Sister Mary Ruth Dittman’s true gift has been caring for the most vulnerable people in her midst, including 15 years at Good Samaritan and Los Ninos Hospitals in Phoenix. There, she volunteered as a “cuddler” for infants with serious medical problems. She also attended funerals for hundreds of babies lost through miscarriage, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome, and reached out to parents grieving their loss. Sr. Mary Ruth also honored the lives of indigent people abandoned by their families by attending their funerals. And, several times a month she prayed outside abortion clinics.
In 2009, Sr. Mary Ruth was honored by Catholic Charities of Phoenix for her lifetime of charity and justice. In her own humble fashion, she later said she received the award for “being who I am.” In nominating Sr. Mary Ruth for the Catholic Charities award, Sister Ellen Sinclair, SDS, shed light on the teaching ministry that preceded Sr. Mary Ruth’s many years dedicated to nursing:
Sr. Mary Ruth’s early years of ministry were as a teacher. Her assignments included St. Joseph Mission School in Huntsville, Ala., the first school in the state with both black and white students. At this same time Gov. George Wallace declared there would never be an integrated school in Alabama.
Sr. Mary Ruth felt it was a special privilege to serve those students, many of whom had never before had formal education. She completed her own elementary education at a small country school, and grew up in St. Patrick’s Parish in the Sioux City (Iowa) Diocese. She entered the Sisters of the Divine Savior in 1948 and professed first vows in 1949. Sr. Mary Ruth recalls the small ad in her mother’s Sacred Heart Messenger magazine that first sparked her interest in the Salvatorians.
“God called me,” Sr. Mary Ruth, says today, and she is grateful for that gift. She is no longer able to cuddle babies, comfort grieving parents, or attend funerals for the forgotten poor, but Sr. Mary Ruth’s life gives testimony to the faith and hope she has found as a vowed servant of God.