In Loving Memory…

Sister Rita Bray, CSC

Sister Rita Bray, CSC

Funeral Arrangements

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Mass of the Resurrection, 10:30 a.m.
Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, Indiana

Sister Rita Bray, CSC
(Sister M. Celestyn) 

August 16, 1940–June 27, 2024 

We share news of the death of Sister Rita Bray, CSC, who died at 11:45 a.m. on June 27, 2024, in Saint Mary's Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana. Sister Rita entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross from Marion, Ohio, on August 1, 1958. Her initial profession of vows took place on August 15, 1961.

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.

It was a quiet and sunny day at Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana, when Sister Rita Bray died just before noon of June 27, 2024, shortly after the community Mass ended. That day was the kind that Sister would have liked—to be outside and enjoying the weather, the heat wave having subsided. A contemplative woman, she enjoyed sitting and observing the world around her in silence. After devoting 63 years of her life as a professed Sister of the Holy Cross, she appreciated any and all moments of reflection.

Born on August 16, 1940, to John and Anna (Quinn) Bray, Rita Marie Bray was the youngest of the family’s six children. The Brays were a pious family who seldom missed daily Mass. Rita was born and raised in Marion, Ohio, where she attended St. Mary School and Marion Catholic High School. Her introduction to Holy Cross occurred through her brother, Paul, who entered the Brothers of Holy Cross in 1949. Throughout high school, Rita considered her own vocation. Once she graduated high school in 1958, she answered this call. On August 1, 1958, two weeks short of her 18th birthday, Rita entered the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame. Upon reception of the holy habit, she became Sister Mary Celestyn.

Prior to beginning active ministry, Sister Celestyn graduated from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, with a bachelor’s degree in Latin in 1963. Then she taught the sixth grade at Holy Trinity School, Norfolk, Virginia, from 1963 to 1965, and Latin at The Academy of the Holy Cross, Kensington, Maryland, for the following two years. After returning to her baptismal name in 1967, Sister Rita continued to teach for two years at St. Catharine School, Columbus, Ohio, and then a year at St. Paul the Apostle School, Richardson, Texas. In 1970, she returned to St. Catharine School as the religious education coordinator for four years. Sister Rita then taught religion at St. Mary’s Academy, Alexandria, Virginia, for two years before she was assigned to Holy Redeemer Parish, Burton, Michigan, to direct religious education until 1980. Simultaneously, Sister Rita was working on a master’s degree in religious education from St. Michael’s College, Colchester, Vermont, graduating in 1976.

Following 17 years in education, Sister Rita ministered in the rural area of Lancing, Tennessee, for more than 25 years with Sister Julia Marie (Jacomet), CSC. In collaboration with the Brothers of Holy Cross and other religious congregations, the sisters facilitated the liturgical and catechetical life of St. Ann Parish and other churches in the Lancing and Deer Lodge areas through various ministries. While Sister Julia Marie was involved with community outreach, Sister Rita assisted the Plateau Home School, Lancing, with secretarial work and tutoring children. Additionally, she was the director of catechetical ministry at St. Ann Parish. The two Holy Cross sisters lived together in an older and simple farmhouse they called Our Lady of the Pines. Sister Rita felt blessed to help the Catholic communities of Lancing for several decades, doing so with Sister Julia Marie and her brother, Brother Paul Bray, CSC.

Sisters Julia Marie and Rita left Tennessee in 2006 to serve as co-directors of Angela House of Prayer and Retreat Center, Michigan City, Indiana. For eight years, she was responsible for providing the hospitality and environment needed for visiting groups and individuals seeking prayer and renewal. She particularly enjoyed when groups of people who were unhoused would come to the center with Jesuit priests from Chicago, Illinois. Sister Rita’s calm and pleasant personality was a welcome presence among the staff and was dearly missed following her departure.

Since 2014, Sister Rita had been living in community at the motherhouse at Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame, and volunteering her service when needed. Though Sister’s health gradually declined, her sudden medical crisis surprised those at Saint Mary’s Convent who kept vigil with her. She will be dearly missed by her loved ones and two sisters, Mary and Jo Ann, who survive. She was preceded in death by her parents and brothers, John, James, and Brother Paul. As is the custom of Sisters of the Holy Cross, the name of Sister Rita Bray will be read aloud at General Chapter on July 5, at Saint Mary’s, in a solemn ritual remembrance of all the sisters who have died during the five years since the last chapter. The sisters remain united with all those with whom they have shared their community life.

Written by Madisen Toth, archivist
Sisters of the Holy Cross Congregational Archives and Records