Sister Rita Rose Stohosky, SSMO, 82

“From the time I was in sixth grade, I was determined to be a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon,” says Sister Rita Rose Stohosky, 82. That determination paid off when she entered the community as an aspirant in September of 1952. (Aspirancy was a special program for high-school girls considering religious life.) By August 1953, she was a novice.

After finishing high school, Sister Rita Rose attended Marylurst College (now Marylhurst University) to complete her teaching certificate. “Then I obtained my lifelong dream of teaching in primary grades 1 and 2,” she says. “I always wanted to teach the little ones. I taught for 48 years without stopping.”

Summers were as busy as the school year for Sister Rita Rose, who spent several of them pursuing a master’s degree. She also taught religious vacation school in various states, including Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. “We went to places that didn’t have parochial schools,” she explains. When she was not studying, she frequently volunteered at her community’s infirmary and at Maryville, a nursing home founded by the congregation. Doing so inspired her to train as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).

Since leaving teaching in 2006, Sister Rita Rose has kept busy with a host of ministries—from volunteering in the pastoral care center of a local hospital to serving at a nearby food bank. She teaches daily in the community’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, a service she’s been involved with for 12 years.

She draws the inspiration for her busy days from a practice she has employed for years. “I like to take a short piece of scripture and use that as a mantra,” she says. “For example, Psalm 34:6, ‘Look to him and be radiant,’ helps me to stay positive. Those bits of scripture feed my soul during the day.”

Now age 82, Sister Rita Rose says she strives to live in the moment and in the presence of God. “I am in good health—very good health. I have no cane or walker. My reading glasses are the only thing I need. I’d like to live to be 100, but I realize this is all a gift. Someday, God may have other plans, and I’ll be ready for whatever the Lord sends me,” she says.