Sister Rita Vogelsang, SDS
Parish Nurse and Pastoral Member
love This Ministry!"
As a member of two
small, poor central city parishes, nurse Sister Rita
Vogelsang addresses serious health and social issues.
Social issues include: families shattered and in
pain; major addictions with drugs and alcohol; and a
creeping poverty that invades the homes of young and
old. For six years she has seen children parented by
grandparents because of these addictions, children
struggling academically, and elderly alone and unsure of
how to access the services they need to survive.
Salvatorian Sister continues to respond to the
needs of a small neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama. In
this community that some call "the projects,"
she has helped establish a Health Center. She ministers
with members of the Salesian religious community as a
parish nurse and health center coordinator. The
Salesians also sponsor a Legal Aid Clinic, Youth Center
and Food Pantry. The two parishes are St. John Bosco and
The area is a high
crime district and it is not uncommon to hear gunshots.
But it also here that Sister Rita finds many people
deeply connected to God and their families. "As we
confront HIV, drugs, crime, unemployment, I do not get
discouraged, only tired sometimes. The problems are real
and we try to offer hope," she explained.
As a parish nurse
and pastoral member, she visits people in their homes as
well as the Health Center. Many a Sunday, she visits
elderly when they aren't at Church, making sure they are
"We try to
assist with the every day challenges of their lives. We
offer regular clinic hours and workshops on nutrition
and diabetes. Doctors volunteer their services and
prescribe medications after assessments. I routinely
visit parish members in hospitals and nursing homes. We
have found that people always cope better when they feel
loved and cared for," Sister Rita stated.
The Salesians also
sponsor an after school tutoring program for area
children. Sister Rita also helps in this capacity and in
the religious education programs of the parishes.
"One of the gifts of religious life is the freedom
to serve the poor in this way and to be living here in
the central city," she explained.
Rita is also inspired by those she serves. "One of
our parish regulars is a street person. One day we
offered him a nearly-new outfit but he declined. 'Give
it to someone who needs it more, Sister,' It's people
like this man who give us hope in return. I love this
ministry," she concluded.
Sister Rita acts out daily :
"As women of faith striving to be given over to the
Father and open to all peoples, we collaborate to
promote justice and to improve the quality of life in
our world with a preferential option for the poor."
(from the SDS Mission Statement)