Celebration of Catholic Women’s Vocations – Rita Emmenegger

At the close of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI spoke of “women impregnated by the Spirit of the Gospel,” and more recently Pope Francis has called for a “new theology of women.” There are thousands of Catholic lay women discerning how to share their gifts and responding to ministerial calls. In many cases, these women are well-trained and highly educated professionals who bring a wealth of life experience to their work in parishes, diocesan offices, faith-based non-profit organizations, hospitals, schools, and many other settings.

This post on Rita Emmennegger is a second in a series which celebrates Catholic lay women’s vocations and profiles some of the many women who are enriching the life of church. Last month’s profile was on Kate Burke and her New Lectio Divina ministry.  If you know a woman in ministry that you think should be profiled, please email me.

– Rhonda Miska

Rita Emmennegger - nurse and medical missioner

Rita Emmennegger – nurse and medical missioner

About once a year while I was growing up and attending Sunday Mass at St. Bernard’s parish in the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, Rita Emmenegger would speak in place of the homily. She shared the story of her medical mission work in Nicaragua and of her hospitality to Nicaraguan children in need of medical care. For me, her testimonies served as one of the first windows into the larger world – a world I could hardly imagine – far beyond our comfortable suburb.

Years later, as a college senior, I received a phone call from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps inviting me to spend two years serving in Cusmapa, Nicaragua.  It was memories of Emmenegger’s Sunday morning stories that helped bolster my courage to say yes to that call, and to step into that larger world.  So, as I continue this series which celebrates the ways women discern and answer calls, it feels fitting to hold up the life and ministry of Rita Emmenegger: nurse, medical missioner, wife, mother of four children, and foster mother to seven Nicaraguan children.

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