Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

And Big Sister Will Be Watching

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

And Big Sister Will Be Watching

Article excerpt

BISHOPS MUST look up to God. And when Justin F. Rigali settles in St. Louis as the new archbishop, he'll also be looking up to his big sister. The large windows in Sister Charlotte Rigali's law office overlook the bishop's parking place at the Chancery Office.

"Big Sister will be watching," she said.

Her usually reserved demeanor fell away, and the Sister of St. Joseph chuckled with delight at the thought of watching her little brother's comings and goings.

She is one of five canon lawyers, the only woman, with the archdiocese marriage tribunal court. Her assignment is to be the lawyer who "defends the (validity of a marriage) bond." She explores the reasons a bond may exist. Canon lawyers on the opposing side look for reasons that the bond may not.

She became a canon lawyer after more than 35 years of teaching high school. She spent 1981 to 1986 in Rome studying canon law and then was assigned to St. Louis four years ago.

The bonus of studying in Rome was being near her youngest brother. The pair frequently dined together at Roberto's and other small Roman restaurants, and she's looking forward to more dinners together here.

When Justin Rigali was born in 1935, Charlotte was staying in Boston. She had been sent at age 9 to cheer her ailing grandmother and stayed four years to attend school in Boston.

"Mother had taught in the Boston public schools and thought they were the best in the country," she said.

When baby Justin was a few months old, their father, Henry A. Rigali, called Charlotte home to help with the baby. Their family, like many families in the depths of the Great Depression, was concerned with stretching its dollars and its food to feed seven children.

"We had an ordinary life, a very pedestrian life," she said. "Our family was just managing to stay alive. Mother stayed home with us." Her father was involved in the real estate business and later was an accountant. Their parents made them understand their education was important.

"Mother had a great respect for education," she said. And, a great sense of humor.

"Mother would say things with a straight face that were so funny, and I used to think, `She knows she's funny, doesn't she?' "

The half-Irish, half-Italian family didn't live in an ethnic neighborhood or parish, and she recalls no involvement with either group's celebrations. The only Italian she recalls hearing as a child was her Grandfather Rigali calling the little ones bambinos. Now, she celebrates both.

This week she'll celebrate her Irish roots on St. Patrick's Day, her Italian roots on Saturday, which is St. Joseph's Day, and, of course, the installation Wednesday.

"I always love a party," she said. Charlotte and Justin Rigali's three surviving siblings and many nieces and nephews will be here for the installation.

In addition to Charlotte and Justin, another brother, Norbert, chose a religious life. …

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