Rita Ann Davis,  CSJ

We Remember Her 
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn. 

Sister Rita Anne Davis, CSJ
(Anna Rita Davis) 

November 29, 1928 – October 4, 2021

Rita Anne Davis was steeped in joy.  Everyone who knew her would tell you that she was filled with joy; always with a smile on her face and a quick laugh. She loved to tell stories that would make you laugh – and she would laugh right along with you.  She truly entered heaven singing a joyful song. The joy of God was Rita Anne’s strength.

There is a line from today’s first reading from Proverbs that sums up Rita Anne best: “She is a joyful woman for whom laughter is no stranger:  a song to sing, a smile to give, a hand to clasp or embrace”.

Rita Anne was born in Dorchester to Agnes and William Davis.  How she loved the parish life at St. Matthews. She grew up with five sisters and five brothers (quite a community). Her family meant the world to her.  She could never cease telling stories about her parent, her siblings, a niece or nephew or a new baby. Perhaps it was in this tight-knit family where she perfected her game of Bingo!!  Rita Anne certainly took great joy in the people she loved and the people who loved her.

She entered the Sisters of St. Joseph seventy-five years ago and would have celebrated her Jubilee this Sunday at Bethany Health Care Center in Framingham.  During these seventy-five years, her ministries spanned across the archdiocese of Boston:  Somerville, Dorchester, Lynn, Dedham, So. Boston, Jamaica Plain, Framingham.   Her talents and creativity knew no bounds. Not only did she make the sisters she lived with happy with her art of cooking, but the children in the schools where she was missioned were the recipients of homemade cookies, hermits and cakes.  She was so aware of the children who came to school without having breakfast or lunch. She quietly made sure they had something to eat.

 It was “on-the-Hill” at Framingham that she ministered the longest – almost 45 years.  She worked in every department at Bethany.  Retirement was not in her vocabulary.  Whether she was counting pennies for Peru or sending cards to people, she was always about the works of God and living the charism of unioning love.

Someone once asked Rita Anne what was her philosophy of life.  She gave three answers: “Life is what you make it”; “Put your best foot forward”; and “No worries”! If we all lived that philosophy, what a better world this would be.

We thank you Rita Anne for filling our world and joy and laughter.

 —  Given by Denise Kelly, CSJ October 8, 2021


Reflections by Perry Davis, Rita Anne’s cherished nephew,

Good morning and thank you for your presence at the funeral Mass for my Aunt, Sister Rita Anne Davis. I want to welcome the residents from Bethany who are joining us via a live stream of the Mass.

My name is Perry Davis, and I am Sister Rita’s nephew, and I am sharing this reflection on behalf of the Davis family. Sister Rita is the last of her ten siblings. She had five brothers and five sisters. She was born and grew up in Saint Matthew’s Parish in Dorchester. She lived in a house with her parents and ten siblings with only one bathroom. Yes, she grew up in a very close family.

Sister Rita asked me to say a few words at her funeral. I will share some thoughts and stories about her life and the role she played in the extended Davis Family. I will use five words to celebrate the life of Sister Rita: Habit, Hermits, Humor, Humility and Holy. My seventh-grade sister at Saint Matthew’s Grammar School, Sister Roque, taught me to write by telling us to first think about words you wanted to emphasize in your story. Thank you, Sister Roque, for your patience and encouragement to write by think first about what I wanted to say.

My first memory of Sister Anna Rita, as she was known prior to Vatican II, is how she dressed. When we visited her at the convent on a Sunday afternoon for family visits, I remember her dressed in her black habit. I was three and found her long flowing black habit with her headpiece and those floor length rosary beads just something to explore. I remember one visit when my brother Dan asked Sister Rita about her hair. Sister Rita just lifted her head piece and showed her short curly hair. Her habit changed to a skirt and veil. Then onto street clothes.

Sister Rita was in service in much of her time in the community. She was responsible for running the convent kitchen. She told me about the challenge of cooking for fifty-four sisters at the Gate of Heaven convent in South Boston. She had two groups, one group teaching at the high school and a second teaching at the grammar school. That required two sittings for breakfast and lunch and supper for the entire convent. Sister Rita was a great cook. One of her best deserts was her hermit. She always brought them to our family gatherings. She said the only problem was that she could only bake a large batch. We all loved her hermit bars.

Sister Rita had an enthusiastic sense of humor. Oh, how she loved a happy story. Many times, she would start to laugh before the story was finished. She had such a wonderful laugh. When one of my daughters would tell her a joke, she would say oh lordy and just laugh even if the joke was not funny. Sister Rita was just a fun-loving aunt.

On September 19th, the twenty fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time the readings focused on humility. Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 9, 30-37 reports on the teaching of Jesus to his disciples. We hear his words “Jesus teaches the apostles about leadership, telling them that the first must be the last, and they must serve others.” Jesus recognizes the importance of humility, service and hospitality. Sister Rita spent her whole life demonstrating humility, giving service to others and hospitality to all she met. She taught all of us by her actions how to live this gospel message. In today’s Gospel we hear about the golden rule “Love One Another as I have Loved You”. Sister Rita always followed the golden rule and never said a negative word about anyone. She just loved all of us.

Now I am not going to talk about the theology of the meaning of holy. I am going to honor Sister Rita’s 75 years of religious life in the Congregation of the sisters of Saint Joseph as a holy person. She was the one that all of us in our family turned to for prayers. When we faced a crisis, she would send a note or call and tell you she was praying for you.

I know she kept me in her prayers when I had polio in 1955. She sent word that she was praying for my recovery. She sent holy oil and holy water to my mother. I got rosary beads blessed by the Pope. Her power of prayer was her special gift to her family. We were all blessed to have had her as our aunt.

God heard her prayers to die a peaceful death. Sister Rita Rest in Peace in Heaven. Oh yes, we still need your prayers.