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                               Sr. Rita Marie Donnelly, SFP

                                             70 Years


                               Entrance Date: October 3, 1941


                               First Profession: April 26, 1944


                               Perpetual Vows: April 26, 1949

 

 

I know that living as a woman religious is truly God’s work; always saying yes to God and my superiors is what my life is about.


My first step into the Congregation was made at twelve years of age. I was injured and my mother brought me to the emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital, Hoboken. The Sisters took very good care of me. I began volunteering at the hospital and one day the pharmacist, Sr. Priscilla, asked me, “Do you think you are being called by God?”
While thinking about religious life, the Sisters gave me little cards with the picture of Mother Frances. I prayed to her early on for guidance, asking her: “Am I being called?”  Well, the Lord did call -- and I said yes – so maybe I am one of Frances’ first miracles!  I had also felt close to St. Therese of Lisieux. My confessor had asked me at the time, “Why the Franciscans? They get up early and work all day.” I told Msgr. Coyle, “I like the Sisters – they are so friendly. I just have to be a Franciscan!”  


I entered on October 3, 1941 -- one month before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II for the U.S. I remember working lovingly and joyfully with the Sisters, sacrificing for the men and women in the armed forces.
The day after I made my perpetual profession, I was assigned to be the receptionist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. I had no idea what to do! Sr. Amalia said, “Just smile at the people, be present with them, give them coffee and a sandwich. Don’t ask questions. Let them talk to you.” I served at St. Francis Home in New York City. Several homeless women also lived there.  I believe that many healing miracles took place at St. Francis Home.
My most challenging assignment was serving as Director of Novices for four years. I had no experience, but said yes again and God saw me through everything. My most consoling assignment was pastoral ministry and being with the dying and praying with them. I have served at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark; St. Mary’s Hospital, Hoboken, St. Francis in Jersey City, and St. Anthony Hospital, Warwick where I was in charge of the office. I was also Director of a nursing home in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was totally dependent on God throughout these assignments. I have done the best I could before God and He did the rest!


Our healing charism belongs very much to this time; there are so many who are fearful, unemployed, and displaced from their homes. The wounded world needs us. As a congregation we have done so much good through the years and my hope is that we continue to have vocations.
My advice to someone considering religious life is to accept who you are, accept what you are doing as coming from God! I am now retired, but I minister by being present to the people I live with at Brighton Gardens, New Jersey. I try to give witness wherever I am. The same God is with me now as at the beginning.

 And I am always joyful – I guess it’s the Irish in me!

                                                                                                                                                                                 Sr. Rita Marie Donnelly, SFP

                                                                                                                                                                                 published, december 2011