Sister Mary Rita Clare Hoffner, 91, a Sister of Mercy, died on August 17, 2019 at St. Mary Home in West Hartford after a brief illness.
Born of the late William and Olivine (Gardner) Hoffner in Manchester, CT she was also raised there. After graduating high school, Rita became a Sister of Mercy on December 28, 1946 and pronounced her vows on June 28, 1949 taking the religious name, Sister Mary Rita Clare. She began teaching primary grades in parish schools within the Hartford Archdiocese, earning a B.S. degree in education, studying on a part time basis. She continued to teach, moving to upper grades through 1975.
At that time, Sister, determined to explore a new ministry to bring her in closer contact with lay adults, became a cosmetologist, working at J.C. Penney for a four-year period. Having completed a Master in Pastoral Ministry, Sister left hairdressing and returned to parish work in administration as school principal at St. Joseph School in Enfield.
She held that position until she was invited to direct a religious education program at Sacred Heart parish in the Norwich diocese. She soon loved the ministry, the students, their family contacts and developed strong pastoral ties. In that setting, she was enabled to reach out to those in need. She modeled a spirituality that was expressed in a quiet, kind and gentle manner. It became her signature.
Her personal quest now complete, she stayed in the Norwich area through retirement.
She moved to West Hartford and St. Mary Home within two weeks of her death, giving new meaning to the term lifelong minister.
Sister Rita Clare was predeceased by her parents, as well as two aunts who were Sisters of Mercy. She is survived by her grateful community of the Sisters of Mercy, with whom she spent 73 fruitful years.
Those wishing to donate in Sister's memory are asked to consider Sisters of Mercy, 25 Prescott St. West Hartford, CT 06110.