Sister Rita Marie Owens, O.P.
Patricia Marie Owens (RIP + 1/27/2017)
Sister Rita Owens was born in Port Arthur, Texas where she lived with her family until she entered the convent. She attended St. Mary Catholic School and Bishop Byrne High School graduating as Valedictorian in 1956.
Sister Rita taught for several years at several schools including St. Peter the ApostleCatholic School in Houston, Texas, St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Whittier, California, and St. Christopher Catholic School in Houston, Texas. She also had the responsibility of teaching and being assistant principal at St. Anthony Cathedral Catholic School in Beaumont and principal at Francis de Sales Catholic School in Houston, Texas.
After leaving St. Christopher Catholic School, she went to do parish work at St. Frances Cabrini and St. Charles in Nederland, where she was in charge of adult formation for several years.
In 1986 she became the Director of Social Services at Christ the King Catholic Church. Here she worked to organize other churches to provide food for the poor, trying to help families get out of the trap of poverty. This meaningful work led her to the next chapter.
In 1988 Sister Rita and Sister Justin approached the Cornelius Ryan Burkitt Foundation and they gave the sisters a house in the Montrose area for homeless and abused women. “It was a dream come true.” Wellsprings Village was founded and the house provided the sisters a place to continue their work, focusing on helping women with life skill development and education. The success of this program allowed Sister Rita and Sister Justin to expand the program and now Wellsprings Inc. has a total of seven homes where they housed women in need, giving them the support and education they need to succeed. The other home is for administrative offices. Sister Rita continued this work until she retired in 2012.
When Sister Rita looks back on her work, she has fond memories of her teaching years as well as the years she spent working with the women of Houston. Our Dominican goal in 1986 was to address through education and action the needs of women. “Being a Dominican Sister is a perfect fit. I lived with Sister Justin and the women in need for over 25 years and really learned what they needed to succeed. This work gave us a real sense of responding to a need, which is what we are called to do. As a Dominican, we are preachers, preaching the word of God. It’s a way of living the spirit of our Dominican Order. That is what we are doing working with the poor and helping them get out of the trap of poverty.”
Sister Rita is retired and currently lives at St. Dominic Villa, with her fellow retired sisters.
Interview with Sister Rita Owens, O.P. on January 22, 2014.