Sister M. Rita O’Leary, formerly Sister Rita Regina, died peacefully in Camilla Hall on Thursday, Feb. 25 in the 65th year of her religious life. She was 85.
Sister Rita was born on Aug. 31, 1935, in Harrisburg. Her parents, James and Emma Elizabeth (Hatton) O’Leary, raised their family in the Cathedral Parish of St. Patrick in Harrisburg. Rita attended St. Patrick Cathedral Elementary School and Harrisburg Catholic High School (later named Bishop McDevitt). Rita graduated from “Catholic High” in 1953, and after graduation she attended College of Mount St. Joseph On-the-Ohio for one year. Later, while in Community, Sister earned degrees from Immaculata College, West Chester State College, and Catholic University of America.
She entered the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Sept. 8, 1954; she received her religious habit and her religious name, Sister Rita Regina, on March 8, 1955. Sister pronounced her First Vows on March 10, 1957. Almost immediately after making her first vows, she went to Allentown Catholic High School in March 1957 to teach Music and English.
From the fall of 1957 through the end of the school year in 1962, Sister taught at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern, Pa. During her five years at the Academy, she taught children in grades 3-4 and Music; and 7-8 and Music.
When Sister Rita left the Academy in 1962, she went south to SS. Peter and Paul in Decatur, Ga. She taught children in grades 5-6 and her classroom-teaching schedule included teaching Music as well.
Community leadership assigned Sister Rita to Immaculata College in the fall of 1971. She was a full-time member of the Music Department and became Dean of Students at Immaculata in 1973, serving in this capacity until 1985.
In the fall of 1985, Sister Rita went to St. Michael Convent/School in Annandale, Va., where she served as Superior/Vice Principal/Music Instructor.
During Sister Rita’s tenure at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School from 1988 through August 2002, she served as Prefect of Studies until 1990 then as Principal until August 2002.
After leaving Lourdes, Sister brought a brand new set of gifts and skills to Bishop McDevitt High School and beyond. She ministered as the Development Director/Alumni Relations during her four years at McDevitt. In the fall of 2003, Sister Rita left McDevitt and returned to Immaculata University, where she served as the Director of Planned Giving until August 2017, when she went to Camilla Hall. Her new ministry was the Apostolate of Prayer and Service. Sister Rita joyfully carried out her new mission until she closed her eyes for the last time on Feb. 25, 2021.
Sister Rita’s Funeral Liturgy will be celebrated at Camilla Hall on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 10:30 a.m., attended by a limited number of family members and Sisters in the community. Live streaming of her Funeral Mass will begin at 10:30 a.m. and can be accessed at https://youtu.be/phfuwqwvwKw.
Sister Rita’s parents, James and Emma (Hatton) O’Leary, and her brother James predecease her. In addition to her Congregation of IHM Sisters, she is survived by brothers and sisters-in-law Joseph (Victoria), John (Joanne), Jerome (Anna Marie), Raymond (Mary Ann) and Olga (James).
Memorial donations may be sent to Camilla Hall Nursing Home, IHM Mission Advancement Office, 230 IHM Drive, Malvern, PA 19355.