Written on: June 24, 2016
Reflections on Sister Rita Frances Brady shared by her niece, Karen Reynolds, in Malone, NY at a Mass offered for her on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 2, 2016
I am thankful to be here on this Feast of the Sacred Heart. I am honored to share a few words with you about the life of my aunt, Sister Rita Frances Brady. I am proud to stand here in St. Mary’s Cathedral, a place Aunt Rita called home, and where just last summer, she celebrated her 60th jubilee as a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart.
Rita Frances Brady was born on October 22, 1936 in Madrid, New York. Her parents, Harold and Mabel, operated a farm, and long with her brothers and sisters (Joseph, James, Mary, Helen, and Donna), Aunt Rita grew up knowing that she was a child of God. She faced many challenges, the first of which was losing her father when she was 8 years old. And yet, the faith that was instilled by her parents continued to be nurtured and eventually grew so strong that she joined the convent. From these humble farm roots, Aunt Rita also learned the importance of a hard day’s work, a value she maintained throughout her life. As an example, my sister Martha and I were with Aunt Rita a few days before she died. Though very sick and in the hospital, she was still talking about setting up her classroom, making lesson plans, and planning an Irish show.
Aunt Rita was an unstoppable driving force in our Brady Family. As our family grew, she graciously welcomed new members. Simply put, Aunt Rita loved our spouses because we loved them. She cherished our children, and her presence at every family gathering (often requiring much travel on her part) is a great testament to her love of family. Through the years, Aunt Rita kept Hallmark and the United States Postal Service in business! Oh, the simple joy of getting those frequent cards in the mailbox and feeling her love conveyed in every word!
Though proud of her Brady family roots, we all know that Sister Rita Frances belonged to a larger Church family. She often remarked that she had chosen this life, and how proud she was to serve God with her fellow religious sisters and priests. We are very thankful that she brought the people from both of her families together on many occasions.
While preparing this remembrance, I prayed for the right words to say about this wonderful woman. The resounding word was “gifted.” St. Paul tells us that there are many different types of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. Aunt Rita was able to see the giftedness in people and readily put these gifts to work! She saw greatness in the students she taught. She saw the ability to teach in many of us gathered here today and helped to foster a great many teaching careers.
Those who worked for Sister Rita Frances knew that she expected a great deal. But she expected even more of herself – always going above and beyond. I remember going to see her when she was principal at Ogdensburg Catholic Central School. I found her wearing an apron, mopping the bathroom floor. I can’t remember exactly what I said to her, but I do remember her saying that she had cooked lunch for the students that day!
Just last year at this time, our Aunt Helen Brady died. Burying the last member of her immediate family was a very hard thing for Aunt Rita to do, and yet she faithfully led out family through planning everything and even insisting that she would pick up the meat platter at Price Chopper the morning of the funeral.
Her own funeral celebration in Yardley, planned by the sisters in her community was lovely. Many in our family were able to attend, and the sisters made us feel very welcome at the Motherhouse, yet another example of the connection between her two families. Being there with my cousins on that day, many of us remarked how extraordinary it was that so many people could all believe that they were Aunt Rita’s favorite. I believe that the same could be said about those of us gathered here today. She saw the gifts in all of us and helped us to use these gifts for the glory of God.
Sister Rita Frances was a true gift from God: a gift to her family, a gift to the Diocese of Ogdensburg, and a gift to the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.