Remembrance of the Life of Sister Rita Maureen Hurtt SL
Rita Hurtt was the third of four children of Arthur and Gertrude Hurtt of Pagedale, on the inner ring of St. Louis suburbs where families had large yards and gardens. Rita tells us something about her family and early childhood in a small essay she wrote titled “Three Cheers for
“Being young and carefree as a child made growing up more fun. My little sister (Patricia) was only two years younger than I was, so we hit it off very well together. I also had two wonderful big brothers (Richard and Arthur). … We had our ups and downs, but they were always good to us.
“The street on which we lived was full of boys and girls to play with. I’m glad we did not have TVs in those days. We played baseball, football, hide- and-seek and hop scotch. We all had bikes and roller skates and sleds when we had snow.
“Our backyard was large. Mom and Dad planted fruit trees, flowers and a lovely garden. We had two cherry trees with many cherries, one apple and one peach. Also maple trees. Mom had so many flowers, roses, snowballs, spirea, Rose of Sharon and lilies. Dad had a nice sized garden with all his favorite foods. I liked best the grape vines. We also had a swing and space for playing badminton, croquet and baseball.
“As a family we always went to Mass together. Dad was an usher. A group of us that were Catholic — very few — went to the public school.”
On Sept. 15, 1948, Rita wrote to Rev. Mother Edwarda: “Dear Reverend Mother: Perhaps it is a little early to write this letter, but I am anxious to get this letter to you. I am greatly interested in becoming a Sister of Loretto and I would like to know if you will accept me as a candidate for February 1949.
“I have never attended a Catholic school, but I have known the Sisters at St. Catherine’s. I graduated from Normandy Public High in May and at present I am working at General American Life Insurance Co.
“I have known Sister Joseph Marie for some time and I am sure Sister will give you any information you desire about me.”
Sister Joseph Marie, later Sister Marie Knowles, responded to Rev. Mother’s further inquiries: “I taught Rita in the Sunday morning catechism classes [when she was in grade school. Later} Rita became interested in the religious life, and the assistant pastor advised her to join the vocation club that Sisters Januarius and Geraldine sponsored. At one of the social meetings … I renewed my acquaintance with her and for the past two years have seen her often.
“Rita has never been in a Catholic school. … Her parents are both good Catholics. … and are well thought of in the parish. … Rita is a very good girl, attends Mass and receives the sacraments frequently. She could never be classified as loquacious.”
Sister Geraldine added, “Rita must be truly sincere about her vocation, for she has persevered in her desire for a long time.”
Rita was encouraged by a friend in the parish who was also planning to enter Loretto. Anna Mae Glenny likely also was a member of Sister Geraldine’s vocation club. Both were accepted and entered on Feb. 15, 1949, as two of only four in the class. They were received on Aug. 15, Rita assuming her baptismal name as Sister Rita Maureen and Anna becoming Sister Leon Marie. Two decades later Leon Marie would leave the Community, much to Rita’s sorrow and disappointment. The two were reconciled years after, and Ann Glenny became a Loretto co-member in 1997.
Sister Rita Maureen made her first vows Aug. 15, 1951, and her final vows three years later. From the novitiate she was missioned to Ft. Collins with third and fourth grades. There followed assignments to a series of schools in Kansas City, Mo., Rawlins, Wyo., Denver and St. Louis.
In each of these three- and four-year assignments, Rita thrived while teaching the youngest children. She wrote, “My children loved music and sang so beautiful. My children could sing on perfect pitch, and I was so proud of them. I cannot forget these words that Sister Rose Vincent spoke to me many years ago when I was teaching First Graders: ‘You should get down on your knees every night and thank God for the wonderful gift of
teaching that God has given to you.’”
Even before entering Loretto, Rita was convinced of the importance of first grade. As a teacher she was pleased that no child left her first grade without learning to read. In 1971, now able to make her own choice of work, Rita Maureen chose to continue teaching the youngest students, at St. Mary’s School in Nevada, Mo., a small rural town about 100 miles south of Kansas City, Mo. By 1973 she was principal as well as classroom teacher. In 1978 she joined a cousin, the Rev. Don Powers, who was pastor at Our Lady of the Presentation in south Kansas City, Mo. Her eight years at Presentation were Rita’s last and possibly most satisfying years as a full-time teacher: she began a kindergarten program, taught music to all the grades and P.E. to the younger students.
In 1987 Rita moved to the north side of Kansas City, Mo., and began new work for St. Raphael and St. Patrick parishes, as director of religious education and ministry to homebound and nursing homes. She had kept a list since 1970 of how she spent her summers; that list makes clear how carefully Rita prepared for these new works. One of her greatest joys in the final decade of the century appears on another list she made, of “Wonderful moments in my Life”; she joined the choir of the Kansas City Cathedral, a prestigious group well known throughout the city. Also throughout the 1990s, Rita Maureen continued to substitute teach in four Kansas City parishes until cancer stopped her in 2004.
Rita Maureen struggled from 2004 to 2010 to return to an active life of ministry. Even her list of “Wonderful moments in my Life” has no entries for this period. Finally and very reluctantly, she officially retired to the St. Louis Loretto Center. And in 2014, again very reluctantly, Sister Rita Maureen was moved to Loretto Motherhouse, to the Infirmary. Here her deepest satisfaction and joy was in giving time and attention to the residents in St. Mary’s wing and in the celebration of the Eucharist that had so often appeared on her list of “Wonderful Moments.”