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Sister Rita Vogelsang, SDS 
Parish Nurse and Pastoral Member
Birmingham, Alabama

"I 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.

Today this 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 Holy Rosary.

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 okay.

"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.

Sister 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)

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