Entered Life:  July 30, 1927
Entered Religious Life:  February 2, 1946
Entered Eternal Life:  February 11, 2016

 “God is He who is; I am who am not.”

Like each one of us, Rita Rzeppa was a complex person. To quote Yoda in one of the early “Star Wars” movies, ‘the force was very strong with this one.’ In reflecting on experiences through the years, I feel that Rita had two strong forces working inside her. One was the force of physical pain and the other the force of a generous heart.

Let’s be honest. I know at my funeral people will remember my good attributes as well as my less than favorable encounters. I want to share with you a little trick I learned from one of the Sisters I live with. Take any unpleasant memories from your head or your heart and place them in the palm of your hand. Now blow them away. The Spirit will gather them up and scatter them to the wind.

I’d like to share some pleasant memories and recollections about Rita. She was a very creative teacher and her students enjoyed the various activities and projects she used to enhance her lessons. She could hardly contain her excitement when her fourth graders at St. Philomene’s took first place in the diocesan art contest. Who could forget ‘Butterfly,’ her cello? Her enthusiasm and joyfulness when she was playing ‘Butterfly’ were wonderful. She loved music, she loved the cello, and she loved to sing. Rita was very generous in her outreach to the people of El Salvador, and she made several trips there to help out. She was so proud of the number of hours she served as a volunteer at Resurrection Hospital. Then at Resurrection Life Center, Rita instructed one of the staff members so that she could pass her citizenship exam. The success her “student” achieved made Rita extremely happy. Rita was happiest when she was being generous and kind.

Every IBVM is asked to select the music and the readings for her funeral. Some may feel this is a rather morbid task and approach it with little enthusiasm. I think I’m really thinking about myself, as mine is not complete yet. I gained a new insight planning this homily. Our choices are our last chance to leave our Sisters, friends and family with the memories we wish them to have. Looking at the readings Rita selected may give us some insight into what she wanted us to remember.

Rita shared in Hosea her concept of God–a tender lover, full of compassion. May we remember that God will change our valley of trouble into a door of hope.

St. Paul tells the Philippians to dismiss anxiety from their minds and present their needs to God. Rita is now enjoying the peace for which she spent her whole life searching.

Lastly, Rita, I know you loved sunflowers. I will remember you with fondness every time I see a sunflower or a field of sunflowers.

—Jean Frye, IBVM