Continuing to Serve: S. Rita Hawk
By Megan Simmermeyer, Communications co-op
S. Rita Hawk is a facilitator for online theology classes through the University of Dayton Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, where she connects with Catholics from all over the world.
In July 2008, Sister of Charity Rita Hawk retired from full-time ministry, though she says it was less like “retiring” and more like “redirecting” her energy in service of something new. For nearly 10 years, she has been redirecting her energy toward teaching online classes and volunteering at the Sisters of Charity Motherhouse at Mount St. Joseph.
Before her transition from full to part-time service, S. Rita’s previous ministries revolved around education, especially religious education, and parish pastoral ministry, and she finds that her current ministries flow from those past experiences.
In her online ministry, S. Rita serves as a facilitator for online theology classes through the University of Dayton Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF), where she connects with Catholics from all over the world. Currently, she facilitates four to six five-week courses each year, and her students hail from a variety of places—including Barbados, Trinidad, Georgetown Guyana, the United Arab Emirates, and Dioceses like Miami, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Dubuque, Iowa; Richmond, Virginia; Lafayette, Louisiana; Raleigh, North Carolina; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the Archdiocese of the Military of the USA. “I never dreamed [that] in my ‘retirement’ I would have this opportunity to share faith with people in other countries,” S. Rita says.
Sister does not meet face-to-face with her students, as many of them live half a world away, but she continuously engages with them in discussions through the online class forums. With unlimited space and a great deal more time than a traditional classroom, all of her students have the opportunity to participate in genuine, open dialogue with one another.
“I receive so much more from interacting with adult faith formation participants from around the world,” she says. “My ministry continues to energize and deepen my relationship with God as I share with adult learners.” At times, S. Rita says it feels like they are living in her room, “which is a good thing!” She continuously prays for her students, and whenever she hears mentions of the places her students live, she listens in a way she never had before. “[M]y VLCFF ministry has opened my perspective and concern for people beyond Ohio,” Sister says.
In addition to her ministry with VLCFF, S. Rita participates in multiple volunteer positions at the Motherhouse. In Mother Margaret Hall, the Sisters of Charity nursing facility, she serves as a lector and Eucharistic minister, and genuinely enjoys taking the Holy Eucharist to Sisters who are unable to attend Mass. “They are so grateful,” she says, “and they continue to inspire me.” She also coordinates the scheduling of Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers and Lectors for the Motherhouse Masses, during which she herself serves as lector and Eucharistic minister. She particularly enjoys her ministry as a lector because it allows her to proclaim God’s Word, and in doing so, she is “challenged to deepen [her] living of it.” “[But] most important to me is the opportunity to pray,” she says, “and pray with and for others—and simply be!”
Continuing to serve and heed God’s call, S. Rita finds immense joy in her ministries. The phrase “[W]e dare to risk a caring response,” taken from the Sisters of Charity Charism Statement, has continued to energize her, and though she no longer participates in full-time ministry, her volunteer and online ministries continue to strengthen her relationship with God in that they “keep [her] praying.” She says, “I just like being and doing what and where I am right now!”