Spotlight of The Month for November 2021: Sr. Rita Shinhearl

“All the young people I’ve worked with have a spirituality, and it’s beautiful. They’ve got it; they just have to realize that they’re spiritual, special, and wise.”

Sister Rita Shinhearl is our Spotlight of the Month for November 2021. Sr. Rita has been a part of the St. Agnes-Our Lady of Fatima Church for 20 years, and thoroughly enjoys the wonderful, welcoming experience she gets every time she attends Mass. She has been an active parishioner ever since joining, having served on the Justice Committee at the church since its inception ten years ago. She is also a member of the Wisdom Council, has assisted with RCIA retreat day activities in the past, and volunteered with SWAGG for over ten years teaching religious education to the young people at Fatima.

Sr. Rita has fond memories of her upbringing in a home where religion was at the forefront. “It was an entirely different world. Families were together, and everything was the church. We didn’t have all kinds of distractions. There was no TV or electronics.” Initially, Sr. Rita studied to become a nurse and was accepted into nursing school. But in her senior year, she felt called to religious life. She followed that divine calling and became a nun when she was 17 years old. “I just felt the calling. Like it was something that I was supposed to do.” She recalls learning a lot from the people at the Convent and was especially drawn towards their spirituality.

Living in a religious community has given Sr. Rita the chance to do many great things from volunteering at shelters to working with the homeless in transitional housing on W. 25th Street in Cleveland. Being a part of the Convent has even given her the opportunity to join activist groups which she found very energizing. These groups traveled to places like Columbus and Washington D.C. in the ’70s to protest issues at the time such as sweatshops, housing discrimination, and the Vietnam War. 

In recent years, Sr. Rita has enjoyed being a part of the Evangelization Commission. She believes that evangelization is not just teaching people about the doctrines but also having a sense of belonging and finding out when people do not return or feel comfortable in the church. Her words of encouragement for the young people in our church are that you can become wise when you learn from experience. “All the young people I’ve worked with have a spirituality, and it’s beautiful. They’ve got it; they just have to realize that they’re spiritual, special, and wise. And stand up for themselves, not be put down by somebody, which is so hard for them.