Rita Myers was a very special woman of immense faith and great love. She was also a dear friend of mine, and a friend to the many people over the years who have come to Catholic Social Services’ Martha’s Choice Marketplace food pantry in Norristown. She passed away last week after a life well lived, dedicated to love and prayer.
I met Rita almost nine years ago when I first came to Martha’s. She had been volunteering in the food pantry for years and helped show me the ropes, and most importantly, introduced me to the many guests of the pantry, and the volunteers.
She rarely missed a morning pantry opening. She was often the first person there, since she arrived on public transit. We would talk on those early mornings, and I really cherished those talks.
Rita emanated a kind of joyful peace, the kind of peace that reminds you that life is indeed beautiful, even in the face of pain and difficulty. Her love and joy came from a deep well, which was fed daily with devout and uniquely authentic prayer.
She was a Third Order Franciscan, and I was always so grateful for the warm and welcoming Franciscan spirit of humble, joy filled service that she brought to our community. She also was involved in the Church in many ways, including a prayer group that would meet in the chapel above the pantry.
When I first met Rita, I was not what you would call a praying man. In fact, I was in the midst of a great deal of spiritual pain at that time. Slowly, over those first years, being around her helped bring me back into relationship with God. I was so moved by the grace and peace I so often felt around Rita, I started asking her to pray with me before the pantry opened, and before anyone else got there. We’d pray for everyone that would walk through our doors, and we’d pray for each other.
Those special moments of prayer were some of the most meaningful in my life. The simplicity and purity of her prayer were such that it brought to mind the reality of who we were praying to. It let you feel God’s presence.
Some people are just so full of the Spirit of God that you can see right through them to Him. Rita was like that. Rita shined that same grace she glowed in moments of prayer, with our guests as they came to pick out their food.
I am sure that her smiles and warmth meant a lot to our friends who came to Martha’s for food. It was normal for her to embrace old friends, or call up an inside joke that would make them feel they belonged. Her typical position was guiding people through the dairy section. The dairy fridges will always remind me of her. My morning alarm still reminds me of her, because especially in the winter, I’d want to get up early to beat her there.
Everybody loved Rita, and she really brought the best out in all of us. She will be so sorely missed by her Martha’s family!
May God grant her the everlasting peace she so much deserves, and may her memory be eternal!
Patrick Walsh is the Director of Programs at Catholic Social Services’ Martha’s Choice Marketplace located in Norristown.
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