Sister Rita was born in Chicago, Illinois. She was received into the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 1958 as Sister Marie William. She received a bachelor’s degree in history from Fontbonne College in 1962 and a master’s in theology from University of Notre Dame in 1971.
Sister Rita began her ministry as a primary teacher in 1962 in Champaign, Illinois, at Holy Cross Grade School. In 1965, she went to Atlanta, Georgia, to teach eighth graders in the new school Blessed Sacrament. In 1968, she taught at St. Bede the Venerable Grade School in Chicago. Sister Rita returned to Georgia in 1969 where she taught sixth graders at St. Francis Xavier Grade School in Brunswick and then went on to teach religion at St. Joseph High School in Atlanta (1970-72). The following year, Sister Rita served as the religious education director at St. John Parish in Ishpeming, Michigan.
In 1973, Sister Rita transitioned to pastoral ministry in health care. She ministered at St. Joseph Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1973. After her initial hospital experience at St. Joseph Hospital, she moved forward to working to obtain her certification in clinical pastoral education (CPE) at Mt. Carmel Hospital in Detroit, Michigan in 1976. She then furthered her education in pastoral ministry at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Sister Rita succeeded in pursuing her CPE training and served as chaplain and pastoral associate in several hospital settings, including serving as a CPE supervisor of students working for basic pastoral training at Incarnate Word Hospital in St. Louis (1978-81) and St. Louis University Medical Center (1981-83). Sister Rita wanted to be near Chicago during her father’s last year and chose to work as a pastoral associate at St. Mary Medical Center in Gary, Indiana (1983-84). She ten served as the director of clinical pastoral education at St. Joseph Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas (1984-86).
Later, Sister Rita went on to further her associate clinical pastoral education (ACPE) pastoral training by working in the following ACPE organizations: She was a supervisory intern at Rhode Island Hospital in Province, Rhode Island (1986-87); the CPE associate supervisor at Mercy Catholic Medical Center in Darby, Pennsylvania (1987-88); ACPE supervisory intern at Presbyterian U Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1988-89); and CPE supervisor at Riverside Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1989-91).
In 1991, Sister Rita was in a job transition process. This was a time of layoffs for several workers in the U.S. She went to several unemployment meetings and became aware of so many job losses for persons in management positions. Sister Rita decided to spend a year working in St. Paul. She asked province leadership if she could devote one year working as a contract worker in Kelly agency in an effort to encourage women without jobs to trust in themselves. Some of her assignments were a three month job working in Supermom’s Bakery in St. Paul Park, Minnesota, and working at one day or night assignments in factories, etc. Her last assignment in 1991 was with the Travel Analysis Department at 3M in St. Paul where she began as an agency contract worker. Within a short time, she was hired as a full-time employee. Sister Rita received an administrative award for her organizational achievements. She also worked in the Business Continuity Department. She retired from 3M in 2002.
Returning to health care pastoral ministry in 2003, Sister Rita was a chaplain at St. Alexius Hospital in St. Louis until 2010. She then served her CSJ community as a Finance Office assistant at the St. Joseph Provincial House. Sister Rita volunteered in 2014 at the Centre International St. Joseph in France. She retired at the end of 2014, but that didn’t last long as she went on to serve her CSJ community as a member of the Community Life Staff at Nazareth Living Center in St. Louis.
Besides serving a variety of ministries, Sister Rita has also acquired language skills. For several years, she has studied Spanish. She began taking basic Spanish courses in places that she ministered in, i.e. St. Louis, Kansas, Indiana and Madrid. Later, she completed basic and advanced online courses sponsored by a school in Madrid. As she advanced in her written and spoken Spanish, Sister Rita had opportunities to study in Pueblo, Mexico, and Madrid, Spain. During her time at 3M, she taught basic Spanish and was tutored in Spanish literature for three years by a professor from the University of Minnesota. With her knowledge of the Spanish language, Sister Rita also had the opportunity to serve in Peru and Chile at various short periods of time.
Currently, Sister Rita continues to volunteer at Nazareth Living Center and, besides her pastoral ministry, she is able to communicate with workers from Spanish speaking countries.
“What I have learned is how to take a task that is routine and monotonous and keep it from being labeled as a ‘have not’s job.’” Says Sister Rita. “I try to model that all work has a dignity and that satisfaction can come from doing a job well. In short. I work with a sense of the CSJ moving toward the ‘more.’”