May They Rest in Peace: Sr. Rita Mary Ruetz, RSM

Sr. Rita Mary Ruetz, RSM, completed her life’s journey on April 16, 2021, in White Lake, Michigan. She was accompanied by several Sisters singing Catherine McAuley’s “Suscipe” as she took her last breaths. She was 90 years old and had been a Sister of Mercy for nearly 72 years. 

Sister Rita Mary was born on August 19, 1930, in Edmore, Michigan, to Alex and Elizabeth (McInerney) Ruetz. The fifth of six children, she was baptized Rita and became a member of St. Michael’s Parish in Remus. 

She attended the parish elementary school, and she came to know the Sisters of Mercy. She graduated from high school in 1948 and joined the community in Detroit on September 7, 1949. 

Funeral services included a private memorial service in McAuley Center’s Sacred Heart Chapel on Tuesday, April 20.
Sr. Rita Mary Ruetz, RSM

Rita was given the name Sister Mary Austin during her novitiate and prepared for a life of ministry. On August 16, 1955, she made perpetual vows as a Sister of Mercy. 

The motto she chose for her silver ring was, “Thy will be done.” 

From 1952 until 1984, Sister Mary Rita taught elementary school children in Traverse City, Hazel Park, Berkley, Auburn, Rogers City, Howell, Detroit, Cheboygan, and Cadillac. She enjoyed these thirty-two years of ministry, opening new doors to her students. Along the way, Sister Rita Mary earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercy College of Detroit and a master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame. She maintained her professional skills through numerous conferences and workshops. During this time, she returned to her baptismal name. 

It was time for a change in 1984, so Sister Rita became the coordinator of services at the Readiness Center, a program in Benton Harbor, Michigan, initiated by the Sisters of Mercy to prepare disadvantaged children for school. When it became evident the mothers also needed help; Sister Rita initiated a series of classes for them. Meeting nutritional needs, sewing, and creating home activities were all part of the curriculum. She thoroughly enjoyed this ministry and left a well established plan when she began a new position in Farmington Hills. 

Sister Rita’s next assignment was to serve as a support person in the activity program at McAuley Center. Her creative abilities were fully exercised as she helped senior Sisters with numerous fulfilling projects, including an annual Christmas sale. As her age and health issues increased, she reduced her time in the department and fully retired in 2002. 

Sister Rita is fondly remembered as a peaceful, prayerful person who always had time for others. Sister Lois Burroughs noted that Rita, even though her eyesight was limited, would read the day’s Scripture to those who were visually impaired. She enjoyed being with the community, often sharing coffee after Mass or playing cards. Music was an important part of her life, and she enjoyed singing with a group. At one time, she even became part of the local civic community chorus. Although she did not consider herself an artist, she did produce a number of lovely pieces. She did many things but never appeared to be in a hurry. Sister Nancy Thompson noted she would always arrive on time, sometimes after asking others, “Sister, wait for me.” Rita would simply smile and be grateful. On this year’s missioning form, Rita added the word “presence” to her ministry of prayer, considering this a ministry she could best perform. 

Funeral services include a private Memorial Service in McAuley Center’s Sacred Heart Chapel on Tuesday, April 20, at 10 a.m., followed by burial in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield, Michigan.

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