CDA Membership Spotlight – Court St. Anthony #330

RITA HUGHES – MEMBER SINCE 12/10/2012         By Carol Hollenbeck, Web Manager



Rita grew up, third oldest among eleven children, on a dairy farm near Lenox, Iowa. She and her siblings walked one and three quarters of a mile to a country school every day through their elementary and middle school years. Rita had the same teacher from 2nd Grade all the way up through 8th Grade. So, when it was time to travel by school bus into Lenox High School, that was a big change for her. She went from having one classmate to a Freshman Class of 50 students at the High School. She must have admired the teacher she had for so many years in that country school, as she would later choose teaching as her profession.

What was important in Rita’s life were the 4-H clubs. In girls 4-H she learned how to sew, cook and refurbish furniture. In boys 4-H she learned about raising beef and dairy cattle. Her father gave each of his children a steer to start with, and over the years (ages 10-16) Rita had earned enough money to pay for two years of college. After graduating 3rd in her Senior Class, she went off to Ottumwa Heights Junior College in Ottumwa, Iowa. At the time it was a liberal arts women’s college, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and was the Mother House of the Sisters of Humility of Mary. Rita has always been “grateful for the opportunity to go to an all-girls college” and even today remains “best friends” with wonderful women she met there. She then went on to complete a double major degree in Elementary Education and Special Education at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Then in 1972 she earned a  Master’s Degree from Iowa State University in Elementary Guidance and Counseling.

Rita’s first teaching job was in Special Education in Clinton, Iowa. One year later she married her husband Jim Hughes and she moved to Ft. Dodge, Iowa. Over the next years Rita and Jim had three daughters, while she worked in public and parochial schools. She took off a couple years after each birth, but in between taught school as the family moved to Charles City, then to Ottumwa and by 1993 to Council Bluffs. Rita was then employed by St. Albert School, teaching 6th Grade for eight years, until her retirement in 2004. She continues to substitute teach at St. Albert Elementary about once a week and remains very involved at there.

Rita is a member of St. Albert Ambassadors (whose purpose is to volunteer in the school) and helps with the annual St. Patrick’s  Festival. She is an active member and trustee of the Serra Club, working to help bring young men into the priesthood and support them in their ministry. She’s a member of St. Patrick’s Altar & Rosary Society and is the facilitator of one of St. Patrick’s Book Clubs  in which members read and discuss Catholic literature. She is the “go to person” for the annual Christ Our Life Conference in Des Moines. As a CDA member she has served as Spiritual Enhancement Chair. She takes a Tai Chi class at The Center where she and Jim enjoy ballroom dancing together on Wednesday nights. Come springtime she also golfs with a league in Omaha.

Rita loves to travel, probably because when she was growing up on the farm the only chance for “adventure was the annual trip to the Iowa State Fair.” Her first opportunity for a big trip came in her Junior Year in High School. She won an essay contest, sponsored by the Rural Electric Cooperative (REC) and was awarded a trip to Washington, D.C. Rita has traveled the globe since then. She has visited the shrines of Our Lady at Lourdes, France and Fatima, Portugal with her daughter Mary on a KVSS Radio tour. One of her most memorable experiences was “sitting in the healing baths on the last day of the season in Lourdes.” In 2012 on a trip to Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the Virgin Mary has appeared daily since 1981, Rita experienced “Mary’s  unconditional love.” She said it was like she received the “biggest bear hug” and it “changed her life in that moment.” She walked in 6 the footsteps of the Apostles in Rome, Italy with Fr. Dave Fleming and walked in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land with Fr. Ken Halbur.

All three of Rita’s daughters graduated from Creighton University in Omaha. Her oldest daughter is a pharmacist, married to a neurosurgeon, living in Kansas City with her husband and three children. Daughter number two is an occupational therapist at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, married to a physical therapist and has four children. Therefore, Rita is Grandmother to seven children and travels to important events in their lives. She and Jim recently went down to Kansas City for the Confirmation of a granddaughter.

Daughter number three (Mary) is her “adventurous child” who is a physical therapist, single and currently living in Boise, Idaho. In 2011 Rita joined her daughter Mary, as her only support, on a bike ride across the U.S. For three months she followed her daughter from a tire dip in the Pacific Ocean along the Washington State coastline, all the way through parts of the U.S. and Canada to Bar Harbor, Maine! I think we can all guess where daughter Mary gets her adventuresome spirit!

Rita says she joined our CDA Court in 2012 to experience an “association with other Catholic women” and because it is a “citywide organization and a chance to meet women from other parishes.” Rita stated that Catholic Daughters has given her “a lot of encouragement and support of my faith.” We are so thankful to Rita for her ever-present smile and laughter. In the photo above she can be seen helping with our annual Summer Salad Luncheon in July 2017. She is a joyous person as well as a person of strong and abiding faith. We wish for her and Jim a wondrous 50th Anniversary celebration in August of 2018! Congratulations! (Those who dance together, stay together it seems.)

“A highway will be there, called the holy way…It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.”    Isaiah 35: 8,9