Rita grew up in a very devout environment; her family prayed the Rosary and had spiritual reading every evening. From childhood, she showed a great devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as well as devotion to the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and for the Pope.
In the 1830s, Masonry expropriated all Church properties in Portugal and ordered the closing of all male and female religious houses. Religious Institutes were forbidden to admit new members, with the hope that in due time they would close. Bishops and priests were also attacked and impeded from fulfilling their priestly duties.
Rita's family felt a great desire to live an authentically Christian life and God rewarded them by giving Rita a missionary call: to free the youth from religious indifferentism and immorality through the family apostolate.
In spite of religious persecution, she began to travel from place to place, parish to parish, to pray and teach the Rosary, inviting Christians to imitate the Virgin Mary.
She thus became the Apostle of the Rosary at age 18, and in doing this kind of apostolate she met people who did not lead exemplary lives. Young Rita did all she could to help them, and fortunately through her many men and women were touched by God's grace and asked to receive the sacraments.
On the other hand, many others were not happy and became her life-threatening enemies.
When she was still at home with her parents, Rita dedicated much time to prayer and penance in order to discern God's will. With her confessor's help, she understood that the Lord was calling her to Religious life, but entry was still forbidden.
Rita continued her apostolate, with the hope that one day she could officially consecrate her life to God. She rejected the young men who befriended her and would often repeat: "I belong to someone else".
Rita's spiritual life was characterized by Eucharistic reparation and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a great desire to save souls. She even involved her family in the apostolate, and needy women were often lodged in their house as long as it was necessary.
'Gathering together the children'
It wasn't until age 29 that Rita was finally admitted to the only Religious Institute that was functioning at that time, the non-Portuguese Institute of the Sisters of Charity in the city of Oporto. All the local Institutes had been expelled from Portugal.
However, she was disappointed with Institute's spirit and charism and eventually left it. In agreement with her Jesuit spiritual director, Fr. Francisco Pereira, she accepted economic help from a noble family and prepared herself to initiate courageously what God was asking of her: to gather children from single mothers and educate them. She was offered a house for this work by that noble family.
On 24 September 1880, Rita succeeded in founding a new Religious Institute known as the Sisters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, whose spirituality was founded on the Holy Family of Nazareth. At the same time she opened a school for poor children in her own parish and extended her activities to other dioceses in the Country.
Her generous endeavours were accompanied by many problems caused by the local Authorities, who often demanded the closing of such institutions. These reached their climax when a Republic was established in 1910 and active religious persecution against the Church broke out. The Government expropriated all Church property and all the foreign Institutes left Portugal.
Forced into hiding
Mother Rita took refuge, together with some of her Sisters and some children, in her parents' home. They disguised themselves as gypsies when they had to go out to escape notice.
For a period of three years they enjoyed relative peace. Mother Rita was able to gather the Sisters that had been scattered at her parents' house.
Furthermore, she was inspired during this time to send small groups of Sisters to Brazil, which ensured the Institute's survival.
Mother Rita did not reach Brazil. She died on 6 January 1913. Her funeral was celebrated by the Vicar General of the Diocese of Viseu, in her own parish.
Taken from http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/bios2006.htm#Rita%20Amada