Colombo (AsiaNews) – Catholics in Sri Lanka and elsewhere are in mourning for the death of Rita Perera who died on 27 May at the age of 73.
To those who knew her as ‘Sister Rita’ or "the Mother Teresa of Sri Lanka”, she was a great woman "who lived her entire life loving her neighbours, and bringing consolation to hundreds of poor, sick and lonely people without discrimination."
Rita Perera was very young when she took her vows in the Order of the Sisters of Charity, serving as a teacher. However, in the 1960s she was forced to give up her vows due to serious health ailments. Over the years, she underwent 15 operations.
After leaving the order, Rita married Marcus Perera in Kalutara on 1 December 1971. With her husband, she founded the Marc Sri Home. For more than 30 years, the facility took in scores of children and seniors in need.
Marcus died on 5 March 1982, and from that day on Rita dedicated herself even more to her vocation for charity. Although she did not have any children of her own, ‘Sister Rita’ was mother to the many needy kids she took in to love and protect.
Inside Marc Sri Home, Rita Perera met and advised many parents who had abandoned, killed or sold their children shortly after birth.
She helped mothers and fathers who, unable to cope with their children’s disability, abandoned them. Many of them gave their children to Rita to care for them, like in Dulanjali Ariyathilake.
Sister Deepa Fernando HF personally knew ‘Sister Rita’. “When I was the head of the Holy Family convent in Kalutara, Rita’s 'Marc Sri' was very close,” she told AsiaNews.
“I still remember her gentle and vibrant voice. One day I asked her if she could take care of an old homeless man who lived in front of our school, and she accepted without the slightest uncertainty."
"I still remember how bad the old man’s conditions were,” said Sister Deepa, “but after two months I went to visit Sister Rita and I saw him working in the home’s garden and I was very happy to see the once frail man in better health."
The nun said that she sent "many lonely elderly people to 'Marc Sri'. “I will never forget how Sister Rita took care of all those who came to her shelter.”
“What I know of her life is that all of her mission consisted of nothing but her faith and total dependence on God the Father,” the nun said. “It is no stretch to say that Sister Rita was the Mother Teresa of Sri Lanka".
“She was a great example for all those who practice charity and all those who run homes for children and seniors in Sri Lanka,” said Mahinda Namal, a Catholic human rights activist.
“Sister Rita ran all her homes thanks to the generosity of local and foreign benefactors. She never asked for money or material for her homes, but lived a life of prayer and faith in the Lord. With God’s blessings, Rita saw all her demands met."
She “treated everyone without discrimination,” Namal said. “She always said that they were all her children and brothers and sisters (the adults). Now we only know one thing, that Rita went straight into the arms of God. Now she will always be a blessing for all of us."
The members of the 11 Marc Sri homes are burdened by sorrow “for the passing of our beloved Amma (mother). We cannot forget her love.”
“Sister Rita never boasted about anything, and never spoke nonsense. She never said that something was impossible, but she made every sacrifice possible for the sake of her children. For this reason, she is our Mother Teresa of Sri Lanka".