Sister Mary Rita Griffin (formerly Sister Mary Paula)
Mary Rita Griffin was born November 20, 1936, to Paul F. Griffin and Nell Morders. Paul was born in Washington, D.C., and Nell just outside of D.C., in Bushwood, Maryland. Mary has one brother, Jack, who originally planned to be here with us. We extend our sympathy to Jack, his wife Nancy and their children: Martin, Sean, and Beth Ann, said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary for Sister Mary Griffin, formerly Sister Mary Paula, who passed away on Friday, March 6, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 83 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 65 years.
Sister Mary Ann continued: Mary attended Saint Ann Elementary School and Immaculata High School in Washington, D.C., graduating in June 1954. One month later, Mary answered the call to become one of the laborers for Christ as she entered the Postulancy on June 22, 1954, and received the name Sister Mary Paula, was accepted into the novitiate on January 23, 1955, pronounced first vows in 1957, and perpetual vows on the same date in 1962. Sister Mary Rita went to her eternal reward on March 6, 2020.
Mary’s life of public ministry began in January 1957. Mary’s service started in Indiana but took her to many other places such as Washington, D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Chicago, Taiwan, and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. Twenty-eight of those years were spent as a teacher, mostly middle and upper grades as well as high school. Part of these years, she served as a full-time principal or principal and teacher at the same time.
In 1985, Sister Mary Rita began 18 years in a different and loved type of ministry, that of serving the poor and forgotten people in Washington, D.C. Then, there were two years in Taiwan, followed by nine years at Woods Day Care/Pre-School, and finally at Providence Spirituality & Conference Center as Coordinator of the Our Lady of Providence Shrine and Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Mary served in these ministries up until three months before her death when she resigned because of declining health.
When I first started gathering my thoughts for this commentary, I asked our liturgy director Karen Sagraves if we could use the old hymn “Whatsoever You Do,” as the entrance hymn at the wake service. My reason for that is I feel that the words are a picture of Mary’s life of service.
Eight of the years which Sister Mary Rita worked with the homeless were spent with SOME – “So Others May Eat.” The hymn’s first stanza says, “When I was hungry, you gave me to eat. When I was thirsty you gave me to drink.” The second stanza talks about the homeless and anxious: Mary was involved with the homeless in Day Care Centers and the Community Council as Director and Resident Manager.
After leaving the Homeless Day Care Centers, Sister Mary Rita came to the Woods Day Care as Administrative Assistant and showed the same love and dedication to the children and their parents that so many in Washington had come to know as part of her life. Anytime she spoke of her work, she had an attitude of joy for what she was doing.
Those of us who knew Mary well know that her most loved time in ministry was when she was able to be a spiritual guide for others. Ezra Meadors, a Providence Associate with whom she walked, saw her as an example of living a life as a true follower of Christ. Sister Mary Rita told a friend that being the Coordinator of the Our Lady of Providence Shrine was like an answer to her lifelong dream. Many people across the world are truly friends with Sister Mary Rita even though they never met her, because of the letters they received when they asked for prayers.
Mary loved the outdoors, the ocean — which she was able to enjoy often through the generosity of Jack letting her use his beach home, whether alone or with friends. Mary was a true optimist. If you knew her well, you knew that above all, she loved Jesus and his Mother Mary with every ounce of her being. Those who worked with her knew that her name appeared on every ‘need for volunteers’ list she ever read.
The refrain I spoke about earlier is “Now enter into the home of My Father,” which Mary did a short time ago.
Mary, we know how difficult it was for you when the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was changed from an Exposition to an Adoration Chapel, however, we know that you are with Jesus. We love you and miss your quiet giving way with us.
Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass for Sister Mary Rita took place at 11 a.m., on Tuesday, March 24.
We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Mary Rita in the comment section below.
Sister Mary Rita Griffin (formerly Sister Mary Paula)
In Indiana: Teacher, Our Lady of Greenwood, Greenwood (1957-58); Teacher, St. Francis Xavier, Vincennes (1960-64); Administrative Assistant, Woods Day Care/Pre-School, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2005-14); Coordinator, Shrine of Our Lady of Providence and Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2014-20).
In Washington, D.C.: Teacher, St. Ann (1958-60); Principal, Dunblane (1972-76); Principal, Teacher, Dunblane (1976-78); Teacher, St. Ann (1984-85); Coordinator of Volunteers, SOME So Others May Eat (1985-90); Director of Day Center for the Homeless, Friendship Place (1993-95); Administrative Director Friendship Place, Community Council for Homeless (1995-99); Haven Resident Manager, Community Council for Homeless (2000-03).
In Massachusetts: Teacher, St. Rose High School, Chelsea (1969-70).
In Maryland: Teacher, St. Clement, Lansdowne (1964-69).
In North Carolina: Principal, Teacher, St. Therese, Wilson (1970-72).
In Illinois: Principal, Our Lady of Sorrows, Chicago (1978-84).
In Taiwan: Bookkeeper, Teacher, Mother Marie Gratia Center (2003-05).
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