mentors and moments that moved sisters forward
by Rita Yeasted, SFCC
May 31, 2021
One of my most vivid childhood memories occurred on the school playground, when my second-grade teacher, Sister Ludmilla, asked me who would take her place when she died. She was probably 40 at most, but to a 7-year-old, the question was the first time I had thought about being a nun. I had wanted to be a teacher since I was 5, but this question sparked my first thoughts of a vocation. I would be the one to take her place.
Fast forward 13 years. The day after my 20th birthday, I became a postulant in the community that had taught me for the eight years of grade school. During my canonical year, the Second Vatican Council began, and religious life was shaken out of decades, if not centuries, of traditions. Within a few years, we went back to our baptismal names, wore modified habits and saw religious life and the church through new eyes
Influenced by the Sister Formation Movement, we completed degrees — in my case, while I was teaching elementary school. Two more advanced degrees, and I was now teaching in a university. I had changed in those 25 years, along with the community and the church, and the question asked me at 7 was replaced with, "Is this where I belong?"
The decision about my future was both complicated and painful. While I never doubted that I had a vocation, after much prayer and counseling, it was mutually decided that I take a leave of absence. In the midst of that time of discernment, I learned of a new post-Vatican II "prophetic, ecclesial community" founded in 1970, which might fulfill my vocation to a committed life of service and a lifestyle that allowed me to discover who I was. In November 1987, I officially joined the Sisters for Christian Community.
Transferring into a new religious community is somewhat akin to remarriage. Experience tells you that much will be the same, but you are different, and you are sharing a journey with new companions. One of those companions helped me not only to make that transition, but also to understand a new theology of church and religious life. Sr. Ritamary Bradley and I shared more than a patron saint. We both had transferred from another community, both taught English in a small Catholic college, and we both shared a love for Julian of Norwich. Ritamary, one of the founders of the Sister Formation Movement, was also founder and editor of the Sister Formation Bulletin, both of which had been influential in my decision to explore a new path.
Ritamary Bradley was both a friend and mentor. Her wisdom, her spirit of prayer, her laughter and sheer joy in life are what I most remember. She helped me to understand a new form of consecrated life and our community charism, "That All May Be One" in Christ. Like Julian, I strive daily for that oneness and try to be open to all that lies ahead.
Rita M. Yeasted is a Sister for Christian Community from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After beginning a business career, she entered the Sisters of Divine Providence and became an elementary school teacher. Completing graduate work in English, she began teaching high school and college English. In 1987, she transferred to the Sisters for Christian Community and just completed two terms as one of their team of international communication coordinators. Presently, she is a distinguished professor of English at La Roche University, her alma mater, and still teaches full-time.