Birth: November 6, 1913
Profession: April 22, 1941
Death: July 24, 2014
Religious of the Sacred Heart Pierina Maria Pia Ronconi died Thursday, July 24, at Oakwood, the Society of the Sacred Heart’s elder care center in Atherton, California. Remembered as prayerful, faithful and cheerful, she will be missed by her sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart, and all who knew her, including the staff at Oakwood, who took such loving care of her in her final years. Her funeral will be a Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday, September 6th at 10:00 am, celebrated by retired Archbishop John Quinn. Burial will follow in the Sacred Heart cemetary at Oakwood.
Born on November 6, 1913, in the town of Morino, Italy, Pierina was the sixth of seven children born to Michele and Carmela Lee Russo Ronconi. At the age of 100, she was preceded in death by all of her siblings and their children. She is survived by her niece Marie’s husband, Daniel Williams of New Rochelle, New York; three grand-nieces: Cheryl Tortora, Ann Williams and Cynthia Ronconi. a grand nephew, Thomas Donahue, and a number of great-grand-nieces and nephews and their children, as well as more than 2,000 Religious of the Sacred Heart around the world.
Known to all as “Rina,” she grew up knowing she had a call to the religious life. “I guess my vocation to religious life was born with me,” she said. She also had a particular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at the Trinita dei Monti in Rome in 1931. Her final profession was at the Society motherhouse Rome, April 22, 1941.
Although a very bright student, Rina’s education was interrupted at an early age because her town had a school only up to the fifth grade, and her father would not permit his young daughter to travel the 45 minutes by train to the nearest school. So she learned the trade of dressmaking—a skill she found invaluable in later years.
Sister Ronconi moved to Florence in September, 1931 to become a novice. After making first vows on September 29, 1934, she was sent back to the Trinita dei Monti, where, in her own words, “she enjoyed being under the same roof as Mater Admirabilis until August 1943.” She put her dressmaking skills to use making habits.
Sister Ronconi lived through the terrifying days of World War II, when, day and night, planes dropped bombs on the city. Her convent even harbored high-ranking officials being sought by the German Army. The war delayed Sister Ronconi’s dream of becoming a missionary until 1953, when she was at last able to begin the service she felt called to do, but her “mission” was in the United States.
From 1953 through 1964 Sister Ronconi served in the vestry and the children’s cafeteria at Sacred Heart School in Menlo Park, California. In 1964, she moved to Sacred Heart School in El Cajon, California, she made habits and later, assisted the province with the transition from habits to secular attire. During this time she also completed her high school degree and took many courses. She became a United States citizen in 1961.
Sister Ronconi moved to the Convent of the Sacred Heart (Broadway) in San Francisco, to work in the library and the publications and administration offices. She availed herself of lectures at the university nearby, joined the Fromm institute, and took more than fifty college level courses in subjects ranging from math to health science. She was fluent in English, French and Spanish, in addition to her native Italian. She enjoyed being active in her local communities.
Sister Ronconi moved to Oakwood in 2001 and celebrated her 100th birthday there last year.