We remember . . . Elizabeth “Betty” Ruza, SSJ

Elizabeth (Betty) Ruza, SSJ, age 87, of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania, died on December 15, 2023. She was in the 69th year of her religious life. Sister Betty, formerly Sister Mary Olive, was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, on April 1, 1936, the daughter of the late Stephen and Anna Ruza. She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in September 1954 from Holy Family Parish in Erie and professed her final vows on August 15, 1960. She credited her parents and the teachers at Holy Family School and Villa Maria Academy, including Sister Emilene Pfister, for inspiring her values and vocation.

Sister Betty graduated from Villa Maria Academy in 1954 and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Villa Maria College, Erie, in 1963. She did additional studies at St. Francis College in Fort Wayne, Indiana; St. Scholastica College in Duluth, Minnesota; and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro, Pennsylvania. She also earned a gerontology certificate from Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Sister Betty served in the education ministry for most of her religious life. She spoke fondly of the 25 years she spent teaching at numerous Erie Diocesan schools, including Holy Rosary, Sacred Heart, St. Peter Cathedral, and Villa Elementary schools in Erie, Pennsylvania; St. Leo School, Ridgway, Pennsylvania; Seton School, Meadville, Pennsylvania; and Holy Spirit School in Columbus, Ohio. Sister Betty also taught religious education at schools in Farrell, PA, and was the weekend religious education coordinator at parishes in Lawrence Park, Conneaut Lake, and Farrell, Pennsylvania.

The reforms of Vatican II inspired Sister Betty and led to her involvement in the Cursillo movement, Charismatic Renewal, House of Prayer, and L’Arche.

In addition to teaching, Sister Betty spent two summers volunteering in Appalachia, served in the mailroom at Saint Vincent Hospital, the kitchen at Villa Maria Elementary School, and the Sisters of St. Joseph Community Living Center. She served as an activity aide at Saint Mary’s Home in Erie for 18 years and was a pastoral team member.  

In addition to her parents, Sister Betty was preceded in death by a sister, Agnes Priscaro. She is survived by her sister, Maria Assumpta Ruza, SSJ, and her nephews, Fr. Jerry Priscaro, Mark Priscaro, and Jon Priscaro. She is also survived by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Friends may call at the Sisters of St. Joseph Community Living Center, 5031 West Ridge Road, Erie, on Tuesday, December 19, 2023, from 1 to 3:45 p.m. Sharing of memories will occur at 1 p.m. followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 4:00 p.m. The Mass will be live-streamed on the Sisters of St. Joseph Facebook page and the SSJ Erie YouTube channel. The interment will be at Calvary Cemetery.

Memorials may be made to the Sisters of St. Joseph Mission & Ministries Foundation, 5031 West Ridge Road, Erie, PA, 16506-1249. The Brugger Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

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