Thursday, June 13, 2024
Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Loving God and neighbor without distinction: A pontifical institute of women religious of the Roman Catholic Church

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Eulogy for Sister Rita Mazanec

~ February 3, 1930 – February 27, 2024
Written by S. Dorothy Hoover in March 2011

Tonight we remember and honor the life of Sr. Rita Ann Mazanec.

S. Rita Ann, the 6th of 7 children of Adolph and Hattie (Kobza) Mazanec, was born Feb. 3, 1930, at her Colby farmhouse.  She was premature, weighing only two pounds, and was baptized Irene the day of her birth.  Because she couldn’t tolerate any milk, her Doctor gave up on her.  Her mother found a baby’s formula in Capper’s weekly newspaper, ordered it and baby Irene started gaining weight.  Being sickly and because she was the youngest girl, Irene stated that she was spoiled as a child.  She grew up in a loving, supportive family on a farm near Colby, KS.

In a dust bowl year, Irene spent her first grade in a school close to her home. For the remainder of grade and high school she traveled by bus to Colby.  These were long days because she and her family boarded the bus first and were the last off the bus each day.  Irene spent much time with her friend, Maxine, in school; so much so that classmates would confuse their names.  Even at their 60th high school reunion, someone called Irene, Maxine instead.

She began thinking of religious life as a vocation in grade school.  She read that Sisters had a structured life and she wanted a structured life that farming did not offer. When studying catechism, she felt attracted to work for God and give her life for other people. She had a dream of participating in a big play caring for other people; God was there. Irene attended Marymount College and then entered the Concordia CSJ’s in Sept., 1949.  S. Rosalie Cersovski, S. Leonida, S. Eloise and Sr. Euphrasia all played instrumental roles in Irene’s choosing to enter religion.  She received the habit on March 19, 1950 and the name, S. Rita Ann.

Sr. Rita Ann became sick in the Novitiate.  This plus her Father’s death necessitated that she spend an additional 6 months in the Novitiate to fulfill the required time there. She made first vows on Aug. 15, 1951 and final vows on Aug. 15, 1954. She cooked at Schoenchen, her first mission.  S. Agneta became her support in this difficult year.  She also cooked at Herington, KS and Fairbury, NE until she could earn her 60 hour Teacher’s Certificate at Marymount.  She had 56 second graders in Aurora, Ill, her first teaching mission. This challenged S. Rita Ann, but S. Marie Coleman supported her in her teaching skills; she was grateful to be able to observe Marie teaching. She became very ill with Hepatitis that year and spent one month in our hospital in Belvedere, IL. S. Kevin prepared eggs for her three times a day to give her the needed protein.  S. Rita Ann loved her time in Tipton, KS.  The parents were so co-operative.  Her years in Plainville were good.  She shared some of the fun during her two years in Aurora, KS. The town would have singing hoedowns on Saturday nights to which all could come. They Christmas caroled.  Father Al Dwyer, the pastor, shared his car with them.

After many summer schools at Marymount, S. Rita Ann graduated in education and history.  She has attended Fort Hays University, Loyola University in Chicago and Creighton University in Omaha.  S. Rita Ann and I studied together one summer at Creighton along with S. Francis Margaret Otter.

S. Rita Ann moved much in her early life as a Sister.  After Vatican II when Sisters had more freedom regarding their assignments, she chose to spend 10 years in Fairbury, NE from 1969-1979.

She consistently taught second grade in her early years of teaching.  She prepared many young people for their First Holy Communion – what a legacy! She tried to teach students a countercultural value that one does not have to be first; that being Christ like and loving were much more important.

She taught two years in Oakley, KS, to be close to her dying mother. Beginning in 1985 the Beloit School Board and parents begged her to return   She served 13 years in Beloit 1987-2000 for a total of 20 years there.  She had spent seven years earlier in Beloit.  Because of failing hearing, S. Rita Ann became librarian and taught remedial math and reading in Beloit 1994-2000.

In 2000, S. Rita Ann moved to Concordia and lived at South Mound. In 2001, S, Jeanette Wasinger, Motherhouse Administrator, asked her to be Motherhouse bookkeeper, which she accepted. In 2008 she moved from South Mound to the Motherhouse. In addition to being bookkeeper she helped drive sisters to appts. And  helped sisters learn to use the computer and the Nustep. She says that the days went by do quickly because she was busy.

S. Rita Ann enjoyed traveling.  She made trips over much of the United States with her family. S.Loretta Bonfield, S, Rita Ann and her sister Helen, and myself made a delightful trip to Grand Junction, CO, Bryce Canyon, Royal Gorge, and Mesa Verde.  We had fun.

In describing her life she stated that she experienced much love as a child.  Fidelity to prayer and love helped her get through the hard times. When a person irritated her, she saw God in them and knew that God loves them just as much as God loves her.  She wanted to love so that other people could see God as love in her.  She was a faithful lifelong friend to many. Her smile spoke volumes about her love for others and the source of that love: God. Gratitude and love permeated her life.

 In a book by Fr. Ed Hayes. CHASING JOY, she became fascinated by the sentence: “May my gratitude soaked soul magnify God”.

Dear S. Rita Ann, you are now in the arms of your loving God with the “gratitude soaked soul” so dear to your heart.  May you know profound, eternal joy and love.