In Memory

Sister Rita Lorraine Burke, IHM

November 8, 1926 – June 11, 2013

Rita Lorraine Burke, IHM

Sister Rita Lorraine Burke, IHM, (formerly known as Sr. M. Gracilda) of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary died on Tuesday, June 11, 2013, at Regional Hospital of Scranton in Scranton, PA.

She was born November 28, 1926 in Scranton, PA, and was the daughter of the late Joseph and Mary Kowaleski Burke. She entered the IHM Congregation on September 8, 1945, made temporary profession of her vows on May 8, 1948, and final profession of her vows on August 2, 1951.

Sister Rita Lorraine served as a teacher at the following schools: All Saints High School in Masontown, PA, in 1948; St. Edward Elementary School in Twin Falls, ID, from 1948 to 1949; St. Thomas Elementary School in Coeur d’Alene, ID, from 1949 to 1950 and 1951 to 1959; St. Dominic Elementary School in Oyster Bay, NY, from 1950 to 1951; St. Agnes Elementary School in Lock Haven, PA, from 1959 to 1961; St. Henry Elementary School in Gresham, OR, from 1961 to 1964; St. Patrick Elementary School in Oneida, NY, from 1972 to 1974; St. Rose Elementary School in Carbondale, PA, from 1974 to 1976; St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Binghamton, NY, from 1976 to 1983, 1991 to 1993, and 1996 to 2000; and Our Lady of Peace Elementary School in Clark’s Green, PA, from 1983 to 1991.

Sister served as principal at the following schools: St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Bellefonte, PA, from 1964 to 1970; St. Joseph Elementary School in Williamsport, PA, from 1970 to 1972; and St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Binghamton, NY, from 1993 to 1996. She also served as assistant principal at St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Binghamton, NY, from 2000 to 2002.

Sister Rita Lorraine served as an administrative assistant at St. John the Evangelist Elementary School in Binghamton, NY, from 2002 to 2004; and assistant director of Heartworks at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton, PA, from 2004 to 2009.

From 2009 until the time of her death, Sister Rita Lorraine served as a prayer minister at Our Lady of Peace Residence in Scranton.

She received a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Marywood College, and Master of Science degree in administration from Duquesne University.

She was preceded in death by four sisters, Aldona, Josephine Somers, Evangeline, and Thea Wichmann.

She is survived by two nieces, Alice Del Villano of Binghamton, NY and Pauline Zelsnack of Aliquippa, PA, and a nephew, Arthur Somers of Binghamton, NY.

The funeral will be Friday, June 14, at 11:00 a.m. with Mass of Christian Burial at Our Lady of Peace Residence, 2300 Adams Avenue in Scranton. Friends may call at Our Lady of Peace Residence on Thursday, June 13, between 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. A prayer service will be held at 4:00 p.m. Interment will follow Mass on Friday at St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Moscow, PA.

Memorial contributions may be made to support the retired IHM Sisters c/o the IHM Sisters Retirement Fund, IHM Center, 2300 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA 18509.

Reprinted from “In Memoriam” section of Journey, Fall 2013 issue

When I think of Sister Rita Lorraine, I think: educator, principal, loyal family and community member, hard worker and, a “cat lover,” especially her sister’s cat, Willow.

I lived with Rita for many years at St. John Convent in Binghamton and she and I often had to go to the school in the middle of the night when we would get a call from the security company. I was never worried about these escapades, as I knew Rita would handle anybody with her voice and eyes! Thankfully, we never encountered a person! Generally, it would be a shade blowing in the breeze coming through the windows!

Sister Rita was loved by all the parents and teachers, as well as her students. Everyone has fond memories of her wonderful teaching and her tough expectations. The parishioners think of her as one of their favorites, and many were able to attend her wake and funeral.

Despite her often “tough exterior,” Rita was a sensitive, caring, and gentle person, as was evidenced when she was with her favorite kitty, Willow. Anyone who ever thought her to be “steel hard” would have been amazed to see her talking to and cuddling Willow. Even to the time of her last visit with me, she had a special voice when we talked about her kitty.

Sister Rita will always be remembered by the folks at St. John Parish for her generous spirit, often helping others in a quiet way. She used her beautiful voice to cantor at Masses and was a true friend and spiritual guide to many.

Rest in peace, Rita. Your work is finally finished!

by Sister Kathleen Joy Steck, IHM

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