Sister Rita Edward Karnell died on May 6, 2023, and was buried on May 12, 2023, at Saint Joseph Villa. Patricia was the only child of Albert and Eleanor Karnell. Both of her parents worked so she spent much of her after school hours playing outdoors with the neighbors. She also had close relationships with her extended family, especially her Aunt Rita and Uncle Edward. They became another set of parents to the young Patricia. Growing up during the Depression, she began early to help with the family finances, delivering papers while in grade school, and then working as a typist in high school. She lived just blocks away from West Catholic, so it was an easy trip for her and her neighborhood friends. Rita said of herself, “I wasn’t the brightest ball in the block, but God did his best with me and all of us.” She met the Sisters of Saint Joseph at West, and was influenced to consider a religious vocation. After her graduation in 1952, Patricia under the sponsorship of S. Ann Bernard Carlin, entered the Congregation. Patricia received the name Rita Edward, honoring her aunt and uncle.
After five years of teaching in grade school, Rita was missioned to St. Ann Commercial School to continue a career she started back in high school. She ministered in business education until others noticed her professional skills. Rita spent over 20 years serving as school secretaries both in Philadelphia and at the Villa. She described these years as “never a dull ride.” She believed that God had her where He wanted her as she provided care for her mother and also her aunt. Rita assessed her talents as singing and helping. This sister was a worker- anyone who lived with her would attest to that.
At the Villa, she read the life of Sister Thea Bowman and her simplicity impressed Rita. She felt that God was directing her in this same direction. Rita loved her life here at the Villa, especially singing in the choir. Rita observed that “the difference between me and other people is that I am content to do my little bit.” Rita’s “little bit” let her light shine for 90 years, more than 70 as a Sister of Saint Joseph. May she now be reunited with her parents and her aunt and uncle and live on in the heart of our God . Rest in peace, Rita.