via O’Neill Hayes Funeral Home
Sister Rachel Philippe of Our Lady of Dolors Racine, 91, went home to the Lord on Thursday, August 26, 2021, at Grand Islander Nursing Home, Middletown, RI.
Diane Racine was born to Philippe Henri Racine and Rachel Talbot in Fall River, MA. As one of a large French-Canadian family and coming as she did in the middle of her many siblings, Diane lacked neither companionship nor good times. She was both mother’s helper with the younger ones and little sister to the older ones. The escapades of her brothers had her both laughing at their daring and praying for their daredevil tricks. She saw her brothers off to serve their country and prayed for their safe return. She looked forward to dances and outings with her big and little sisters, and she could jitterbug and do a neat Lindy.
Growing up, Diane had a quiet, contemplative side. Along with her love of music and art, she had a love for nature, especially butterflies, birds, and flowers. She was the first to notice the robin making her nest and hear the tiny phoebe’s call-in early spring. She made sure her feathered friends were cared for. The time she spent at the Rhode Island School of Design helped to deepen this love.
Gradually the thought of religious life began to speak to her. Diane entered the Cluny Novitiate in Newport, RI on May 6, 1956, and took the name Sister Rachel Philippe of Our Lady of Dolors when she received the habit on December 8. Sister Rachel made her first vows on July 15, 1958, and left to join the Cluny community teaching at St. Catherine Laboure School in Torrance, CA. Life in Los Angeles was quite a change from the peacefulness of Newport. Classes were very large, the weather was warmer, and the students spend more time outdoors. But children, are still children. And Sister Rachel knew how to speak to their hearts. Her niche was with the little ones. She knew how to dry their tears on their first day of school and introduce them to the exciting adventures of learning. Her artistic talents, her love of music, and her delight in nature were all gifts that blossomed and helped her grow into a gifted and loving mentor to the young. She passed on to them her love of nature, taught them about a loving God, and grounded them in the essentials of the academic curricula.
After eleven years, Sister Rachel moved back across the country to Cluny School in Newport, RI where she not only excelled in teaching Grades One through Four, but also taught French and art in different classes. She loved the bucolic setting on Brenton Road and availed of the surroundings to pass on her love of nature to her students.
Sister Rachel visited the Mother House of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny twice: once in 1964 when she also made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, and again in 1974 when she also visited the birthplace of Blessed Anne Marie Javouhey, Founder of the Cluny Sisters.
In 1990, Sister Rachel traveled back to California, this time to teach at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Wilmington. Again, this was a whole new world for now she worked with Hispanic children growing up in the harbor of Los Angeles. After eleven years, she returned to Newport again, this time serving the little ones at Cluny School as a gifted tutor, while also assisting the teachers with enthusiasm amid the endless preparation of lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic.
In 2006 Sister Rachel left the classroom to be a reading resource teacher at the school. That was also the year she left Brenton Road for Javouhey House on Carroll Avenue.In 2011 Sister cut back on her hours, volunteering at the school as a reading resource teacher. It was only in her late 80s that Sister Rachel fully retired from teaching. Living at Javouhey House still provided many opportunities to enjoy the music of chattering birds outside the chapel, or to count the new monarch butterflies alighting on her butterfly bushes.
Sister Rachel always kept in touch with her large family and enjoyed visiting with them in their homes whenever possible. She also welcomed them for a visit and introduced them to the sisters at the convents wherever she lived. Sister Rachel was a living example of the spirit of prayer.
In her retirement, Sister enjoyed her daily walk around the block “praying my rosary for my neighbors,” she said. She would often be seen praying in the chapel, eyes closed, a peaceful expression on her face. Statues and monuments to poets and professors abound, and we honor them, but they cannot replace the loving hands and heart of the primary teacher whose words and actions speak of us of God.
Sister Rachel was pre-deceased by her parents, Philippe Henri and Rachel (Talbot) Racine, her sisters, Joan D’Arc Racine Jones, Theresa Racine Jansen, Lillian Racine Lachapelle, Antoinette Racine Canuel, Murielle Racine Caisse, her brothers, Andre Racine, Normand Racine, Roger Racine, Roger Racine, Fernand Racine, Marcel Racine, Raymond Racine, and her nephew, Leo Canuel.
Sister Rachel is survived by her sister Madeline Racine Theroux, her niecesRita Jansen Touchette, Sharon Theroux Lantz, Diane Racine, Denise Racine Hattub, Linda Racine DePina, Annette Racine Cain, Claudette Racine, Lisa Racine Moreira, Rachel Racine Holmes, Catherine Racine Kimball, Carol Racine Gregoire, Susan Racine Passmore; her nephews, James T. and William P. Jones, David Lachapelle, Fabien Canuel, Glenn Theroux, Daniel and Roger Caisse, Peter, Paul, Mark, Steven, Daniel, David, Philip, and Raymond Racine, and many great-nieces and nephews.
Visiting hours will be held Wednesday, September 1, from 4:00 to 7:00 PM with a prayer service at 6:30PM at St. Augustin Church, corner of Carroll & Harrison Ave, Newport. On Thursday, September 2, at 11:00AM, a Mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. Augustin Church with Pastor Emeritus Fr. John McNulty officiating. Burial will follow at St. Columba Cemetery, 465 Brown’s Lane, Middletown. Reception will follow at the Hibernian Hall, 2 Wellington Avenue, Newport.
Sr. Rachel’s funeral mass will be livestreamed with a link available here shortly before mass.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, PO Box 66, Newport, RI 02840 or www.clunyusandcanada.org. The Cluny Sisters and the Racine family wish to extend their gratitude to all who have supported Sister Rachel and all of us, especially during her final illness.