Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis
I was born on September 29, 1927, and given the name Rita Marie Kelley. I grew up in a very Catholic area of Cleveland, Ohio, where many Irish and German Catholics lived. My Irish family had a strong commitment to the Church: one cousin was a Marianist priest, another was a diocesan priest and and only brother followed in their footsteps being ordained a priest in the Society of Mary.
I was taught by the Franciscans Friars in high school, and at that time, the Franciscan missionaries were being exiled from China and returning with dramatic stories of their ministry. These stories had an impact on me, and I sensed a call to the nursing profession, to the missions, and to helping my country which was experiencing the results of World War II.
With this desire to serve either my country as a nurse or her Church as a missionary, I met with my pastor to discern my call. Although I wrote to the Franciscan Missionary Union for addresses of religious communities, my pastor suggested that I visit the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Springfield, Illinois. Following his advice, I made arrangements to visit their Motherhouse in Springfield. I took the train from Cleveland to Chicago, and that is where two Hospital Sisters met me, took me to Mass and breakfast and shared a little of their own stories with me before the train left for Springfield.
After my visit to the Motherhouse, I felt that this Community was where I belonged. I entered the Hospital Sisters on September 8, 1945. One year later, I became a novice now known as Sister Chaminade, the name of the founder of the Marianist community. I professed my religious vows on June 13, 1948.
I graduated from St. John’s Hospital School of Nursing, Springfield, obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, a Master’s Degree in Nursing from The Catholic University of America, and a Master’s Degree in Religious Education from St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana.
I have served my Community as a nurse, in religious formation working with the postulants and novices, and as a member of the Provincial Council. I have also served Hospital Sisters Health System on the Board of Trustees and as a member of local Hospital Boards of Directors. In addition to health care ministry, I taught at Springfield College in Illinois. Presently, I am active in several ministries: St. Mary’s Hospital, Decatur, Illinois, as a registered nurse in the Behavioral Medicine Unit; parish nurse for Sts. James and Patrick Parish, Decatur; and member of the Board of Directors for Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach.
Reflecting on the role of colleagues who work with us in our ministries, I encourage them to put the moccasins on and run with us. If they find that the moccasins are a good fit, then that is where they belong. Since we cannot continue the work of our ministries alone, we are passing the torch to those who serve with us to keep alive the Franciscan values and our Community’s mission.