Sister of Saint Joseph of Chambery

CSJ Life

Celebrating the Life of Sr. Mary Rita Cullison

99 Years Old, Serving 81 Years in Religious Life

Sister Mary Rita Cullison (Sister John Edward), a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, West Hartford, Ct., died at St. Joseph Living Center in Windham, CT, on July 18, 2020.

Born in Scotland, Maryland, on May 18, 1921, of the late Francis C. Cullison and Anna Marie (Peacock) Cullison, Sister Mary Rita entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on Oct. 15, 1939. She celebrated her Profession of Vows on Aug. 24, 1945. 

Sister Mary Rita earned a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Master's Degree in Music Education from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY. She received degrees in administration and supervision from the University of Hartford, Hartford, CT. Sister Mary Rita taught in elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford. She was principal at St. Mary School in New Hartford, CT. for four years. In 1971, Sister Mary Rita became the principal of St. Michael's School in Ridge, MD.

For 28 years, Sister ministered in her kind and quiet southern disposition, endearing herself to students and families. During her time at St. Michael's, she successfully brought the school to its highest academic standard.

For her noble efforts, Sister Mary Rita received several awards, including the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, 1989 Principal Award and the 1990 nomination for NCEA Distinguished Principal Award. In 1991 Sister received the "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" Award from the Holy See. Created by Pope Leo XIII in 1888, this Award is bestowed upon laypersons and clergy who have provided distinguished service to the Church.

On her return to West Hartford, Sister Mary Rita ministered to the large community of Sisters at the Provincial House. Everyone appreciated her great patience, unwavering dedication, and her gentle spirit. She was a friend and companion to many.

The oldest of eight children, Sister Mary Rita remained close to her siblings, attending all family events and celebrations. Once unable to travel “down south,” her family often came “up north” for a visit in West Hartford, then at Lourdes Healthcare Center in Wilton, CT, and finally at St. Joseph Living Center in Windham.

An avid card player, Sister entertained guests with her southern memories as she deftly won many hands of Continental Rummy. Sister was an inspiration to her Sister-companions, her family, and to her many friends and acquaintances.

Sister Mary Rita is survived by her brother, Joseph, and his family, and her brother John 'Jack' and his wife, Frances Ann. She is also survived by her sister, Mary Verena (Tink), and sister-in-law Mary Ann Cullison Rymer. Three sisters predecease her, Elizabeth (Betty) Raley, Sister Marie Frances Cullison (also a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph), and Carolyn Clark, and one brother, Edward Raymond Cullison, along with three brothers-in-law, Harold Clark, Robert Raley, and Harry Yost.

The Sisters of St. Joseph would like to thank the nursing staff at St. Joseph Living Center in Windham for the attentive and compassionate care they provided to Sister Mary Rita. Due to the current COVID-19 health conditions and restrictions, a private graveside service was held July 22 at the Sisters of St. Joseph Cemetery in West Hartford. A celebration of Sister Mary Rita's life will take place at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, we ask that you consider a memorial donation to the Sisters of St. Joseph, c/o Office of Mission Advancement, 650 Willard Avenue, Newington, CT 06111.