Sister Rita Barman, SDS found many ways to bring out the beauty in the world around her during 84 years of life on earth. Her 63 years professed as a Salvatorian Sister also offered opportunities to express her own creative spirit.
Sr. Rita was born April 25, 1936 on a farm in the Township of East Bristol, Wis. in the Diocese of Madison. She was the sixth of 12 children born to Edward and Frances (Ripp) Barman. Rita attended St. Joseph Catholic School in East Bristol, where she first met the Sisters of the Divine Savior. She recalled her junior-high teacher, Sister Fortunate Sporlein, SDS being especially influential in encouraging her religious vocation. In addition, visiting her siblings, Sisters Jane Frances and Marietta gave Rita “firsthand experience” of convent life.
Sr. Rita recalled, “I always thought of the sisters as being close to God, and it enkindled in my heart a desire to be close to God. I believe this was the kernel of my vocation.” She came to Milwaukee to enter the Salvatorian Sisters’ community in 1955, and remembers feeling very happy upon her entrance. As a novice, she was given her religious name Rosalima.
Sr. Rita began her teaching ministry in a fifth-grade classroom in Schofield, Wis. Her 17 years teaching in elementary schools also took her to Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Wausau and Dickeyville, Wis., as well as Lakeville, Minn. She loved using creativity to instill excitement about learning. At one point, she led a summer school program for students in Milwaukee’s central city.
Sr. Rita earned her bachelor’s degree from Marquette University and later her certification in elementary education from Cardinal Stritch College, where she also took courses in physical education and political science. Through the years, Sr. Rita enrolled in classes for pure enjoyment, such as ceramics, basket weaving, sketching, cross stitch and yoga. She also taught herself to play guitar.
Sr. Rita felt her longtime service in education prepared her for her 15- year ministry with Milwaukee Catholic Charities’ outreach programs. Those programs included child abuse prevention, migrant and refugee services, early-childhood parenting classes, and special outreach to the Latino and African-American local communities. Sr. Rita found her behind-the-scenes role handling administrative tasks a good fit. She saw how her organizational skills and adaptability enabled her colleagues to devote more time and energy to their clients. She said, “Our programs reached a variety of people in need, sometimes desperate need. I always felt a bond with the outreach staff working to improve the quality of fragile lives.
“All the programs had the potential to change lives. I knew I was promoting our Salvatorian core values and living our Salvatorian mission and this was important to me.”
In June 2001, Sr. Rita began ministering as assistant coordinator at Salvatorian Sisters Residence (SSR). For the next five years, her days were filled with a variety of tasks that enhanced the lives of our elder sisters there.
After retiring from SSR, she continued to serve the province with her artistic gifts and writing skills, and as a Community House receptionist. Sr. Rita especially cherished her later years working with Sister Denise Demulling, SDS to bring beauty to the Community House environment. Many people will remember her with gratitude and fondness for her creative gifts.