|Würzburg - Germany
October 7, 2011
Throughout the present year, 2011, the Augustinian Sisters of Saint Rita (Ritaschwestern) are celebrating the 100th anniversary of their foundation as a religious congregation.
In 1911 Father Hugolinus Dach, a German friar, troubled by the effects of depressed economic conditions he encountered in his ministry, gathered a small group of women to meet a pressing need of many families. At times fathers were forced to live away from home in order to obtain whatever employment they could find, sometimes in distant places, and mothers were left alone to care for families often burdened with poverty and illness. When these mothers themselves became ill or unable to manage alone, there would now be a band of women to assist them in the care of their children and the upkeep of their homes. The initiative was originally conceived as a lay organization and bore the name "Association for the Care of the Sick of the Third Order of Saint Augustine". Its foundation date was October 8, 1911 and its place of origin, Wurzburg, Germany. From the beginning they lived together in community and in 1917 began to wear the religious habit and to take religious vows. The Ordinary of Wurzburg approved their Constitutions in 1936 and they were aggregated to the Augustinian Order that same year.
The four founding sisters of the Congregation were, from left to right in the accompanying photo, Joseph Bier, Christina Halbritter, Rita Wagner - the first superior general - and Hildegard Swierczek. The founder of the community, Father Dach, was professed as a member of the German Province in 1894 at the age of 25 and was ordained priest in 1897. It was through his ministry as preacher of parish missions and retreats that he became aware of the great needs of many families and conceived an association of health care workers to assist them under the patronage of Saint Rita to whom Father Hugolin was very devoted. His death in 1918, at the age of 48, was a great loss for the fledgling community.
Over the years, with changes in society and in families, the Sisters extended their activity to the care of the ill in general, to the education of children in nursery schools, as well as work in parishes. From their original foundation in Wurzburg they opened other houses in the United States and Canada and in Switzerland.