The remarks of this interviewer are in italics.
(Sister Raynita’s short autobiography, which I used for reference, ends this way, “I pray that I can continue as a Sister of Charity for many more years.” As I visited with Sister Raynita, I knew this is a strong guiding force in her life. May it always be so!)
Elizabeth, called Betty, was born in 1934 to Stephen and Anna Mojsey Kristofco in 1938 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. (Upon asking about the famed flood of 1889 when Johnstown was so devastated, I learned that there is a museum there featuring this horrific event. The city now is in a depressed area and has suffered much loss since the steel mill closed.)
Both of Betty’s parents had been born in Czechoslovakia but they only used the Slovak language if the children were not to hear the conversation. Betty shares that her mother very much wanted to learn English and when Vatican II allowed English in the liturgy, she was most happy. Her father Stephen was a quiet man whose trade was that of stone masonry. He himself cut stones for chimneys and built their own home.
Sister Raynita/Betty shares: “I was the youngest of six; My siblings were two brothers- Ed and Steve, and three sisters-Mary, now deceased, Anne, a Sister of Good Shepherd, and Dorothy. Ours was a close, loving and very faith-filled home. The family attended Mass, CCD classes. Wednesday services in October, Vespers on Sunday afternoon, Stations of the Cross during Lent. We never questioned going to these regular Church devotions.”
Betty had often prayed to know her vocation but somehow it did not seem the right time. The Vincentian Sisters of Charity at St. Francis Church in Johnstown could see that she was inclined toward religious life but every time they asked, Betty had a reason/excuse.
She worked at a bank in Johnstown for ten years. In February 1962 Sister Raymond Cobak, VSC, said to her, “If you are still thinking about entering, this would be a good time. There are several older girls in the postulant group.” (Betty’s response is quite amazing.) She gave notice at work and two weeks later arrived in Pittsburgh at the VSC Motherhouse on McKnight Road.
Betty had fifteen other companions who were in her group. She experienced terrible homesickness for the first few months of her novitiate life. Thankfully, that began to lift after the Christmas season. (Only three of her group of sixteen were in Community to make perpetual vows. It was the 1960’s and many religious orders know the large number of young women who felt the call to life outside Community.)
Upon entering Betty’s life changed right away. She says, “I had had the business track in high school, Johnstown High ,in Johnstown so I was sent to Vincentian High School to get credits in Science, Math, Latin and a refresher course in English. This was to help prepare me for college. “(It would take eight years of Saturday, evening and summer classes to get her degree from Duquesne University in Business Education. This is a story with which many of us can identify.) Her religious name would be “Sister Raynita” and she made first vows in August, 1964.
Raynita’s first mission was Secretary at Vincentian High School in Pittsburgh. Following that year, again in Pittsburgh, she was in the Business Office at Villa de Marillac where she handled the payrolls and bill payments. This year was very difficult because of the death of her mother.
The next two missions, the first of one year, were as an elementary teacher at St. Ursula School in Allison Park, PA and then four years at St. Sebastian School, Pittsburgh. (The year at St. Ursula School was to allow for perpetual vow preparation Teaching younger children must have been quite challenging, considering Sister Raynita’s preparation and experience.)
For one year Raynita taught business classes at Greensburg Central Catholic High School, Greensburg, PA. She had been studying part-time and earned a Master degree in Counseling from Duquesne University. Raynita was missioned to Vincentian High School where she taught business classes, did counseling and then monitored the budget. In 1987 she was asked to serve as Assistant Secretary for the VSC Community and in 1991 she was asked to assume the position of General Secretary, a ministry which lasted until 2008. She is now the Treasurer of the Community of St. Louise and has responsibilities for decorating the dining room area.
We spent time sharing about her sister Ann, now Good Shepherd Sister Anita, presently missioned in Baltimore, Maryland but who has spent many years serving in Guam. Raynita also seems close to the other living members of her family and mentioned traveling to attend a niece’s wedding,
(May Raynita’s desire to be faithful to her calling as a religious sister be her joy and comfort!)
Sister Maria Vincent Brocato, SCN