Sister Rita Jadin

Sister Rita JadinSister Rita was the third of six children born to Peter Jadin and Martha (Gorzelanczyk) Jadin. She was born on a farm in Sugar Bush, Wisconsin, near Green Bay, on September 24, 1945.  

While her older brother and sister worked in the barn, Rita helped her mother in the house with cleaning, canning, and cooking meals for the family. When Rita was ten years old, her mother was in the hospital over Christmas, so Rita made Christmas cookies. Her dad was so proud of her! This prepared her for the future because Sister is known for her ginger snap cookies. For a number of years she baked 50 dozen that were “snapped up” by eager customers at the sisters’ annual Fall Sale.

For grades one through four, Rita attended a two-room country school named Brick School. Her Saturday catechism classes and two-week summer sessions were taught by the Bay Settlement Sisters. She enjoyed the sisters so much that her grandmother made her a sister doll. But it was a School Sister of St. Francis, Sister Zita Wiebelhaus, who taught Rita in seventh and eighth grade at St. Mary School in Luxemburg. She inspired Rita in her life’s vocation and after eighth grade, Rita chose to come to Milwaukee to become a School Sister of St. Francis.

On August 2, 1964, Rita became a novice and received the name Sister James Ray after her brothers James and Raymond. She modeled her life after her name, always working to be a “ray of sunshine” like Jesus. Her final profession was on Pentecost, May 18, 1975.

After graduating from St. Joseph Convent High School and Alverno College, Sister Rita began her many years of ministry in elementary education. She taught one year in Muscoda, Wisconsin, ten years at Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) in Milwaukee, and 29 years at St. Matthias in Milwaukee. These were followed by many years of substituting and tutoring every subject on every grade level.

At Sister Rita’s retirement, one of her fellow teachers from St. Matthias recalled that Sister Rita would often say, “We’re going to add vim, vigor, and enthusiasm to learning and to life.” She certainly did! A former student who became a teacher recalled Sister Rita teaching how very important it is to sing with gusto, and to this day he is also well known for his excellent penmanship. He gives Sister Rita the credit for that.

This former student, and countless others, benefited greatly from Sister’s tutoring in math. His brother noted that Sister Rita was the best teacher he ever had. She had passion for her students and instilled motivation in them. Her deep faith was very evident to him. He remarked, “We could come to her with anything because we knew she cared about us. She was serious when she had to be, but when she was smiling, man, life was good!”

Sister Rita’s students also benefited from her travels to 13 countries. You could call her a “happy wanderer!” She enjoyed sharing interesting facts from the different cultures she observed while visiting two countries in Africa, two countries in Central America, several in Europe, and walking in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land.

Her travel experiences were also shared in her “Rita’s Recaps” Christmas letters.  The letters included significant events in her life and the lives of her family and friends, who eagerly read these letters to see if they were mentioned in the news. These letters also serve as valuable resources for the future.

Sister Rita is also known for her plants and palms. Large dumbcane dieffenbachia plants that she repotted are now being enjoyed throughout St. Joseph Center.  As for the palms, Sister Rodilia Madala taught Sister Rita how to braid palms during her first year at St. Matthias. For many years she would braid as many as 150 palms for Palm Sunday. Are you one of the many who received one of these beautiful palms?

Sister Rita said she routinely received checks from parents of the students she tutored that were made out to “St. Rita,” and of course, she had to endorse them that way. Even a newsletter article from St. Matthias was titled, “Teacher Feature: St. Rita.” Sister is hoping that one day St. Peter recognizes her as “St. Rita” at the Pearly Gates, but for now she is grateful to be celebrating her 60th Jubilee!