Sr. Rita McGinnis, SCL Returning to Leavenworth

Cody Tredik
Communications Staff

Sr. Rita McGinnis, SCL, retired November 15th. Her warmth, wisdom and astute leadership have graced the Diocese of Helena for a total of 19 years. She most recently served as Director of Chancery Services and Pastoral Planning

She graduated Washburn University, took her final vows as a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth in 1965, and began her first assignment teaching speech and drama at Bishop Hogan High School in Kansas City, Mo.

“I enjoyed speech because when kids came, they were adamant that they couldn’t do it. I would tell them: You’re my job security! And I know you can! I also loved what theater did for kids. It was a place that they could get applause that wasn’t either academic or sports. Even if they were pulling the curtain, they got to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

She continued teaching, including work at Montana Catholic High Schools in both Billings and Butte. Sr. Rita’s approach to education created a lasting impression on her students, many of whom still keep in touch.

After earning an administrative certificate, she began as principal of Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City. After 10 years there, she felt ready for a new chapter.

“You just know when it’s time. I wasn’t sure what the next step was, but I wanted to find out. I talked to a friend of mine to see what I could do, if there was anything they could see that would be a good fit. That’s when I came to the Helena Chancery for the first time in 1993.”

Sr. Rita brought her experience to bear in the Office of Pastoral Ministry for the Diocese. Her expert leadership attracted the talents of many as she orchestrated initiatives in social justice and spirituality. She then returned to Leavenworth for 6 years of service on the SCL Community Council.

Bishop George Leo Thomas was aware of Sr. Rita’s outstanding work. He reached out in 2005, with an eye toward building pastoral leadership in the diocese.

“One day, I got a call from Bishop Thomas asking if I would come back to the Diocese to run Pastoral Planning. I thought, well I’ve never done that before, but I’ve always said that everything I’ve ever done has prepared me for everything I’ve ever done. And that’s true for all of us. You just drag along all that experience; change it, massage it. All of those experiences come with you. So, I told him that I would be charmed.”

While directing Pastoral Planning, Sr. Rita championed the work of the Diocesan Pastoral Council bringing incredible talent around the table and leading the development of two comprehensive Pastoral Plans.

Fr. Bart Tolleson speaks at Sr. Rita’s Retirement Party on Nov. 15th.

“It was always about invitation and starting with the parishes. The Church out here really tries to get its arms around who the folks in the pew are. What are your challenges? What are your gifts? What do you need? And there was always an openness to collaboration. That collaborative sense, which is sometimes hard to find, has been the really lovely part of working here. I get a lot of energy from people who are willing to come together and grapple with problems and possibilities.”

Her journey will continue at the Motherhouse in Leavenworth, and she’s ready for the next step.

“Sisters never really retire, and I would be bored out of my mind with nothing to keep me busy, so I will be looking for something to challenge me when I get there. I know there will be something calling my name, there always has been.”

Of her time in Montana, she said, “It’s all been absolutely delightful. I’ve gotten to work with the very best people. Montana has been very good to me. It is a beautiful place, but it forms people who are extraordinary as well.”

With gratitude for Sr. Rita, and her wonderful work, we in the Diocese of Helena pray that God’s abundant blessings remain with her always.