would let
me out of the hospital. He said, “Well, do you promise?”
and I said, “No” and he said, “Well then stay.”
I would probably be there forever so one day I said yeah, I’ll
take that GED test, and I did! [337-39]…she just gave
me a massage. I didn’t say I got this or that, [A341]
want to help people, and I still go to workshops. Last week
I went to Fargo, and I took a strenuous two day seminar. It
is “body” work. It’s not strictly massage,
but it's another way how you manipulate the body. Often times
the problem may not be in the back: The problem may be up here
on the shoulder. Anyway, I’ve been so successful at helping
people. It’s more of a push: deep, deep work. I continue
this, I’m 73, and I just try to get more educated on massage
and help more people. The massage is tremendous, but there are
“body” works out there that are just tremendous.
Here’s an example: you know when you have frozen shoulders:
there was this young man, about 40, who could only raise his
arms so high. Those arms were frozen. Within a half hour, he
could stretch both arms back and forth. That’s what that
“body” work does.
CJ: You have another new avenue of healing open
that has presented itself to you. Here you are at 73, when others
are thinking retirement, and you are looking at a new door that
has opened for you, and how you can help other people. Certainly
your "higher power" has wanted you to do this because
look how strong your arms are. I’m looking at your hands:
They aren't even swollen or arthritic looking.
RG: No, they’re not.
RG: I don't think I have arthritis in my body.
CJ: There's a reason: You have a job to do. I
mean the "higher power" is saying, "Sister, you're
not done." And here's a whole new area of learning for
you. I have a question: As I read about your mother and her
illness, saying "I need to have a massage," how did
you even find someone to do it, because when I think back to
the 1960s massage parlors had a very shady reputation? As I
read in your biography portion, I remember the fight you had,
I remember it very well. So how did you even find someone to
give that massage?
RG: Well, mom knew a woman who lived down the
CJ: Was this in Aberdeen?
RG: Aberdeen, South Dakota. In fact, this is very
interesting because there was a little girl living there. I
learned that this little girl's mother didn't want this child,
and so the grandmother took care of her. And she came to our
massage school and I didn’t know her because she was a
little girl [when I last saw her].
CJ: She did?
RG: I didn't know she was this same little girl,
but I talked about this woman in Aberdeen, Rose Obermeier, who
massaged me. She broke down crying and said, "I never heard
anybody talk as nice about my grandmother as you."
CJ: So her grandmother didn't have community support
in what she was doing, do you think?
RG: Those days I think they did, but you just
go and nobody cared about it.
CJ: Did she consider herself a healer or a Braucher?
RG: She did massage.
CJ: So, had she had any training do you think?
[end side A]
[begin side B]
RG: …there was a blind gentleman in Aberdeen who went
to this Swedish massage school for the blind in Chicago. He
helped me get a 500 or 600 hour correspondence course in massage
and then this gentleman [B5 tape cuts] can you believe he did
all that for free for me, so that's where I got hands-on [training].
Then when mom died, I went to Fargo, North Dakota, and there
was another blind who [B7] who I went to weekly for further
help. What I do, I want to do well.
CJ: One more question. My parents didn't go past
8th grade either. That was a very common thing. My mother is
RG: You didn’t go to school in those days,
you had to work.
CJ: Right, I guess her brother who is now 70 had
the opportunity to go to high school, but didn't. So of her
family of ten, one sister and one brother went to high school,
the rest did not. So when you say you didn't go to high school,
I understand why you didn't. It wasn’t because you weren't
smart, it simply wasn't done.
RG: Well, you had the farm. Who'd carry on the
farm? And who’d have the money—thirteen miles to
town—that was the other end of the world.
CJ: Even if it didn't cost to go to school, you
had to pay for food—room and board.
CJ: That's why my parents couldn't go. The reason
my father's children went on to high school and college and
advanced degrees is because he was denied. He was one who wanted
to go to high school and was recommended because of his high
scores, but his stepfather said, "No, he's just going to
be a farmer." And that shaped my father's view of education.
That's why he moved his family to another county, where our
grade school was a half-mile away. He provided cars—when
I went to high school, there was a school bus, but there wasn’t
any when my siblings graduated in 1957. But that shaped his
view. We were all going to college whether we liked it or not
because he didn't even get to go to high school and that denial
of it. But not everybody wanted to [go to high school] or thought
it was necessary. Where did your self-limiting belief come from
when that physician said to you, “You need to get your
RG: You know it probably happened—I lived
with those educated Sisters. The Sisters of Saint Joseph are
very highly educated, and I’m seeing people who have education
were up here and the little dumb farmers were down here. I think
that’s probably where that came from.
CJ: And do you think that is not only something
you felt here, but maybe heard as a child? That that’s
why priests and nuns were held in such high esteem—and
physicians, you know, people even outside of the Catholic community,
if they had an education of any kind, they were sort of elevated
and put on a pedestal.
RG: You know, I don't think there was an issue
made of it in my home. I just put lots of heavy things on myself.
[B37] But I was always going to be quite perfect. I mean I wasn't
going to sin, and I had high goals. I think maybe I put those
on myself. Because the Sisters could write nice letters, and
[B40 when I entered…]. In school, we spoke English up
to the 8th grade, but we whispered in German. [B43…] "I
may not speak German. I must speak the American language."
That was the punishment, usually after school.
CJ: And your parents would not have challenged
that teacher, because the teacher was up here and you had a
RG: I don't think they really ever found out,
because I got so good—I said God planned and got me ready
for massage by milking and writing—I got so good I took
three pencils at once [to speed up the writing punishment].
We were about a mile from school, we would run home, hurry up,
get undressed so mom didn't know we were late. Because I think,
in those days, the teacher was always right.
CJ: I think it’s a
very common thing. When our ancestors came they were actually
fairly well educated. But the first generation had to work so
hard to get established, and for the second generation, just
being able to go to grade school was a big deal. They didn't
have lofty goals for you at that point. What made you decide
to go to the convent?
RG: I’m a public school
product, but in the summer we had Sisters for two weeks and
man! they were gods themselves in my own mind. Again that’s
my own—they really weren't gods, but they were just so
wonderful. They were very nice to us. And just seeing them may
have started some spark, but I remember as a little girl it
was my goal to become a Sister. I had no idea how, I was just
was going to do it. Then when I got into my teen years, of course,
other things became more important and I put it aside, but I
knew I had to make a decision for the Convent. And I’m
very, very grateful. I am so grateful.
CJ: How did you choose this religious order? [Presentation
Sisters of Saint Joseph]?
RG: I have a stepsister. My mother remarried after
my father died when he was 42 years [B67-68]. I didn't know
the difference between Sisters. They were all Sisters [to me].
That's how I came here and again how wonderful!
CJ: Do you have the support of your order in the
work that you are doing?
RG: Now they think I am great, but I stood very
much alone. What happens in crisis is many times people don't
come forward [B77]. It was probably about a year doing massage
and I'd be crying [B74]. I’d be at Saint Catherine's all
day and some evenings, and I got very lonely. They didn't say
that I can't do massage, but the message was very, very clear
every time I'd ask. That was the message I got. [B76]
CJ: In your heart, do you believe that it was
because of your massage mission and they didn't embrace that
at that time?
RG: Oh, definitely.
CJ: It's been a long hard road. Occasionally I
see, read or hear someone who went to you, and I am reminded
again of you going before the city council in Edina—because
I’ve lived in St. Louis Park [neighboring suburb] all
these years—and how difficult it was, and what you have
done to legitimize massage.
RG: [tape cuts out often next few minutes] My
heavens, not only was I battling [B84], I'd go to the park there
that I rented [B85]. The first few massage classes, many students
did not tell their families they went to a massage school [B87].
Massage has become very reputable, but times were hard. Not
only did I battle city council, but I had to appear before two
judges. There were people who wrote to my [religious] community
or called them and said you need to get rid of her.
CJ: But you could remain in the order? Who made
that decision? Apparently no one pursued having you ousted.
RG: Except one time I did write a letter, during
this time, that I was going to leave the convent, but I forgot
to sign it. Then one of the Sisters wrote a letter [B95-96…]
"You're massaging and massaging men! I'm a nurse, and I
never even gave a back rub to man as a nurse." Then I was
forbidden to massage men. I was massaging the clergy in Fargo,
I was [B100…]. One of the nice things—it is like
God is almost—is I don't remember what individuals did.
And that is so wonderful, and the other, I think well that’s
where they were.
CJ: That was their reality at that point, and
hopefully they’ve grown. Then what ever took you to the
St. Paul Saints [baseball team]?
RG: Well, the Saints called and said they want
to do fun things, and they were wondering if I would start offering
massages. At first I got excited but, you know, nobody would
sit down during the games for a massage the first two times,
and I’d even give it to them for free, because all I wanted
was for them to sit on the massage chair. They said, "If
you go behind the door, I'll do it, but in the public, forget
it." "It's for free," I said. “No, thank
you,” [they said]. I had another friend who did massage
with me, and we would keep massaging each other just so they
saw what it was about. If anybody would sit down, I would have
them for one-half hour or an hour—as long as they stayed.
Then slowly people started to come. Now we don't even have to
ask anymore; they just come.
CJ: Well, you certainly are not through with your
mission, as you keep opening schools. Aren't you amazed now
that you don't have to twist anybody's arm anymore to let you
do what you’re being called to do because it’s become
RG: Yeah, and people still ask, "Would you
come and work with us." We have five schools and five or
six clinics. I still am very, very busy. To all our new classes
in all the five schools I go and spend three hours. What I do
is establish ethics—morals. You either massage or you
don't massage. You must be nice to the client. You're not just
out there to massage [B128]…all of us need bread and butter.
I try to set standards.
CJ: Now what I just heard you say is exactly what
I read about Brauche through the ages. a) You are an instrument
of the Lord. b) You are not doing it for the money; you're doing
it for personal remuneration; you’re doing this because
it is a calling, and you’re calling upon the Triune God
to assist in this healing. c) You’re there to be quiet
and let the Spirit work. Those are three of the things that
we in our research can glean as the mandate of a Braucher. Then
the fourth point you are doing in a more sophisticated way.
The old Brauchers—even the Pennsylvania Dutch perform
a form of Brauche. They were our relatives back in Germany who
came here while we went to Russia, so if you think of that time
period. They brought healing practices to Pennsylvania. Our
ancestors took their healing practices to South Russia. If you
were one of those gifted persons, not only was your mandate
to heal, but to identify other people who have that [Brauche]
gift. Your job was to share that knowledge with them so that
it could perpetuate. That's what you are doing in your schools.
You are a Braucher!
RG: As you know, I hug practically everybody,
and that's been a sore spot way back. I still have a passion
for Brauche. And what I have discovered is the hug. I’m
finished massaging and so I say, "You know what, you need
a hug.” People fall on their arms and often times they
break down and sob. I feel that is tremendously healing, and
I just started thinking about those things, but that hug is
very, very important. I've never had anybody say, "I don’t
want a hug."
CJ: Was your family of origin a touching family?
RG: No, it is something that happened inside of
me. They do it now, but I’d come home and hug my brother
and he’d say [B162], but my family, they were not huggers.
It was just something that started to happen to me, because
I felt people needed [B166].
CJ: This is interesting.
RG: This is wonderful and I'll call Magdaline…
[End of tape]