sister martha ritter

September 14, 1922 - January 22, 2017

A grateful woman:
a kind, humble woman who lived a life of service 

I am now in the St. Paul province, but when I was still in the St. Louis province, I worked with Sister Martha in the dining room of the old Nazareth a few summers. She was delightful to work with. She wanted everything to be nice for the sisters. I thought she was a peaceful person. —Sister Connie Gleason 

Joseph and Louise (Meyer) Ritter, of St. Louis, Missouri, welcomed their daughter, Clara, on September 14, 1922. She grew up in the University City area where her father was a truck farmer. The children joined their parents in the fields when they got home from school. In all, there were seven girls and two boys in the family. After graduating from St. Joseph School in Clayton, staffed by the Ursuline sisters, Clara went to Rosati-Kain High School. 

Clara entered the Sisters of St. Joseph September 15, 1940. She received the habit and the name Sister Martha Agnes on March 19, 1941. Her sister, Elizabeth (S. Clara Florina), also received the habit that day. Their oldest sister, Sister Teresa Joseph, had already been a CSJ for over 15 years. (The family continued to support the Sisters of St. Joseph with new members when two of their nieces entered later on, Sisters Catherine Lucien Matter and Rose Marie McKenna.) 

Sister Martha earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Fontbonne College in 1958.

When Sister Martha began her ministry in elementary education, it continued for the next 29 years at: St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louis (1943); St. Cecilia, Peoria, Illinois (1946); St. Joseph, Hancock, Michigan (1956); Holy Name, St. Louis (1961); St. Anthony, Atlanta, Georgia (1962); and All Saints, St. Louis (1965), where she became principal in 1971. 

I was blessed to have known Sister Martha. I was around nine or ten years old when she was assigned to teach and guide the children of All Saints in University City. I always told her she had the secret of youth, never losing her sweet looks. Her smile reminded one of the Mona Lisa. You never knew what she was thinking. And her quiet [demeanor] was her strength … I felt so special when I went to see her several weeks ago and she knew me and we cried and remembered and prayed. She truly was a servant of God.  
—Associate Kathy Burch, a former pupil 

In 1972, though remaining in the same parish, Sister Martha moved into new ministry, that of parish work coordinator at All Saints. This was followed by service at St. Thomas Aquinas High in Florissant, Missouri (1979), as the resource center coordinator. Then, in 1986, after St. Thomas Aquinas and Mercy High Schools merged, she was the alumnae coordinator.

Sister Martha served at the St. Joseph Provincial House as a switchboard operator and typist in 1992. In 1993, she became secretary for the Province House Administration until 1998 when, after suddenly losing sight in one eye due to macular degeneration, she decided to retire to Nazareth Living Center to participate in a ministry of prayer and presence. 

Sister Mary Charity writes from Nazareth Living Center:

I have been blessed by being here at Nazareth on the same wing of the fourth floor with Sister Martha for two years. I didn't really know her before, but what a beautiful loving presence she has been for me—as we laughed and enjoyed so many of the happenings around us. She was truly a ‘gentle woman.’ I loved her lots. 

Sister Helen Oates

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