Age 96

Whether teaching, nursing at the bedside, or working in patient relations, Sister Mary Rita’s great love for those in her care was clearly evident. Her gentle smile, calm demeanor and healing touch reassured many a frightened child and distraught parent.

Entering the Sisters of Mercy in Merion, Pennsylvania, at the age of 18, Sister Mary Rita taught elementary school children in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for four years before entering nursing school at Mercy Fitzgerlad Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania, and becoming a registered nurse. She held a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and master degrees in maternal and child health from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and in human development and holistic counseling from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island.

In her extensive nursing career, she served as a pediatric nurse for 20 years at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital and as an instructor in nursing education at Gwynedd-Mercy College in Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania. Her students learned not just the science behind their chosen career, but also the many ways to share and demonstrate the mercy of God to their patients.

In 1994 she took on a new role in patient relations at Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia, working in mission services for twenty years. In the third chapter of the Original Rule of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley advises her sisters that “great tenderness must be employed” in caring for the sick.  Sister Mary Rita’s motto, “All for Thee, Heart of Jesus,” centered her heart in God.  From that heart came great tenderness.     

When Sister Mary Rita moved to McAuley Convent, Merion, Pennsylvania in 2014, she did not know that she who had demonstrated great tenderness throughout her life would now be the recipient of such tenderness. The virtue of long- suffering was her constant companion. She continued to teach those who visited or cared for her without saying a word.