Sister Rudina (Rita) Klarer turns a life of obstacles into an opportunity to serve

A child of the war

Sister Rita was born in Louisville in 1926, the fifth child of Leo and Rudina Klarer, who would eventually have eight children. Sister Rita is the only one of the children still living.

“I could easily say my first memory was death, my little brother Jimmy,” who died before his first birthday, she said. Her grandfather lived with the family and he died when she was in the 7th grade, then her father died the next year, at age 46. Also during that year, Sister Rita had a severe case of streptococcus, and the doctor told her parents her only hope for survival was the experimental drug sulfanilamide. The drug, and a lot of prayers, cured her.

It seemed the Klarer family could not escape tragedy. During Sister Rita’s freshman year of high school, her older brother Bud died following an operation. World War II was ongoing at this time and both her brothers Bill and Rudy served in battle. Rudy was on a football scholarship at the University of Tennessee and played in the Sugar Bowl as a sophomore before enlisting in the service. He was killed in combat in June 1945, earning the Silver Star for bravery, as he died protecting the lives of the men under his command. His No. 49 is one of seven numbers retired by the University of Tennessee.

Sister Rita holds the framed jersey of her brother, Rudy Klarer, as she stands next to former University of Tennessee head coach Phil Fulmer the day her brother’s jersey was retired. Rudy Klarer was killed in battle during World War II.

Sister Rita earned a scholarship to Nazareth College in Louisville (now Spalding University), but with her mother having to take over the family building supply business, she thought perhaps she should drop out and help with the business. Her brothers urged her to continue her education and she earned her degree. “I think I became a support for my mother,” she said.

For a few years, Sister Rita was thinking about becoming a sister. “I was taught by the Sisters of Charity in high school and college, but I was taught by Ursulines in elementary school at St. Columba,” she said. “I fell in love with the Ursulines. I liked every teacher I had at St. Columba.”

“No one expected me to become a nun,” she said. “When I told some of my college friends, they placed bets on how long I’d last. Maybe it’s time for me to collect.”

She was one of six postulants entering in February 1946, and they referred to themselves as the “six Jell-Os.” She was “lime,” because she was the sixth. Her lone remaining classmate is Sister Mary Irene Cecil, who was orange.



  1. Teresa Weaver

    I knew Sr.Rita in her ministry at the Kansas City Correctional Center, or as it was known at one time the “Farm” since it was someone isolated. At that time I was a Probation and Parole Officer for the State of MO and on occasion had to visit a client who was in the “farm”. I also believe she worked at the Job Corp in Excelsior Springs, MO. I supervised young women who were placed there, this, when I worked for the State Of MO training school in Chillicothe, MO

  2. Sister Eileen Howard osu

    I lived with Sr. Rita on one of our first missions and I can say I never lived with a more talented and generous person. It was a blessing for me!….And now near the end of our earthly pilgrimage we are living together again in our beloved home of Maple Mount. Here again I witness her graced determination to make every moment count on her way to our heavenly home!

  3. Mary Madsen Pichler

    Dear Sister (Rudina) Rita,
    You were a “light” at Lourdes in Nebraska City – such passion and energy. We had no idea about your personal traumas. I’m blessed to receive this article at this time as I go through my own struggle with Multiple Sclerosis. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  4. Mary Madsen Pichler

    Dear Sr.(Rudina) Rita, I remember your “light” at Lourdes in Nebraska City – such passion and energy! We never knew about your traumas. I wish you a joyful life as you have given joy to so many. I send my thoughts and prayers.
    I still have the small address book you gave me for graduation in 1970. It is creased, worn and ragged – just like me!

  5. Pam Knudson

    Everyone here at St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, MO love Sr. Rita Klarer. We always say she’s our Saint in our small part of the world. Sr. Rita has taught me so many things, and I can never thank her enough for all she has done for our Parish, and for each of us in our own personal ways!

  6. Lupe Clouse

    What a beautiful story of Sr. Rita’s life. Sr. Rita, Thank you for being the person God called you to be and so much more! I miss your presence and big smile at St. Pat’s. May God’s love, care, grace & peace continue to be with you always.

  7. Doug and Maria Eades

    Having Sr. Rita as a friend is one of God’s best blessings in our lives. She truly cares. She even took time from her busy schedule to visit our Mom and Dad in their last years. Sister, we miss you, we love you, we thank God for lending you to us for awhile. Thank you for everything you have done for us.

  8. Vincent & Santa Mary Galate

    Sister Rita,
    Has always found the termination, endurance and commitment to her community.
    Her sincere concern for animals.
    Along the way, she gave use one of her new Cockateels. She named him St. Anthony, later Sister Rita allowed me to rename him Louie, and continues to live with us these past 22 years.

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