Sister Rita (Veronica) Lechner
“Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ …” (Matthew 5:37)
“I know that Sister Rita took the challenge of the Gospel very seriously and worked to conform her life to the demands of the Gospel, but it seems to me that if there was one teaching of Jesus that came naturally to Sister Rita, that did not involve a challenge for her, it was this one. For Sister Rita, yes always meant yes, and no always meant no. She was, in her own words, ‘boldly frank,’ and this directness of hers could be, at one and the same time, charming, disarming and alarming. One thing was always certain: when Sister Rita had an opinion about something, you’d never have to guess what it was,” shared Sister Lisa Stallings in her commentary for Sister Rita Lechner, who died May 24.
“I’m convinced that this directness came naturally to Sister Rita. It has been my experience that persons of German descent from Jasper, Ind., tend not to dissemble or mince words. And a German from Jasper she was,” continued Sister Lisa. One of eight children of Silas and Theresia (Hopf) Lechner, Rita was born Jan. 18, 1937, in Jasper. She attended St. Joseph Grade School in Jasper and graduated from the Aspirancy at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
“The Lechner household provided a solid foundation of faith for Sister Rita. The early habit of daily family prayer, attendance at early morning Mass, evening services and Sunday Vespers nourished Sister Rita’s faith and laid the groundwork for the deep and authentic spirituality that would sustain her throughout the events of her life,” said Sister Lisa.
“‘I was fortunate,’ Sister Rita told me, ‘that I never had to discern with a furrowed brow and a knot in my stomach. One of God’s gifts to me was that I just knew what I was to do,’” shared Sister Lisa.
Sister Rita entered the Congregation Jan. 5, 1955, and received the name Sister Veronica. She professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1957, and 1962, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from Indiana University.
Sister Rita began teaching at St. Ann, Indianapolis, in 1959. Her other Indiana ministries as either a teacher and/or principal were St. Benedict, Terre Haute, and Holy Cross and Holy Spirit, Indianapolis. She also spent three years at Our Lady of Sorrows, Chicago. During her years at Holy Cross and Holy Spirit Sister Rita also served in prison ministry. In 1982 and for the next 13 years, Sister Rita ministered as the pastoral associate at St. Jude Parish, South Bend, Ind. From 1995 to 2007, Sister Rita served as a pastoral associate at Immaculate Conception, Hawesville, and St. Columbia Parish, Lewisport, Ky. In 2007, she returned to the Woods and ministered at Woods Day Care/Pre-School and Providence Center and as a spiritual director.
“Sister Rita continued to listen and respond to God throughout her community life, seeking to become the perfect Sister of Providence in her early years, later understanding her role as that of servant to all, and eventually coming to see that her ministry to the People of God was a matter of journeying with others and offering them hope and support along the way. The testimony of students, coworkers and parishioners over the years gives evidence that Sister Rita was for them, as she was for so many of us, a compassionate and joyful presence, a loyal and true friend,” said Sister Lisa.
“Many of you know that our Sister Rita has been working on this funeral liturgy for some time. It’s been awhile now since she first spoke to me to meet with her to talk about making funeral plans. She told at that first meeting that she had for a long time avoided thinking about the specifics of her funeral — until she came to understand that she was not preparing for death but preparing for new life. With that realization, she became ready to talk about and to plan the celebration which we have now begun,” continued Sister Lisa.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Rita was celebrated May 29, with the Rev. Richard Kaley, OFM Conv, presiding. She is survived by three sisters, Elizabeth Bormann of Dennison, Ill.; Eileen Lauka of Temecula, Calif.; and Sister Mary Ann Lechner, SP, Indianapolis.
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