sister rita dooley


August 31, 1918 - June 2, 2011

Gentle, loving, kind and happy

In many ways, Sister Rita Dooley's story parallels the lives of many Sisters of St. Joseph. She grew up in a large, loving family in Peoria, Ill., and, as a high school student at the Academy of Our Lady, she was attracted to the Sisters of St. Joseph. Yet, each story is unique, and hers unfolded with its own set of blessings.

Rita was the middle child in a family of 11 children. When she was 10 years old, she experienced real sorrow at the death of her father. The large family pulled together to help their mother and to care for each other. For all of her formative years, Rita's family lived in Peoria. The children attended St. Mark's Grade School. Afterwards Rita attended the Academy of Our Lady and met the Sisters of St. Joseph for the first time. From the beginning, Rita felt close to them and thought she might want to become one of them.

The sisters often relied on Rita to drive them on Saturday mornings to Chillicothe, where they taught catechism. Seeing the interaction of the sisters with the children, Rita decided that she, too, wanted to teach small children. Growing in her love for the sisters and inspired by their example, Rita decided definitively to enter the community. However, at her mother's insistence, Rita worked for two years at family-owned Dooley Brothers Coal Company after high school graduation before she left home in 1938. 

On March 19, 1939, Rita received the habit and the name Sister Marie Yvonne. After her profession in 1941 and for the next 34 years, S. Rita got her wish to teach "little kids." An exceptionally fine first grade teacher, she fulfilled assignments in St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Peoria, Chicago, Indianapolis, and finally back to Colorado, her favorite spot, but this second time in Littleton. Wherever she lived, her sisters remember her as gentle, kind and happy.

A new ministry focus opened in 1975, that of religious education associate in Ishpeming, Mich. Later she engaged in similar activity in Keshena, Wis. In 1979 she returned to Peoria to become an assistant librarian at the Academy. Except for one year of living at Carondelet in St. Louis, S. Rita spent the remaining active years of her ministry in Peoria.

She lived through many changes and adaptations through her later years. She was part of the merger of Bergen High School with the Academy/Spalding complex, remaining as one of the librarians in the newly named school: Peoria Notre Dame High School. Drawn to her parish RCIA program, she "just went over and gave some suggestions at the introductory meeting," but she stayed the entire year helping the RCIA team and endearing herself to the catechumens. During some of these years, she also cared for family members. For the community, she assisted in making an inventory of every room in their convent on Wagner Lane.

S. Rita was adept at crafts. When Peoria celebrated 300 years, she brought understanding of the city's Indian and French heritage to young children by creating three 42-inch tall historical characters. Additionally, she worked with clay; she also liked to knit and crochet, so much so that she created her own tagline: Dooley's Other Things.

A special prayer centered her life on Jesus. She prayed, "Lord Jesus, I believe You want to reveal Yourself to me, so I ask for the grace to help me to know You. Teach me to receive abundant Life You have for me, knowing that You are always with me."

S. Rita retired to Nazareth Living Center in 2009, where she had time to live her desire for abundant life more fully. She died peacefully on June 2. May she rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner


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