Sister Rita Hayes
1935 – 2017
Born: 25th March 1931
Entered Religious Life: 2nd February 1953
Died: 10th August 2017
Margaret Hayes (Rita) was born in Ballina/Killaloe, Co. Tipperary on 25th March 1931. She entered the Religious Sisters of Charity on the 9th February 1953 and received the habit of the Congregation and the name Sr. Marie Lourdes on the 11th August 1953.
Before coming to the Novitiate in Mount St. Anne’s, Milltown she spent some time in Temple Street Hospital but before sitting her Preliminary Exam felt that nursing was not for her and decided to enter the Congregation. Her birthday on 25th March was always special for her and when she made her First Profession of Vows on 13th August 1955 she chose as her motto “Fiat” in imitation of Our Lady. This she loved and lived out in her readiness to go wherever she was sent and to take on any task no matter how daunting.
Sr. Rita lived in Ireland – in Donnybrook, Ballaghdereen and Merrion for short periods before being missioned to Walthamstow in England to study Domestic Science. She was obviously greatly loved by the children in Merrion as evidenced by the presence at her funeral Mass of three visually impaired women who were children in Merrion and had good memories of her care and kept up with her over the years.
On 8th August 1961 she was missioned to Zambia and spent seven years in the Chikuni Homecraft Centre. At that time the Government had set up an “Under a Badge scheme” which operated in several villages around Chikuni. Sr. Rita was in charge of these classes and visited each village on a weekly basis for classes. In January 1968 a new Domestic Science course for teachers was started at Charles Lwanga Teacher training College and Sr. Rita with Sr. Mary Gertrude Moore was responsible for this course.
She was present in Chikuni when Sr. Mary Charles Walker died and was present again when her remains were exhumed – even making the “white habit” in which the exhumed remains were laid out before being taken to Nigeria.
From 1968-1976 she continued to teach Domestic Science in Charles Lwanga Teacher Training College. Rita was a great homemaker and her spirit of hospitality did much to build long lasting bonds and to bring cheer to communities wherever she went. Many missionaries will remember the Saturday night card game in Charles Lwanga and most especially Rita’s cakes for the cuppa afterwards. If the game was getting too serious, Rita would playfully look into someone else’s hand and lighten everything.
From 1976 – 1982 she was Local Leader in Roma after which she returned to Ireland because of the illness of her mother. She spent some months in Temple Street before moving to Donnybrook to attend a course in Milltown Park. She returned to Zambia to the Kabwata Homecraft Centre before finally returning to Ireland in 1985.
In 1986 she was appointed as Ministress in Milltown, a position she held until the house closed in 1995. She and Sr. Magdalen Butler oversaw the disposal of furniture, linen and property of all kinds – a mammoth task which they carried out ably and with no fuss. After a well-earned sabbatical which she embarked upon wholeheartedly she went as Local Leader to Howth from 1996 – 2002, a house she always spoke of with great affection. From November 2003 to April 2006 she worked as sacristan in Cappagh and loved in particular to bring Holy Communion to the patients. Her last move in April of 2006 was to Naomh Brid community where she remained until the end of March 2017 when it was felt she needed more care which she received in St. Monica’s Nursing Home. During these years she was a welcoming presence in the Community especially to the many visitors who came and more particularly she had a very special welcome for the younger Sisters coming from Nigeria and Zambia for the preparation for Final Vows. She carried out housekeeping duties for as long as she was able.
Her last years were marked by the deaths in quite close succession of two of her sisters and two brothers. She was faithful to visiting them even when it became difficult for her. Her remaining sister, Nora, was a constant friend and support to her as were her devoted nieces and nephews. She was very gracious in accepting the care given her by the staff in St. Monica’s and endeared herself to them during her stay there. She was admitted to the Mater Hospital on Saturday morning 5th August and did not regain consciousness. During the five days of her stay there she was constantly surrounded by her loving family and community as well as other sisters including Sr. Marcella Callanan who had known her since her early days in Temple Street. She died peacefully in the early hours of the 10th August. She will be greatly missed. The celebrant at her Funeral Mass was Fr. Fergus O’ Donoghue S.J. with whom she had a special bond since her days in Milltown.
May she rest in peace.