Rita went to the Opunake Convent School, taught by the Mission Sisters, and she used to ride her pony there. After Standard Six, Rita moved to the Opunake District High School for two years and then completed her last year of school at the Sacred Heart Girls’ College in Christchurch. On leaving school at the age of seventeen, she worked in the Bank of New Zealand in Opunake, and later at Wellington. In 1954, Rita, with four other women, moved to Sydney to work in the BNZ there. While working in Brisbane she applied for a job with the Olympic Organising Committee in Melbourne for the 1956 Olympics. Rita was given a very good position as a secretary to the Director of the Film Unit. After the Games, she travelled with the team to Adelaide for the Davis Cup, returning to Wellington in March, 1957.
Rita had never heard of the Sisters of Compassion apart from holding a box for the Homes of Compassion Street Day. It was not until after visiting one of her friends who had surgery in the Home of Compassion Hospital that it became clear to her that this was where she wished to spend the rest of her life. It took five years after that first encounter before she entered. The desire never left her.
Rita joined the Sisters of Compassion on 17 March, 1960, and was given her Religious name Sister Mary Domitilla. After Profession on 15 September, 1962, Sister completed her Teacher’s ‘C’ Certificate at Loreto Hall in Auckland. Sister Domitilla taught at our schools at Island Bay, Jerusalem-Hiruhārama, and Wilcannia, NSW, where she was appointed Treasurer and Sister in Charge. During the 1981 General Chapter of the Sisters of Compassion, Sister Domitilla was elected Fourth Assistant to the Leader of the Congregation. It was about this time that Sister reverted back to her family name of Rita. In 1986, Sister was appointed Facilitator of the Congregation to help with renewal in all the Communities. Following this she held other positions of responsibility at Island Bay, Heretaunga, and Jerusalem-Hiruhārama. A great joy to Sister Rita was a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Since becoming a Sister of Compassion she had always loved reading the scriptures. Having had the physical experience of visiting the Holy Places the scriptures become part of who she was.
During 2013, Sister Rita moved to Heretaunga as Community Leader. This was a real challenge because it was at the time when the management of the Home had been entrusted to lay people and Sister was responsible for the Community and the mission of the Home. Following this appointment she did a renewal course at Baulkham Hills, returning to Carterton, and then Whanganui for a few years, but when there were dramatic changes in Whanganui with the sale of the Home she moved to Marion Court at Heretaunga. Sister Rita settled quickly at Marion Court and was very happy there.
Sister died on 7 January, 2016, after a brief illness. Sister Rita once wrote: “To nurture the Spirituality of Compassion one has to be a person of prayer, to be open to the power of the Spirit in one’s life and to be ever responsive to the needs of others. For me to have lived and worked with the Māori people gave me an insight into the faithful love Suzanne had for them. I recognise their gift to her as it is the same gift we receive when we live among them, this gift of hospitality, friendship and respect is extended to all Sisters of Compassion because of the love Suzanne Aubert had for their ancestors.”
Birth Entered Professed Died Place of Death Place of Burial
14.04.1929 17.03.1960 15.09.1962 07.01.2016 Silverstream Karori Cemetery