This month, Sr. Rita Mary Harwood, SND, joins Generative Spirits to reflect on more than 25 years working for the Diocese of Cleveland, where she initiated ministries to several historically marginalized groups, including the incarcerated, the LGBTQ community, migrant families and refugees.
In August 2021, Sr. Rita Mary retired from the Diocese, where she had most recently led the Secretariat for Parish Life and Development. Sr. Rita Mary has supported multiple ministries, including chairing Church in the City in 1994 and leading the Welcoming the Stranger committee, a group of professionals committed to the rights and needs of migrants and refugees. She began her work at the Diocese in 1995, with responsibilities for the parishes of the eight-county diocese and the offices that are in service to those parishes, as well as all the lay organizations and ethnic ministries of the diocese.
After joining Bishop Anthony Pilla’s staff in 1995, Sr. Rita Mary set out to initiate several ministries within the Diocese. The Diocesan Ministry to the Incarcerated and their families, the Gay and Lesbian Family Ministry, the expansion of the ministry to the migrant community and development of the Asian and African Catholic Ministry are all facilitated by Sr. Rita Mary.
Sr. Rita Mary served as a teacher, administrator and supervisor of schools before joining the staff at the Diocese of Cleveland. Sr. Rita Mary was also Major Superior of the Sisters of Notre Dame for nine years.
We have gotten to know Sr. Rita Mary through the Welcoming the Stranger committee, and we are excited to share this conversation about her experience in ministry, her lifelong service, Cleveland’s immigrant community and a brief reflection on the late Bishop Pilla.
1. To learn more about Church In The City, visit https://teachingcleveland.org/church-in-the-city-initative-from-cleveland-bishop-pilla-1990s/
2. To learn more about the Welcoming the Stranger committee, visit https://www.dioceseofcleveland.org/offices/parish-life/immigrants-refugees-people-on-the-move
4. To support the Immigrant Assistance Fund, please visit https://www.catholiccommunity.org/ways-to-give/donate/immigrant-assistance-fund
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