OCTOBER 2001: SISTER RITAMARY BROWN
From Farm Girl to Hospital Administrator
Sister Ritamary Brown presents the picture of the sophisticated hospital administrator at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, Illinois. How did this farm girl from central Illinois find her way to the role of hospital administrator?
Sister Ritamary was born in Farmersville, Illinois into a large Irish family. She was raised on a large farm along with her three brothers and five sisters. She relates that her family had all the markings of a traditional Irish Catholic household: prayers at mealtime, mandatory Sunday Mass, May altars, and rosaries as a family during the Lenten Season. Happiness abounded in the Brown household.
An Aunt's Influence
Despite an active social live, Sister Ritamary felt drawn to religious life from early childhood. This could have been influenced by the fact that she has an aunt who is a member of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. Sister Leola Brown was a significant presence in Sister Ritamary’s life. Childhood memories of visits to the Motherhouse in Springfield remain vivid in her mind. She was “awe struck” by the Sisters and the magnitude of the Motherhouse complex. She always knew in her heart that she would live out her life as a member of the Hospital Sisters.
The six Brown girls knew that Sister Leola had a deep desire for one of them to follow her example and join the Hospital Sisters. They often told friends and relatives that one or the other was thinking of entering the Community. But Sister Ritamary always denied her intentions so others would not think she was “different.” However, following graduation from high school in 1957, Sister Ritamary did indeed join the Hospital Sisters and begin her religious formation.
Her New Service Begins
Sister Ritamary professed her religious vows on September 8, 1960. After completing two years of study at Springfield College in Illinois, she attended Fontbonne College in St. Louis, Missouri. She earned a degree in dietetics and worked as a dietitian in several of the Order’s hospitals. She obtained a Masters Degree in Dietetics from Purdue University in 1972 and served as Director of Food Service at St. John’s Hospital, Springfield, Illinois until 1984.
At that time, Sister Ritamary began her administrative education at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio where she earned a Masters Degree in Health Administration. Part of this educational experience included an administrative residency at Humana Hospital Suburban in Louisville, Kentucky. She has been serving as Assistant Administrator at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville since October of 1986.
Sister Ritamary relates that the Community has provided her with enormous opportunities for personal growth and excellent educational experiences. She has shared life with wonderful women in religious life. She values daily opportunities to live the mission of the Hospital Sisters and is grateful for that.
In closing, she wanted to share with the readers her belief that “a Franciscan vocation to a community dedicated to health care has been a blessing and a gift for me and has brought me true happiness!”