Sister M. Rita O’Leary, I.H.M. (formerly Sister Rita Regina) died peacefully Feb. 25 in Camilla Hall, Immaculata. She was 85 and in the 65th year of her religious life.
Daughter of parents James and Emma Elizabeth (Hatton) O’Leary of St. Patrick Cathedral Parish in Harrisburg, Pa., she graduated from Harrisburg Catholic High School (later named Bishop McDevitt) in 1953. After graduation she attended College of Mount St. Joseph On-the-Ohio for one year.
She entered the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1954, received her religious habit and religious name, Sister Rita Regina, in 1955 and pronounced her first vows in 1957.
Later in the community Sister Rita earned degrees from Immaculata College, West Chester State College and the Catholic University of America.
Soon after making her first vows she taught music and English at Allentown Catholic High School. She then taught music in the lower grades at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern until 1962. She then taught music at SS. Peter and Paul School in Decatur, Georgia until 1971.
Community leadership assigned Sister Rita to Immaculata College in the fall of 1971.
At that time she became a full-time member of the Music Department at Immaculata College. She was named Dean of Students at Immaculata in 1973 and served in that capacity until 1985.
She then taught music in Virginia and in 1988 went to Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School in Coal Township, Diocese of Allentown, serving as prefect of studies until 1990 then as principal until 2002.
After leaving Lourdes, Sister Rita was development director/alumni relations at Bishop McDevitt High School, Harrisburg for four years until 2003 when she returned to Immaculata University and service as director of planned giving until 2017.
She then entered Camilla Hall and the Apostolate of Prayer and Service.
Sister Rita’s funeral Mass was celebrated privately March 2 in Camilla Hall by Fathers Philip Burger, Jonathan Sawicki and Christopher Rogers. Norbertine Father William Trader, a faithful friend to Sister Rita and to the I.H.M. congregation, also concelebrated the liturgy.
Sister Rita is survived by brothers and sisters-in-law Joseph (Victoria), John (Joanne), Jerome (Anna Marie), Raymond (Mary Ann) and Olga (James) and her I.H.M. congregation. She is predeceased by her parents and her brother James.
Memorial donations may be sent to Camilla Hall Nursing Home, I.H.M. Mission Advancement Office, 230 IHM Drive, Malvern, PA 19355.
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