portrait of Sr. Rita

Rita Marie Ferschweiler, SP
Sister Mary Laureen

Sister Rita Marie Ferschweiler, SP, age 102, a Sister of Providence for 76 years, died April 25, 2020, at St. Joseph Residence, Seattle, Wash.

Sister Rita was born in St. Louis, Ore., to Lawrence Fershweiler and Marie Ruben (Bonning) on March 16, 1918, the year that marked the beginning of the Spanish flu pandemic. She was the eldest of six children, and grew up milking cows and picking hops and berries. 

Sister Rita entered the Sisters of Providence in November 1942 at Mount St. Vincent, Seattle, and in May 1943, she became a novice. In November 1944 she professed first vows and received the name Sister Mary Laureen. In November 1952 she professed final vows. 

Sister Rita graduated in 1935 from Mount Angel Academy, Mount Angel, Ore. She completed nursing school in 1948 at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Yakima, Wash., a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Seattle University in 1957, and was then sent to St. Louis University for a master’s degree in nursing service administration. In 2012 she received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Portland, Ore.

Sr Rita in habit sitting at desk circa 1969
Sister Rita at St Vincent Hospital, Portland, Ore., circa 1969. Photo courtesy Providence Archives Seattle.

Sister Rita served from 1948-84 primarily as a medical-surgical nurse and administrator. In Washington: Providence Hospital, Seattle; St. Joseph Hospital, Vancouver; St. Elizabeth Hospital, Yakima; St. Peter Hospital, Olympia. In Alaska: St. Joseph Hospital, Fairbanks. In Oregon: St. Vincent Hospital. Sr. Rita was the last Sister of Providence to serve as an administrator of this Portland hospital. She also ministered in pastoral care at St. Peter Hospital, 1976-77, and St. Vincent Hospital, 1983-84. Sister Rita served as a member of the Provincial Council of Sacred Heart Province, 1985-91. From 1991-97, Sister Rita ministered as the sister representative for Providence St. Peter Hospital and Mother Joseph Care Center, Olympia.

She was the recipient of many awards during her nursing and administration ministries, including being named one of Oregon’s 10 women of accomplishment in 1971. In 2012 Sister Rita was honored by Providence St. Vincent Hospital with a “Peace Garden” for her many years of dedicated ministry.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Sisters of Providence Retirement Fund, 1801 Lind Avenue SW, M1-C, Renton, Washington, 98057. To sign Sister Rita’s memory book, please visit the website for Bonney-Watson Funeral Home at bonneywatson.com.