Sister Rita Marie Regan, MM
Born: May 22, 1907
Entered: July 2, 1931
Died: November 4, 2006
On Saturday, November 4, 2006, at approximately 11:30 pm, Sister Rita Marie Regan died in her room in Residential Caare III at Maryknoll, New York. Sister Rita Marie turned 99 this year and celebrated her 75 anniversary as a Maryknoll Sister.
Marie E. Regan, the second child of Mary McFarlane Regan and William Regan, was born in Fairhaven, MA. on May 22, 1907. Her one sibling, Maryknoll Bishop Joseph W. Regan, MM has predeceased her. Marie attended Sacred Hearts Academy and Fairhaven High School, graduating in 1924. She then studied for a year at Chandler Secretarial School, and for five years worked at C.C. Buchard & Co., in Boston, before entering the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation on July 2, 1931. Her brother had entered the Maryknoll Society four years earlier. Years later their home Diocese of Fall River, MA, would refer to them as the “remarkable Regans” and the “dynamic duo”.
Marie made her First Profession of Vows on January 6, 1934, receiving the religious name of Sr. Rita Marie, which she kept for the rest of her life. Like her brother, she was assigned to China and it was in Hong Kong that she made her Final Vows on January 6, 1937.
Sister Rita Marie’s long life has spanned much of the life of Maryknoll itself. Her 1934 and 1951, envelop a very significant period of Maryknoll history, including World War II and two years of Chinese communism. During this time, Sister served in Tungshek and Shuichai dedicating herself to direct evangelization, i.e., home visiting and catechetics, following the missionary ideals and methods of Maryknoll Bishop Francis X. Ford. She and the other Sisters lived closely among the Chinese people spending time in their villages, learning from them, teaching them and loving them. From 1946 to 1951, Sister Rita Marie was named Superior of the Maryknoll Sisters in the Vicariate of Kaying, and was known for being wise, organized and warmly caring of the Sisters. The Sisters remember her as adaptable and accepting of many things without complaint, praying for understanding rather than say an unkind word about anyone. In Kaying, along with four other Maryknoll Sisters, she was placed under house arrest for several months until being expelled in 1951 by the communist government.
At that time, Sister Rita Marie returned to the United States for her first home visit in 17 years. For two years she worked in the Promotion Department, being called on to give many talks about China. From 1953 to 1971, she was assigned to Taiwan, and worked again in direct postolate in Miaoli where she was both Mission Superior and Local Superior. To enhance her work with adults, she took a Social Leadership course at Coady International Institute in Antigonish, Canada, receiving a diploma in May 1967.
In 1971, Sister returned to Maryknoll to complete studies in Community Service at Rogers College while working part-time as a secretary in the Development Department. She received her Bachelor’s degree in 1973 and returned again to Taiwan. In Toufen she engaged once more in home visiting and teaching catechetics, and set up an adult education program for women and young workers. By 1989 she was culminating 34 years in the Miaoli area, when she retired to Taichung, Taiwan, to a more reduced schedule of pastoral work. When she left Toufen, it was said that she would probably always be remembered as “the Sister who rode her bicycle until she was 80!”
In the same serene and peaceful way in which she is said to have lived her whole life, Sister Rita Marie knew when to adjust to her various steps of retirement. She accompanied her beloved brother for some months prior to his death in the Philippines in 1994, and then retired to Maryknoll. N.Y. She never lost interest in all that was going on in the Maryknoll world and was faithful to her prayer ministries for the Orientation Program and the Maryknoll Lay Missioners.
A highlight of Sister Rita Marie’s life came in 1988, when, after 37 years absence, Sister had the joy of returning to mainland China with four other Maryknoll Sisters who had served in Kaying. She wrote of how impressed she was by the number of young people present at the dedication of a new church the Sisters attended in Hingning. Visiting their former mission in Kaying, the Sisters renewed bonds of faith and friendship with catechists, priests, sisters and other Catholics, the faces of many of whom revealed the suffering and years of imprisonment endured during the revolution. Yet no bitterness was expressed, only happiness in the sharing of tears and laughter with old friends, and in seeing the blessed fruits of Maryknollers’ labor several decades earlier.
Today we express our sympathy to Sister’s many friends, particularly to the Sisters and priests who served with her in mission in China and Taiwan, as well as to the caring staff and companions in Maryknoll Residential Care who had come to know and love Sister Rita Marie during her later years.
We welcome and express our gratitude to all who have come this morning and to Maryknoll Father J. David Sullivan who will preside at the Liturgy of Christian Burial for Sister Rita Marie.