Born Mary Rita Klarer, she was the fifth of eight children of Leo and Rudina (Bauer) Klarer. On Sunday, Jan. 3, 1926, after her parents returned from Mass, Rita was born in the family home and baptized the following Sunday at St. Columba Church. Hoping for a large family, her parents built a large home in sight of the Ohio River. Except for a few years during the Depression, this was Rita’s home until 1946. After completing high school at Presentation Academy and three semesters at Nazareth College, Rita entered the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. After professing her vows, she began a teaching career that spanned 26 years in Kentucky and Nebraska, loving students in every grade from primary to seniors in high school, specializing in math and physics.
After completing her bachelor’s degree in math, she earned a master’s in math/education from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a master’s in theology/pastoral ministry from Loyola University in New Orleans. She also participated in summer sessions at Worcester (Mass.) Polytechnic, Florida Technological Institute in Orlando and the Spirituality Program at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
In 1974 she moved to Kansas City to accept an education position at the Municipal Correctional Institution, a minimum security facility for men and women. Within two years, she became director of Social Services, a position she held for more than 12 years.
After leaving MCI, she served in various capacities at St. John Diocesan Center while also serving at Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City. She then served seven years as chaplain at Children’s Mercy Hospital, mainly being called upon for traumas, emergencies and/or the deaths of infants or children. She was called upon to baptize about 200 infants facing death. She thought this mission was one of the most challenging and rewarding of all she had been called to do.
After leaving the hospital ministry, she was blessed to be accepted as a pastoral care minister at St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, where she came to know and love some of the finest people on the face of the earth. She retired to the Motherhouse in 2011.
Rita was preceded in death by her parents, five brothers and two sisters. She is survived by 20 nieces and nephews, and many great and great-great ones, along with her religious community. Rather than flowers, donations to the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, 8001 Cummings Road, Maple Mount, KY 42356, or St. Patrick Church will bear fruit for many years.
The funeral Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 15 at Mount Saint Joseph, where visitation will begin Monday at 4 p.m., with a wake service following at 6:30 p.m.
Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory, Owensboro, is in charge of arrangements.