sister rita flaherty, csj

(Sister Marie Edouardo)
December 23, 1919 - July 19, 2017

“... kind, thoughtful, gracious ... good sense of humor” 
Sister Paulette Gladis

Edward and Mary (Best) Flaherty of Kansas City, Missouri, welcomed their daughter, Rita, December 23, 1919. She had an older brother, Ed, and later a younger brother, Don. Rita attended St. Elizabeth School, St. Teresa Academy, and then continued into the junior college, graduating in 1938. After Mass one day, Sister Anna Mary Halpin stopped Rita to ask her when she was going to think about a vocation. Several weeks later, she invited Rita into the convent and told her that she would help her write a letter to Carondelet—
and did.

Rita entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 12, 1938, and was received March 19, 1939 as Sister Marie Edouarda. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Fontbonne College (1946), and a master’s in mathematics from St. Louis University (1951). 

Sister taught primary students in St. Louis at Holy Rosary (1941); St Leo (1945), and St. Louis Cathedral (1946). In 1951, she taught at St. James in Denver, Colorado, then spent the following year at Our Lady of Lourdes, Raytown, Missouri. Next Sister Rita moved into secondary education teaching mathematics at these schools: St. Francis de Sales, Denver (1953); Redemptorist, Kansas City (1956); Reicher, Waco, Texas (1962) and at Rosati-Kain, St. Louis (1963). Then Sister Rita taught mathematics at Avila College/University in Kansas City (1968–1986).

Sister Ruth Stuckel, who lived with her at Avila, and was her spiritual companion for 30 years says, "It was her simple ‘knowing’ that struck me about her ‘inner guidance,’ which kept her centered and compassionate ... Her outstanding gentleness never failed even when there were troublesome times. [She] was prayerful, thoughtful, and genuinely kind." Another voice from Avila, Sister Rosemary Flanigan, shares, "She was a dear, good, humble sister."

Moving out of education, Sister Rita next ministered in medical records and then as receptionist in the business office at St. Joseph Medical Center, Kansas City. In 1994, she returned to St. Louis to serve as hospitality coordinator for Nazareth Living Center until 2004, when she retired. Rita McGovern, CSJ, who worked with her at Nazareth shares that Sister Rita was "a faithful Sister of St Joseph, a faithful friend to me and loved by so many others. She welcomed so many dear neighbors to join the CSJs in living with our charism at Nazareth. What a blessing she has been to us all."

Other comments:

A Story from Helen Petropoulos: Sister Rita mentioned to her that she hoped she never did anything to hurt her students. Helen never had the heart to tell her this story. It happened when she was in her second grade class. There was a mission raffle. First prize was a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on a stand. A rosary was inside the stand behind a door. Helen really wanted the statue and bought many chances. On the day of the drawing the first name pulled out was Helen's, but Sister Rita gave her the peppermint sucker.

I cried for weeks!! Now I know the reason for that action was kindness. I was not Catholic (Greek Orthodox) but attending a Catholic school. Sister Rita did not want to offend my family by sending home a religious object that could be misunderstood by my parents. Yesterday I went out and bought some peppermint candy in her honor! She was a dear, loving, caring person.

Sister Rita was very outgoing and always had a pleasant greeting and time to talk. —Patrick McDowell, CSJA

Rita was, for me, the epitome of what a Sister of St. Joseph should be—gentle, prayerful, caring and thoughtful of others.

—Maryellen Tierney, CSJ

 By Sister Helen Oates

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