February 8, 1926 – October 20, 2015
Sister Rita Marie Stein grew up on the west side of downtown, Cincinnati. She was the fourth child and first daughter of William and Isabelle Stein. Eventually her siblings would number ten: five brothers (three older and two younger) and five sisters. She grew up in Saint Henry Parish where the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur taught in the parish school, however she may have met the Sisters of Notre Dame first through a visit to her aunt, Sister Anna Therese. Rita attended St. Henry’s and then St. Augustine parish school where the Sisters of Notre Dame also ministered. She finished grade school in the middle of the great depression. She did not go on to high school, but instead took a vocational course in sewing. Then she went to work in a local factory sewing piece work from 1942-1945. She worked as a re-weaver from 1945-1948, meticulously weaving thread by thread to make holes and tears in fabric disappear.
Rita did not think of entering religious life until after she visited her sister who was a postulant with the Oldenburg Franciscans. She said, “After that I kept hearing a voice which kept saying, come and see. This was early in 1948. I tried to ignore it, but it did not go away. Later that spring I went to Mt. Notre Dame. Soon after that I found myself preparing to enter in September.” Decades later Rita was asked to describe the most meaningful moment of her life as a Sister of Notre Dame. She replied, “I would say the day of my final vows, for only then was I sure that I had made the right decision.”
Rita received the name Sister Ann Lucia, and the community put her needle to work making and repairing habits, a ministry she did for nineteen years. In the 1960’s things began to change. Sister Ann Lucia changed with the community. She completed a course of studies in Catholic Doctrine for Catechists with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and was certified to teach religion to public school students and train lay catechists in 1966. She completed her high school education in 1967, studying around her duties as Black Clotheskeeper. She felt drawn to reach out to the economically disadvantaged and tested the waters by volunteering with a number of Sisters to serve at the De Porres Center in downtown Cincinnati. There she conducted classes in sewing and arts and crafts. She found she enjoyed working with the adolescents and adults who came to the Center. Renewal brought an end to the need for making habits as Sisters moved into secular clothing. Rita returned to her baptismal name and received permission to begin degree work in preparation for teaching.
Rita’s desire to teach took her to St. Agnes Parish School, and later to Dayton Catholic Elementary School, where she developed Home Economics programs for the students. She was very effective at motivating and understanding her students. She got to know each student individually and helped them to discover their capabilities and to grow them. Her simple way of being and her calm, positive presence counterbalanced the fear and anxiety so many of the young people lived with. In her evaluator’s words, “Sr. Rita Stein is a quiet, strong leader who knows what her goals are, and the manner in which it would be most successful to attain them.” In addition to her work in the schools, Rita also taught adult classes in sewing and nutrition to people from the neighborhood. With the other Sisters of the St. Agnes Community, she experienced the horror and trauma of Sister Donna Blaul’s murder on September 19, 1977.
Rita returned to Mount Notre Dame in 1979, this time to manage the kitchen. She oversaw ordering, menu development, meal preparation and managed a small staff that produced three meals a day for a community of well over 100.
In 1982 Rita opened Stein’s Clothing Creations. This was a service for the Sisters of the Ohio Province. Sisters could consult with her about patterns and fabrics, and then supply the chosen materials to Rita who would create the dress, suit, blouse or skirt – whatever the Sister needed. She would do alterations and mending as well. Once again she was plying her needle to dress the Sisters. She created garments that were simple in their lines but meticulous in their detail. The quality of her creations was such that today some Sisters are still wearing garments Rita made for them decades ago.
Rita was deeply spiritual, desiring only to deepen her union with God. She appreciated one to one interactions with her Sisters. She was an excellent listener, direct in voicing her opinions, and quietly affirmed the gifts she saw in those around her. Rita could often be found in the evening serving as receptionist for the community, her hands busy doing all kinds of needlecraft as she stayed available to answer the phone or the door. All of her different ministries lent themselves to contemplation. As she sewed, she prayed for the needs of her family, for the needs of her Sisters, for the needs of her friends and former students and for the needs of the world. In the last years of her life her prayer continued as she offered her being for all those she loved and who were in need. Now we rejoice with Rita that her suffering is ended and she has been called home by our good God. We count on her continued prayers for us.
…Always seek what is good both for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18
Born February 8, 1926 in Cincinnati, Ohio
Parents: William John Stein (born in Cincinnati, Ohio) and Isabella Maria Boller (born in Cincinnati, Ohio)
Siblings: Richard Stein, Robert Stein, Carl Stein, Ruth Conroy, Sr. Jacinta Stein OSF, Marianna Hungler, Joan Brassfield, William Stein, Betty Seay, James Stein
Baptized February 14, 1927 at St. Henry Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
Confirmed April 4, 1937 at St. Henry Church, Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered September 4, 1948 at Mount Notre Dame
First Profession: March 8, 1951
Final Profession: August 13, 1956
University of Dayton, BS in Home Economics 1971
1951-1961 Black Clotheskeeper , the Summit, Cincinnati, Ohio
1961-1968 Black Clotheskeeper, Mount Notre Dame, Reading, Ohio
1968-1971 Student, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio
1971-1974 Home Economics, St. Agnes Parish School, Dayton, Ohio
1972-1979 Home Economics, Dayton Catholic & St. Agnes Schools, Dayton, Ohio
1979-1982 Food Service Manager, Mount Notre Dame, Reading Ohio
1982-2006 Stein’s Clothing Creations, Mount Notre Dame Convent, Reading, Ohio
2007-2015 Ministry of Prayer at Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Died October 20, 2015 at Mount Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Sister Kim Dalgarn, SNDdeN
October 20, 2015