By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published June 3, 2004
Msgr. Richard Lopez, teacher at St. Pius X High School, remembered Sister Rita Marie Raffaele, GNSH, as a combination of “wisdom and innocence.”
Sister Raffaele who spent 34 of her 62 years as a Religious sister in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, died May 26 at the Grey Nuns’ motherhouse in Yardley, Pa. She was 78.
A memorial Mass for Sister Raffaele will be celebrated June 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 2855 Briarcliff Road, NE, Atlanta.
Sister Raffaele was born in Philadelphia on Feb. 15, 1926, to the late John C. and Gemma Tolina Raffaele and entered the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart on Sept. 8, 1942.
She received a bachelor’s degree from D’Youville College in Buffalo, N.Y., and a master’s degree from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Sister Raffaele spent nearly 20 years as a teacher and administrator at St. Pius, serving there from 1964-72 and again from 1975-86.
Msgr. Lopez said that Sister Raffaele was a mentor to him.
“She was very wise, and very good, and a lady of great holiness,” he said. “She was a great lady who touched a lot of people’s lives.”
Msgr. Lopez recalled one incident when he picked up two students who had been hitchhiking away from school. He told the students that he would not turn them in, but that he wanted them to turn themselves into Sister Raffaele, then assistant principal.
“She was very kind and just with them,” he recalled. “They didn’t have to turn themselves in, but they did, and she respected that. She had a great sense of humor.”
Sister Raffaele also served in the administration at St. John Neumann Regional School in Lilburn from 1986-96 and again from 1999-2001. From 1996-99 she served at The Donnellan School in Atlanta.
In addition to those in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, students in the New York cities of Buffalo, Jackson Heights and Ogdensburg, as well as in Philadelphia, also benefited from Sister Raffaele’s gifts of kindness, compassion and concern.
Even after retirement to the motherhouse in 2001, her organizational skills were well-utilized as secretary to the president of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. But in 2003, she returned to her first love and began to volunteer her service at Grey Nun Academy. She continued there until the time of her final illness.
In addition to her Religious family, Sister Raffaele is survived by her sisters, Philomena Jones, Marian (Ralph) Manco and Jean Civitillo, as well as many nieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass was celebrated on May 29 at the Sacred Heart Chapel in the Grey Nuns motherhouse, and Sister Raffaele was buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Bensalem, Pa.
Donations in Sister Raffaele’s name may be made to the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, 1750 Quarry Road, Yardley, PA 19067-3998.