Thursday, February 1, 2024
Mass of the Resurrection, 10:30 a.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana
Sister Amalia Marie, CSC
(Maria Amparo Rios)
February 10, 1930–January 24, 2024
We share news of the death of Sister Amalia Marie (Rios), CSC, who died at 10:12 a.m. on January 24, 2024, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Amalia Marie entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross from from Austin, Texas, on January 29, 1949. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1951.
Please join us in prayer for Sister as we renew our faith in the resurrected Jesus and strengthen our hope that all the departed will be raised to eternal life.
Maria Amparo Rios was born on February 10, 1930, in Austin, Texas, to Frank and Maria (Gallegos) Rios. In Spanish, Amparo means “protection” or “refuge.” As a Mexican American, faith in God was deeply integral to Amparo’s upbringing. Her father was a first-generation Mexican American, while her mother was born in Villa Aldama, Mexico. Amparo believed she resembled her mother and grandmothers in that they had a “strong, deep, living faith.” According to her, it was not just the kind of faith that was based on church teachings, but “their faith came from within—it was part of our culture; part of our daily living.” Amparo and her four older siblings were loved “measurelessly” by their parents, with singing, dancing, games and stories being a part of their daily lives.
Amparo was first introduced to the Sisters of the Holy Cross through attending Our Lady of Guadalupe elementary school in Austin. She loved learning from the sisters, and this love only grew when she continued to be taught by Holy Cross sisters at Saint Mary’s Academy in Austin. The more that she knew and learned about the sisters, the more Amparo felt called to be a sister of the Holy Cross. After graduating from high school as the class valedictorian in 1948, she worked as a part-time department store clerk for less than a year before deciding to answer the call she felt within her. On January 29, 1949, Amparo entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Indiana. Upon reception of the holy habit, she became Sister Amalia Marie. Friends and colleagues later referred to her as simply Sister Amalia, or only as Amalia.
For more than 20 years, Sister Amalia Marie taught in parochial elementary schools in Alexandria, Virginia; Bexley, Ohio; Marshall, Texas; Greenbelt, Maryland; McAllen, Texas; New York City and her hometown of Austin, where she served for 11 years. She continued her own education by earning a bachelor’s degree in education in 1965 from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, Texas, and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling in 1972 from Fordham University, New York. Sister Amalia Marie was a naturally gifted teacher. Her amiable and easygoing nature made her a teacher that children wanted to learn from, just as her Holy Cross teachers once were for her.
In 1975, Sister Amalia Marie left her education ministry to care for her mother full time in Austin. While living there, she coordinated the eucharistic ministers and lectors at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. She helped many of the elderly in the community learn about programs and services they could benefit from, such as grants, Meals on Wheels, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid and emergency assistance for food and utilities.
While Sister Amalia Marie was caring for her mother, she began a 32-year-long ministry in housing and social services. After discovering that 18 families would be displaced as a result of a plan to expand and renovate the historic park adjacent to her neighborhood—the Hispanic community of Guadalupe—her love of helping people drove her to prevent this from happening. She educated those in the community about the potential displacement and helped create the Guadalupe Area Neighborhood Association, which eventually evolved into the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation. From 1978 to 2010, she was involved in neighborhood community development with the group. She also served as an advocate for the self-determination of neighborhoods and development of affordable low-income housing.
In addition to Sister Amalia Marie’s ministry with the development corporation, she was also on the board of trustees of the McAuley Institute from 1989 to 1995. This organization, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and based in Silver Spring, Maryland, focused on building affordable housing and strengthening communities. After her time on the board, she was a consultant for the institute’s program committee that was responsible for building healthy and safe communities for poor women and their children until her retirement.
Sister Amalia Marie was passionate about working with people, women in particular. She helped them learn how to become active members of their communities and contribute to the identity of their neighborhoods. She believed wholeheartedly that everyone deserved to live in a community that was safe and thriving, and to know that they had access to programs designed to help them when needed.
After many years full of helping and teaching others, Sister Amalia Marie retired in 2010 and transitioned to a ministry of prayer in 2011. She eventually moved to the motherhouse at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana, where she spent the final years of her life. Reflecting on her years in Holy Cross, she wrote that “what continues to nourish and strengthen me on my journey is the spirit of faithfulness and solidarity of my companions in Holy Cross—my sisters and friends who daily share their life and love with me. They give true meaning to my life and mission in the ‘kin-dom’ of God.” Sister Amalia Marie died in the morning of January 24, 2024, at Saint Mary’s Convent, five days short of her 75th anniversary of entrance to the Sisters of the Holy Cross, and within weeks of her 94th birthday. She was grateful to live the last chapter of her life in community at Saint Mary’s, surrounded by prayers of love and support from her friends in Holy Cross.
Written by Madisen Toth, archivist
Sisters of the Holy Cross Archives and Records