In her 66 years as a nun, Renee Canitrot taught in numerous schools but also branched out to work with the poorest of the poor -- ministering in local parishes and, for a time, living a life of simplicity in a Catholic Worker house.
"Everyone's first impression was how spiritual she was and how open she was to others," said Louise Kleinstiver, Canitrot's niece and goddaughter. "She was extremely tolerant and . . . liberal of thought, nonjudgmental."
Canitrot, who was a member of the Dominican Sisters of Amityville, died Aug. 6. She was 86.
Born in New York City, she was admitted as a candidate to the order in 1946 when she was 19. She received her habit and religious name of Sister Maria Hostia the following year.
Her first job was caring for boys at the St. Vincent's Home on Boerum Place in Brooklyn from 1948-1951. She went on to teach in schools, including St. Kilian in Farmingdale, St. Hugh of Lincoln in Huntington Station, Our Lady of Lourdes in Malverne, Little Flower in Montauk Point and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst, along with several schools in Brooklyn and Queens.
At the St. Mark School in Brooklyn, her principal recalled how Canitrot "could take the most hopeless student and work with great effort, putting her whole self into the project until there was a breakthrough and the child was able to progress," the Dominicans said in a statement.
Beyond her work in the schools, Canitrot participated in several ministries that served the poor. She was involved in Maryhouse, part of the Catholic Worker movement, in Manhattan, and the Christus House in Brooklyn, both from 1977-1978.
About a decade later, she worked for three years at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Newark, N.J. -- a "very old, very poor parish," her order said.
Canitrot also served with LAMP Ministries, a Bronx-based group that works with the poor and homeless, and focuses on evangelization.
Canitrot "was a very courageous evangelizer; a woman of such strong integrity," said Tom Scheuring, one of the group's founders. "She lived her calling."
"She was an advocate for others, especially for others that had no voice," said Kleinstiver, who was listed as her only survivor. "She just radiated. She had a twinkle in her eye. Sometimes you didn't know what to expect, but you expected something good."
The Dominicans added that Canitrot also felt "the tug of a more fully contemplative way of life," which she tried out at the Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery in Esopus, N.Y., for a time.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Aug. 9 at St. Albert's Chapel at the Dominicans' motherhouse in Amityville, followed by burial in the Sisters' cemetery.