“When the bow appears in the clouds I will see it and call to mind the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature.”
Sister Rita was four years old when she met the Presentation Sisters at Saint Anne’s School. The deciding factor for her attending Presentation High School in San Francisco was the drama program. Then came the next decision: Should she become an actress, or should she become a Presentation Sister? On August 21, 1954, she entered the novitiate in Berkeley. In 1955, Rosemary entered the San Rafael Dominicans and in 1971, Alberta married Al Pilliod.There was no rainbow in the midnight sky on the evening of June 17, 1971. Rosemary, the first friend Sister Rita had, the one whom she thought would be her lifetime companion, succumbed to ovarian cancer. She still mourns this loss.
Sister Rita has had a long career in education. Most of her seventeen years as an elementary teacher found her teaching the second grade. In 1972, after she agreed to be principal of Our Lady of Lourdes School, she thought of Gideon who asked for a sign from God and did the same, to be sure she was doing what God wanted. When Sister Rita looked up, she saw a rainbow. Five years passed and she became principal of St. Joseph School in Berkeley. During the 1980’s, she was Assistant Principal and then Principal of Epiphany School in San Francisco.
As school tuition continued to escalate, she became deeply aware that the schools were out pricing low-income families. T.l.M.E. (Together In the Mission of Education), a consortium of Catholic elementary schools in and near San Francisco’s Mission District, needed a development director. Sister Rita accepted the position and in seven years led the effort to raise over a million dollars for tuition assistance and extended care programs.
After 40 years in Catholic elementary schools it was time for a sabbatical, which included a hundred day holistic retreat, classes in the arts, and seven weeks in Europe. The day before Sister Rita left for Europe, she looked out the window of Epiphany Convent and there was a rainbow – a foreshadowing of her glorious sabbatical.
In fact, the rainbow artist palette has long been part of Sister Rita’s life. It started with colored calligraphy pens, which led to designing greeting cards, and that led to photo journaling.
Throughout the decades, volunteer opportunities enriched her life. She taught in the migrant camps and in the Haight Ashbury during the Summer of Love, and served breakfast to the homeless. One of the greatest compliments Sister Rita ever received was that she treated the rich and the poor with the same respect.
For six years, Sister Rita was the main caregiver for her father, who lived an active life until he died at the age of 98. After his Memorial Mass, when she was driving on Highway 280, she wondered if her Dad would send her a rainbow. When she turned onto Geneva Avenue, there was a multicolored bow.
On the Fourth of July, 1998, Sister Rita moved to Freedom, ten minutes from the Watsonville Capacitar office, where she became the development director and administrator. Capacitar is a Spanish word which means to empower. Workshops are given which teach mind-body-spirit healing practices to underserved victims of trauma. In 2004 Sister Rita left Capacitar and, once again, became development director of T.I.M.E.
In 2006 she became the administrator/development director/tutor of El Proyecto de las Rosas – a center for adult education serving California’s central valley towns of Tipton and Woodville. Las Rosas provides classes in English as a second language and computer skills. This mission allowed her to use her professional skills of administration, development, and teaching. Nine years later, Sister Rita came to the Presentation Motherhouse as a volunteer.
The rainbow which joins her mind-body-spirit to the earth and to the heavens represents a diversity of family members, Sisters of the Presentation, people served, forever friends, and the beauty of creation. Rita is grateful to our creating, redeeming and loving God, for these wondrous gifts.