Aston, PA—Sister Mary Rita Barbernitz, OSF, 81, (formerly Sister Johanna Mary) died in Assisi House on May 24. She had been a professed member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia for 61 years. Sister Mary Rita was born in Baltimore, Maryland, where she was a member of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Parish and a graduate of the Catholic High School of Baltimore. She entered the congregation in 1953 and professed her first vows in 1955. Sister Mary Rita earned a BA in English from Neumann University and an MA in Religious Education from Princeton Theological Seminary. She ministered primarily in education, congregational administration, and healthcare.
Sister Mary Rita ministered for 50 years in the Diocese of Trenton. She began her years in ministry taking care of children at St. Michael Home in Hopewell. She later taught at St. Joseph School in Raritan as well as Holy Angels School and Blessed Sacrament School, both in Trenton. Between 1972-1989 she served in administration with the former St. Anthony Province of the Sisters of St. Francis which was based in the Trenton area. She first served as a member of the provincial council, then as assistant provincial, and finally as provincial. Following her time in leadership, Sister Mary Rita moved into healthcare, working first at Morris Hall in Lawrenceville and later at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton.
Additional ministry experience included teaching at Our Lady of the Assumption School in Lynnfield, Massachusetts.
In 2005 Sister Mary Rita moved to Assisi House, the congregation’s retirement residence, where she served in prayer ministry until her death.
All services will be held in Assisi House, 600 Red Hill Road, Aston, Pennsylvania, 19014 on Tuesday, May 31. A Christian Wake Service will be held at 9:30 A.M. followed by viewing. Mass of Christian Burial at will be at 11 A.M. Burial will be in Our Lady of Angels Cemetery in Aston. Sister Mary Rita is survived by her sister, Patricia Barbernitz, by her nieces and nephews, and by her Franciscan family. Donations in her name can be made to the Sisters of St. Francis Foundation, 609 S. Convent Road, Aston, PA 19014.