September 19, 1928 – December 27, 2016
“One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek: to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life…” (Psalm 27:4)
The Schirtzinger family had been blessed with five boys by the time their first daughter was born. To their dismay the doctor told them he didn’t think the baby would live through the night. Little did he know! This little girl was small but determined. The love and care of her family helped her thrive. They baptized her Rita Odelia, and soon she was following her brothers everywhere and trying to do everything they did. By the time she was four years old, the country was in the throes of the Great Depression and their small farm was not providing enough for the family to survive. Mr. Schirtzinger found work in Dayton and moved the family to Holy Trinity Parish which Rita’s maternal grandfather had helped found.
At Holy Trinity Rita met the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who were her teachers for 12 years. She loved the Sisters and first thought of entering when she was in the Sixth Grade. She later said, “I preferred Notre Dame because I saw their willing and generous ways.” Rita wanted to follow their example. She entered the summer after her high school graduation and became known as Sister St. Clement until 1968 when she returned to her baptismal name.
Rita started her teaching career with 1st and 2nd Graders. She later related feeling like she didn’t have a clue what to do with the students and how grateful she was for Sisters she worked with who, through word and example, taught her how to teach. Rita quickly discovered that discipline was important, but letting each child know that they were a beloved child of God was even more important. Her desire to help each child succeed led her to specialize in Reading. Rita would also teach 4th through 6th Grade Social Studies and coordinate school libraries. Her organizational skills naturally led to her being asked to serve as principal. Three separate times Rita was assigned as principal. Between each she returned to the classroom because she felt that when a person has been in administration for a while it was good for them to return to the day-to-day work with students. Rita appreciated both roles. She loved everything about teaching and found the pupil-teacher relationship particularly rewarding. Rita called seeing students succeed “a favorite pastime.” About administration Rita said she “enjoyed the interactions with students, parents, faculty members, senior citizens, youth groups, and those outside the parish.”
Participating in parish life energized Rita. She served on Parish Councils, Education Commissions, in choirs, as Lector and Eucharistic Minister and coordinated Parish lists of Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers. She also taught in, as well as sometimes coordinated, Parish CCD programs. Rita found great joy in preparing children to receive the Sacraments. Teaching grade school aged children in CCD was a natural fit, but she also reached out to secondary students by teaching in High School CCD programs.
When Rita “retired” from formal education she put her skills as a Reading specialist to work with adults by joining other Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in the Alliance for Work Based Education program at the University of Dayton. There she helped adults work toward their GED and gain computer skills. When that program closed, the GED program operated by the St. Mary Center was delighted to have Rita volunteer with them. Reflecting back on her life, Rita felt each new ministry situation called forth new talents and gave her a deeper understanding of her commitment to Christ and His Church. She felt that all changes were opportunities for growth for the soul and thanked God for each place she served and community with which she lived. She said, “Happiness and satisfaction really come from within so it is up to me to accept God’s way of showing His love for me here and now.”
Sisters in community described Rita as unselfish, observant, thoughtful and always willing to lend a helping hand. She loved community parties, sharing puns and tongue twisters, a good game of Dominos, Rummikub or Yahtzee, card games, singing Institute Songs and trivia. Once she moved to Mt. Notre Dame, she regularly helped lead evening prayer and visited Sisters in Cuvilly each evening after supper, often finding little ways she could be of help to them. She also appreciated quiet time in her room or chapel, opportunities to read a good book, catch up on email, play a computer game or watch TV. Rita joked about housecleaning being a “hobby” and adding her “muscle” whenever a house needed to be opened, moved or closed – and there were at least nine of these transitions that benefitted from her muscle! She would pitch in to paint, fix something, cook – whatever needed to be done. A special service to the Province was Rita’s willingness to replace another Sister at Logan who was dying of brain cancer. Rita helped the students deal with the mid-year loss of a beloved teacher. She also provided community support to the principal as they closed a convent where Sisters of Notre Dame had lived for 63 years.
Rita did not learn how to drive until 1971. After that “driving” was added to her list of favorite activities. Rita drove other Sisters to Notre Dame Education Conferences around the country. She loved driving to visit relatives – no matter where they were living, and took great joy in driving her dad places. Rita said, “My very special interest is travel.” She was delighted when her brother and sister-in-law invited her to join them on a 1976 trip to Europe. It touched her deeply that her brother added Namur to the itinerary so Rita could visit the Mother House of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She named her participation in the 1996 Footsteps of Julie Pilgrimage as the ‘greatest honor’ of her life. It reinforced her life-long love for Saint Julie, the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, and Rita’s commitment to Julie’s ideal of educating the poor. When she moved to Twin Towers in Dayton after Holy Family Convent Closed, Rita was delighted to find members of the laity drawn to Saint Julie’s Charism. She worked with them to begin a Notre Dame Associates group.
Her extended family was very important to Rita. She stayed in touch through visits, phone calls and letters. Family members knew to let her know when someone needed prayer and counted on her immediately posting the intention so the rest of the community could add their prayers to hers for her loved ones. Her final illness and death took both her family members and her Sisters by surprise. When Rita was celebrating her jubilee she was asked why she became a Sister of Notre Dame. She replied, “Because of an inward knowledge that this would bring me happiness.” Her family, Sisters and friends know in faith that her birth into resurrected life is also bringing her happiness. We thank God for the gift she has been to each of us, and for the many ways she made known God’s goodness to each person she met. We know that Rita continues to hold us in prayer as she rests content in the presence of our good and loving God.
Born September 19, 1928 in Clayton, Ohio
Parents: Carl Louis Schirtzinger (born in Columbus, Ohio) and Marie Helen Barkmeyer (born in Dayton, Ohio)
Siblings: Louis Schirtzinger, Anthony Schirtzinger, Carl Schirtzinger, Clement Schirtzinger, Howard Schirtzinger, Ida Schirtzinger Dunkman
Baptized on September 23, 1928 at St. Rita Church, Dayton, Ohio
Confirmed on June 7, 1936 at Holy Trinity Church, Dayton, Ohio
Entered July 26, 1946 at Mt. Notre Dame
First Profession: January 29, 1949
Final Profession: August 13, 1954
Holy Trinity Parish School, Dayton, Ohio 1942
Julienne High School, Dayton, Ohio, 1946
Bachelor of Science in Education, University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio, 1958
Master of Education, Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1971
1950-1951 St. Stephen School, Hamilton, Ohio
1951-1953 St. Robert Bellarmine School, Chicago, Illinois
1953-1959 St. Victor School, Calumet City, Illinois
1959-1963 Holy Angels School, Dayton, Ohio
1963-1964 St. Peter School, South Beloit, Illinois
1964-1973 St. Francis de Sales School, Lebanon, Ohio
1973-1974 St. James School, Wyoming, Ohio
1974-1986 Sts. Peter and Paul School, Reading, Ohio
1986-1987 Immaculate Conception School, Dayton, Ohio
1987-1988 St. John School, Logan, Ohio
1988-1995 Holy Family School, Dayton, Ohio
1995-2007 Tutor & Bookkeeper, Alliance for Work-Based Education Program, Dayton, Ohio
2007-2010 Volunteer Tutor for GED students, St. Mary Center, Dayton, Ohio
2010-2016: Ministry of Prayer and Community Service, Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Died: December 27, 2016 at Mt. Notre Dame Health Center, Reading, Ohio
Sr. Kim Dalgarn SNDdeN
December 28, 2016