Sister Mary Teresita Richards
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Sr. Mary Teresita Richards

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Date of Profession:
August 9, 1987

Influences:
“My mom [Rosalie Richards] would be a great inspiration. I didn’t know when I was younger that my mom would have loved to have been a sister . . . Because of that she prayed that one of her children might have a vocation.”

Interests:
Cooking (especially soup and bread), camping, playing guitar, and researching the life of the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, Sister Maria Aloysia Wolbring.

Best thing about being a sister:
“It’s a who, it’s a person . . . our God is deeply, intensely in love with us. You find that and it makes everything different.”

 

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“The Sisters Have a Secret” 

Sister Teresita Richards was a teen when she noticed something that intrigued her about the Sisters of Notre Dame.

“The Sisters have a secret and I have to know what it is,” she remembers telling her mother. “There was such a joy and quiet peace about who they were and what they did.”

It didn’t take her long to discover that the sisters’ secret was not a “what,” but “Who.” “This lifestyle is built around a love relationship with Jesus,” Sister Teresita says.

By the end of eighth grade, she was convinced she should go to the community’s aspirant program for high school girls.
Although it would be years before she would make final vows at the age of 27, Sister Teresita knew then that the Notre Dame community was where she felt most at home. As she tells her students today, “I forgot to go home. I fell in love with the place.”

After high school, she entered the community and began college studies. Since then, her assignments have included being a cook, catechist, religious education director, youth minister, and high school pastoral director. Until recently, she was a theology teacher and director of faith formation at Lima, O., Central Catholic High School, and now holds the same position at St. Wendelin High School in Fostoria, O.

In moving to Fostoria, Sister Teresita says, “The Lord and I had to do a little tug of war.” The change meant leaving a place she had been for six years. Such moves are part of the vow of obedience sisters take, but Sister Teresita says for her, they are less about being sent somewhere she doesn’t want to go and more about listening to where the Lord wants her to serve.

Obedience, she explains, comes from the Latin word oboedire, meaning “to listen.” “So we did a lot of listening,” she says. “The Lord’s always told me when it’s time to go and takes me places I could have never imagined.”

Sisters also take vows of chastity and poverty and for Sister Teresita, chastity brings her the greatest joy. “It’s back to the ‘Who,’” she says. “. . . The linchpin of everything is that love relationship with the Lord.” 

Poverty is the vow that intrigues her students, Sister Teresita says. “I think the thing that fascinates them most is that we hold things in common . . . They’ll say, ‘What do you mean your paycheck isn’t yours?’” She explains how her check goes directly to the community to help with the older sisters’ needs.

“Just because I’m able to go out and work doesn’t mean that I don’t think of the others . . . I’m not a single person. I have a family, so to speak.”

To live her vows, prayer – both personal and with the community – is essential, Sister Teresita says. “It’s everything.” She gets up early to spend time in God’s presence so that she can recognize His presence in people.

Asked what it’s like living in community, she laughs. “Wherever two or three are gathered they shall disagree and whenever they are women they shall disagree often.” But she adds, “It’s people. There’s a lot of give and take, no different than a family or a marriage. A lot of talk and a lot of listening. Sharing the resources, the car, the shopping. Making it work. That’s the beauty of community. We’re just a symbol of the Church, and you’re always working it out wherever you are with people.”

Because she lives with several other sisters, much of what Sister Teresita does for fun is with them, whether it’s making soup, watching reruns of I Love Lucy, playing the guitar, or taking a day trip. However, she also has been working on learning more about Sister Maria Aloysia Wolbring, foundress of the Notre Dame Sisters. “I’m intellectually curious to start with so that, to me, can be relaxing.”

Sister Teresita’s advice to anyone considering being a sister is to find a supportive community, become a person of prayer and service, and learn about religious life. “Or, as we always say, ‘Go find a person who looks happy in religious life and talk to them.’”

Finally, she adds, “Find out what the secret of religious life is . . . Our God is deeply, intensely in love with us. You find that and it makes everything different.”

 
   
 


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