NEWPORT, R.I. — Mercy Sister Leona Misto, 77, vice president for mission integration at Salve Regina University, passed away at her home in Newport, October 17 after a brief illness. The daughter of Ralph and Teresa (Harrington) Mistro, she was born on May 24, 1939 and raised in Cranston, R.I.
Sister Leona entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1957. Upon completion of the novitiate and juniorate, she held teaching positions in the dioceses of Providence and Fall River at St. Joseph School, Pawtucket; St. Mary’s Academy-Bay View; St. Xavier Academy; and Bishop Feehan High School. From 1974 to 1976, Sister Leona was the director of Spirituality for the Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of Providence. She served as principal and education director of SS. Peter and Paul School and Parish in Fall River from 1976 to 1980.
She enrolled at Salve Regina College and graduated summa cum laude in 1962. In addition to her B.A. in mathematics from Salve Regina, she received an M.A. in religious studies from Providence College, an M.A.T. in mathematics from Rhode Island College, an Ed.D. in higher education from Nova Southeastern University, and a certificate in educational management from Harvard University.
Sister Leona returned to her alma mater in 1980, and during her 36-year tenure she served the Salve Regina community in a number of capacities, including professor of mathematics, chairperson of the mathematics department, dean of Campus Ministry and director of Graduate Extension Studies. It was in this capacity that she established one of the first online education programs in the country in 1984. She was named vice president for Mission Integration and Planning in 2001.
Sister Leona established the Sophia Endowed Scholarship at Salve Regina University to provide need-based assistance to attain a baccalaureate degree. An advisor to and supporter of both the University’s Sigma Phi Sigma honor society and the Environmental Advisory Group, she worked tirelessly to support all aspects of the students’ education.
Ever cheerful, and ever encouraging, Sister Leona’s wide smile brought grace, light and a little hint of mischief to those on campus and beyond. Her time and treasures were shared with other organizations and institutions such as Child and Family in Newport, Marian Court College in Swampscott, Mass., and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Wherever she went and wherever she served, Sister Leona wove compassionate attention to the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy into the fabric of her actions, inspiring the alignment of Spirit, word and deed with the Mercy ideals of community, service and social justice. Largely through her vision, Salve Regina embraced a distinctively Mercy identity that will continue to transform its graduates and encourage them to work for a world that is harmonious, just and merciful.
She is survived by her brother Ralph Misto, sister Teresa Tavares and her husband Albert, and nine nieces and nephews.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Newport on October 22. To honor and memorialize her work, donations may be made to Salve Regina University/Sophia Scholarship Fund, 100 Ochre Point Avenue, Newport, R.I. 02840.
Funeral arrangements by the O’Neill-Hayes Funeral Home.