Sister Rita Downey, OSB, 85, a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration passed away on Nov. 15, 2013, at Our Lady of Rickenbach healthcare facility in Clyde, Mo.
Margaret Mary Rita Downey was born on Jan. 9, 1928, in Kansas City, Kan., and grew up in Kansas City, Mo. Her father, Godfrey Charles Downey, was a lawyer and her mother, Margaret Helen (Leary), was a housewife. She had two older brothers, Bob and Frank, and twin younger sisters, Mary Therese and Mary Jo.
From the time she was 15 years old, she held a part- or full-time job. During summer vacations, she worked as a babysitter, a messenger for an insurance company, as a receptionist in an optical company, a kitchen maid in a hospital and a clerk in a department store. She enjoyed swimming, tennis, bowling and trips to the Lake of the Ozarks.
Rita graduated from Bishop Hogan High School where she played saxophone in the school band and orchestra, was active in drama and was vice-prefect of the girls’ Sodality. She attended college at St. Mary’s in Leavenworth, Kan., and at St. Teresa’s College, now known as Avila College, in Kansas City. She took classes in English and drama and worked in the library during her college years. She also took a drama course offered by the Resident Theatre at the Jewish Community Center and a course in radio production at the University of Kansas City. She eventually left college because she couldn’t settle on a major course of study. She then worked as a clerk at General Hospital.
In February 1950 she made a retreat under Rev. Joseph Freeman, S.J. of Rockhurst College, and it was under his guidance that she reached her decision to enter religious life. She learned about the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from a booklet on St. Gertrude that was printed by the community. Her parents made Holy Hours at the Kansas City Convent, though she didn’t know it was the same congregation until after her acquaintance with Clyde.
Rita entered at Clyde on April 8, 1951. She made First Profession on Oct. 5, 1952, and was given the religious name Sister Mary Clarita. She returned to the name Rita when given that option in the post-Vatican II years. She made Final Profession on Oct. 5, 1957, with Sister Mary Nichola Lauer, OSB, Sister Mary Anita Valdez, OSB and Sister Mary Benita Luetkemeyer, OSB as companions.
She lived in the following monasteries of the Congregation during her religious life: Clyde, San Diego, Kansas City, Tucson, Ariz., St. Louis, San Benito in Dayton, Wyo., and Sand Springs, Okla. Throughout the years, she worked in the correspondence department, altar bread department and as portress and procuratrix. She also served as postulant director, subprioress in Kansas City in 1968 and prioress of St. Louis from 1978 to 1983.
Rita was a life-long learner and took classes at various times throughout her life. She took undergraduate courses at Conception Seminary College from 1971 to 1972. She completed a bachelor’s of arts degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1975 and earned a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Arizona two years later.
She honed her creative skills by taking art classes while living in San Diego and also took castanet and flamenco dance classes. While living in San Benito, she took courses in data processing at the local high school and in accounting from Sheridan College in Sheridan, Wyo.
From 2007 to 2013, Sister Rita resided in an assisted living facility in Broken Arrow, Okla. She returned to Clyde to live in Our Lady of Rickenbach until her death.
A wake for Sister Rita was held on Nov. 18, and the Mass of Christian Burial took place on Nov. 19 with Fr. Xavier Nacke, OSB presiding. Sister Rita is survived by her monastic family and her sister, Sister Mary Jo Downey, SCL.
May Sister Rita be blessed for her devotion to the Lord and her commitment and fidelity to monastic life.