If you want to examine the history of the Sisters of Providence, you might want to say a small prayer of thanks for Sr. Rita Bergamini.
Or, if you visit National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol Building, and marvel at the statue of Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Sr. Rita also deserves a mention.
Sr. Rita’s career began in nursing but her work organizing and professionalizing the archives of the Sacred Heart Province (now part of Mother Joseph Province) deserves a special nod of appreciation.
In a retrospective of her career, Archival Outlook, a publication of the Society of American Archivists, said this: “Those who know Sister Rita will remember a dedicated archivist who recognized the value of a religious community archives within the larger context of women’s history and a vibrant and expanding corporate history.”
“Providence is always moving in my life,” said Sr. Rita. “God has always given me the strength to do what I need to do in the different ministries I have worked in during my eighty years as a Sister of Providence.”
After her profession of vows, Sr. Rita first served as an RN at St. Vincent Hospital in Portland, Oregon, and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Yakima, Washington. She also served as director of St. Mary Hospital School of Nursing in Walla Walla, Washington, director of Seattle University’s Providence Hospital Clinical Unit, provincial councilor and provincial secretary.
It was her time as provincial secretary that first sparked her passion for the archives in the early 1970s.
She commandeered an unused chest of drawers from a nearby sacristy and kept photographs in a closet. She added a room here and there until today’s archives — with its digital collection, artifact preservation work and professional approach — became a modern, efficient repository of information for the Sisters of Providence.
One of her favorite memories is working with the development team to prepare the background material for the successful effort to place Mother Joseph’s statue in the Capitol. Every state is allowed two statues and Mother Joseph’s has represented the State of Washington since 1980.
Born of immigrant parents in Martinez, California, Sr. Rita’s family enjoyed music, art and nature while she was growing up. But she always felt a call to serve. It has been strong in her life and she marvels at the path Providence has laid out for her, noting that none of which she would have chosen for herself.
She also recalled some challenging advice she received from a spiritual mentor: “Do you want to do what you want to do, or do you want to do what God wants you to do?”
Sr. Rita thanks God, her family, religious community and friends for all that has been. Providence of God, we thank you for all.