Sister Rita Dolores Woehlcke died on September 23, 2023 and was buried at Saint Joseph Villa on September 30, 2023. This SSJ grew up in St. Ambrose parish and attended Cardinal Dougherty High School before entering the community in 1964. She enjoyed a long and varied career as a Sister of Saint Joseph. From teaching grade school in Philadelphia to high school instruction in Maryland, Lancaster, and again in Philadelphia, Rita experienced success in and out of the classroom. In 1986, she assumed the role of Project Assistant for the Teenage Parenting Project out of the Shalom office. This led her to assuming the responsibility of Personal Growth Coordinator for the Great Expectations organization. Obviously, Rita was called to leadership positions in many areas. Perhaps her most rewarding apostolate was the Director of the Office for SSJ Associates in Mission. Seeing the need, Rita did, indeed, think “outside the box” and was in the vanguard in this enterprise.
Rita’s spirituality viewed the connection of faith and science. She often prayed, “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart,” and Rita added, “Close not your mind to what science reveals and faith teaches.” For Rita an authentic spiritual life is characterized by an open heart, an open mind, and the humility that allows life to question us. This motivated Rita often to move out of her comfort zone, and her varied appointments testify to the validity of this tenet in her life. What motivated this unique SSJ as she faced her illness was her faith in God and a realization that God is not at all a longing to be loved but a longing to love, a longing to be known, not just known about. She writes, “Only when we experience an unbounded love that we could never earn, are our hearts broken open to welcome everyone as a dear neighbor.”
Bless you, Rita, as you encounter many dear neighbors and your Almighty Father in Paradise. Rest in Peace.