In October 2016, Sister Rose Marita Riordan received the tragic news that she had been diagnosed with a return of colon cancer. She had battled the deadly disease only a handful of years before.
After receiving the news, Sister Rose Marita chose not to undergo treatment.
In November of the same year, Sister Rose Marita received the Sacrament of the Sick. In the Catholic Church, the Sacrament of the Sick is given by a priest and the gathered community to strengthen a person who is sick or about to have surgery.
“It’s a prayerful occasion,” Sister Rose Marita said. “It’s an anointing for the preparation of death. It allows a person to spring back and gives them the strength to go on for a while longer, to enjoy life. Evidently, that has worked for me.”
The sacrament breathed fresh air into Sister Rose Marita’s lungs and since that November day, she has made it her mission to take time out of the week for one of her passions.
She loves to bake.
Currently, Sister Rose Marita ministers as a greeter at Providence Spirituality & Conference Center (PSCC) on Mondays and Fridays. But on Wednesdays, she heads to the Providence Hall activity room kitchen to bake.
And for most of that day, the kitchen belongs to her.
“I get up at 3 a.m., and start baking at 4 a.m.,” she said.
All types of breads, from banana, chocolate chip to her famous Irish Soda breads. On every Wednesday, the aroma of the breads can be smelled throughout Providence Hall.
“It drives everyone crazy when they smell it,” Sister Rose Marita said.
Some of her breads are sold at Linden Leaf Gifts. And she gives the loaves that do not sell back to her Sisters of Providence.
Everyone at The Woods knows how much Sister Rose Marita loves the art of baking. So much so that she has had recipes dropped off at her room anonymously.
Sister Rose Marita was born on May 2, 1921. She is 95 years old and has been a Sister of Providence for 77 years, having entered the Congregation on Jan. 5, 1939.
Prior to coming back to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1990, Sister Rose Marita spent 50 years in education, including ministering as a principal in schools in North Carolina and Washington, D.C.
When she returned to The Woods, she ministered at Woods Day Care/Pre-School. But health problems forced her to end her time there, so she began ministering at PSCC.
In 2014, Sister Rose Marita said of her daily routine, “I enjoy life. I really do. I don’t worry about things. I thank God every morning and say, ‘Jesus, another day. Thank you.’”
Even her cancer diagnosis late last year hasn’t changed Sister Rose Marita’s outlook on life.
“I am just trying to enjoy life,” she said. “After all, you don’t turn the oven on to bake and stand around and watch it heat up.”