Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them ...
Nurtured by parents who lived simply and with a deep sense of faith, Sister Rita Vogelsang sees how her early education, religious formation and life of service modeled their values.
Rita grew up in rural Wisconsin and entered the Sisters of the Divine Savior in 1956. She received her training in Milwaukee and became a registered nurse. In the early years, she ministered to sick children in rural Wisconsin hospitals.
Later, Sr. Rita spent five years in rural Kentucky doing home health and well-child assessments. Her service there was among people whose strong religious spirit helped them cope with the realities of unemployment and lack of resources.
After studies in parish nursing at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Sr. Rita took what was then a new kind of service to Birmingham Ala., working as a parish nurse. She also organized a seniors’ ministry, worked in a food pantry, helped in an after-school program, and became involved in religious education and RCIA. During those fifteen years, she did home health for elderly parishioners and brought communion to them.
Sr. Rita advocated for people who struggled with broken families, addiction and poverty. She feels privileged and enriched for having served some of God’s most vulnerable people, saying, “They know what’s important in life and are close to God.”
When she returned to Milwaukee, Sr. Rita moved into Hadley Terrace Senior Apartments on the former site of the SDS Motherhouse. As one of our sponsored institutions, Hadley Terrace provides seniors from Milwaukee’s central city with safe, affordable and supportive apartment living. While living there, Sr. Rita was a companion to Hadley residents and did volunteer work in the city.
Sr. Rita’s heart was still open to new experiences, so she offered to companion Sister Patrice Colletti, SDS in rural South Dakota for three years. While enduring some of the coldest weather she’d ever known, Sr. Rita spent her days visiting Native American residents at the Tekakwitha Nursing Home. There, she led communion services, prayed the rosary with them and played the piano. From time to time, she also accompanied the pastor of the local Catholic parish on prison visits.
In September 2019, Sr. Rita moved to Tucson, Ariz. where she lived in community with Sister Darlene Pienschke, SDS. She volunteered at Casa Alitas, a refugee intake center on the U.S. – Mexico border. Her service there inspired her to begin learning Spanish. She also helped with RCIA and sacramental ministries at Most Holy Trinity, a Salvatorian parish.
After returning to Wisconsin in 2021, Sr. Rita serves her parish in Portage through the Rite of Christian Initiative for Adults (RCIA) program. She celebrates 60 years of religious life in 2023.