Sister M. Carolita, CSC
(Vivian Berneice Hart)
September 23, 1930 – May 22, 2021
Entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Rochester, Indiana on January 28, 1955
Initial Profession of Vows on August 15, 1957
Sister M. Carolita (Hart) died during the midnight hour of May 22, 2021 at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, Mishawaka, Indiana. Despite years of chronic ill health, she lived to be 90 years old, as a vibrant presence at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana. The Sisters of the Holy Cross now pray Psalm 130 with her, “My soul is longing for the Lord, more than the watchman for daybreak.” Sister Carolita now greets the dawn of risen life.
Vivian Berneice Hart, known as “Bea” at Holy Cross Central School of Nursing in South Bend, Indiana, was a convert to Catholicism in her senior year when a nursing student, inspired by the dedication and altruism of the Sisters of the Holy Cross who staffed the nursing college. Two years later she entered the Congregation January 28, 1955. She received her name in religion six months later in honor of Sister M. Carolita (Davy), CSC, a dying patient she cared for when Bea was still a student but already a very capable nurse. Sister M. Carmen (Davy), CSC, sibling of the first Carolita, says that her sister predicted the young nurse would enter Holy Cross.
The second Sister Carolita was born in Winamac, Indiana, on September 23, 1930. She was the third child in a family of five boys and three girls. Her parents Ernest Wesley Hart and Cecil (Cecilia) Mae Dickinson Hart were farmers. During World War II Mr. Hart later had a government job wiring defense plants and later was a foreman in a trailer factory. As her parents were not Catholics, her parents did not fully comprehend her vocation, yet she persisted. While working at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Cairo, Illinois, she had the guidance of Sister M. Celeste (Harber), CSC, who helped her discern her call. Sister Celeste supported the young nurse’s application to the Sisters of the Holy Cross by writing, “Miss Hart appears to be a young woman of good judgment and strong moral character” who held the respect of the sisters, doctors, and fellow nurses.
Sister Carolita received her B.S. degree in nursing at Saint Mary’s College in 1957 and her M.S. degree in nursing administration from The Catholic University of America in 1963. Since 1957 she had worked in various Holy Cross sponsored hospitals in health care ministry positions such as staff nursing, director of nursing, director of critical care, operating room nurse, emergency room nurse, and staff development. Sister Carolita finished her nursing career as a family nurse practitioner, 1973-1980, first at Northwest Medical Clinic, then Magna Family Center, both located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her next eight years as a hospital administrator were split between Mount Carmel East Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Holy Cross Hospital, now Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, in Mission Hills, California. In 1987 Sister Carolita was elected by the sisters of the Western Region to be regional superior for a three-year term. In 1990 she was called to serve in what was called the Retirement Region for five years at Saint Mary’s Convent at the motherhouse.
What followed was one of Sister Carolita’s most challenging roles, that of Director of Health Affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 1995-2007. In that capacity she advised Cardinal Roger Mahony on health issues for a highly diverse population in the largest city in the United Sates. Sister worked with administrators of hospitals, health systems and nursing homes; and advocated for legislation to make health care more accessible, especially for the poor. In 2005 Sister Carolita and the Sisters of the Holy Cross received Serra Project’s Compassion Award for being instrumental in providing supportive housing for men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS in Los Angeles.
Since 2007 Sister Carolita had participated fully in community life at Saint Mary’s and Rosary Convent serving in various capacities, accepting “retirement” at the end of 2014. The pandemic which hit the United States with full force in 2020, sidelined Sister Carolita and all those living at Saint Mary’s. It was good to see the dining room gradually open again to Sister Carolita and the community living at the motherhouse. Sister Carolita resumed her place at the table, engaged as ever in conversation. Sister had been looking forward to a family reunion in June when she had a sudden health crisis. Her extended family and Holy Cross sisters will now meet her at the table of the Lord, praying, “Remember our sister who has fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection, and all who have died in your mercy. Welcome her into the light of your face.”
You may wish to donate in Sister’s name to the Ministry with the Poor Fund at www.cscsisters.org. Kaniewski Funeral Home is handling the arrangements, with Prayers in the Presence of the body will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, May 27, immediately followed by the Mass of Resurrection at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto. As visitors cannot be welcomed to the church at this time, the Mass will be live streamed from the Church of our Lady of Loretto. Please check the Congregation’s website for details.
---Sister Catherine Osimo, CSC
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Sister M. Carolita, C.S.C. (Vivian Berneice Hart), please visit our floral store.