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Sister Rosalia Riedel

November 23, 1923 - October 31, 2023   |   Passed On

Sr. Rosalia Riedel
November 23, 1923 - October 31, 2023
From the tribute read at Sr. Rosalia's funeral vigil.

Rosalia Louise Riedel was born on November 23, 1923, to Ferdinand G. and Rosalia L. Riehle Riedel in Milford, Ohio. Brother Paul was almost two, so she was the second of seven siblings, with five brothers and one sister, all deceased. Happily, she celebrated her 100th birthday a few days early. Joining her were CHM leadership and sisters at Bishop Drumm Care Center, staff, a former student, and a friend with three of her five children.

Sr. Rosalia would attribute her love of travel to the fact that she had lived in three different states by the time she was nine. Her father was a veterinarian. When she was just a couple of years old, they moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where Dr. Riedel even worked with racehorses. Brother Ferdinand and sister Anna Catherine were born there. She remembers walking with her dad one cold, clear night when he said the crescent moon was like “God’s fingernail.” She remembered that image as one that introduced her to the wonders of nature. When she was four, they moved back to Ohio, where her father was a field veterinarian. They lived in the old house on her grandpa’s farm. It had a coal stove and a pump for spring water at the kitchen sink. She remembered fruit trees and a spring house where they separated milk. There, she started in a country school with four grades in one room.

With the depression, her parents decided a government job would offer more security, so Dr. Riedel was sent to the Morrell meat plant in Ottumwa, Iowa. Ohio relatives warned them they were going to the “Wild West.” A big Mayflower van took their belongings while parents and now seven children rode in the family car. Brothers Joseph, John and William had been added to the family in Ohio. It was spring, and she went to second grade at St. Mary’s School in Ottumwa to finish the year. She did not like it at all; it was way too big. By fall, her parents had rented a house on the south side of Ottumwa, where she attended St. Patrick’s School. She liked Sr. St. Agnes, her third-grade teacher there.

After graduation from eighth grade, Rosalia took the bus to Ottumwa Heights Academy every day for her four years there. Music was part of the Riedel household, and they sang while her dad played the piano. All the children took string instrument lessons when Sr. Mary St. John started an ensemble at St. Pat’s, and Rosalia continued in the Heights Ensemble.  Following graduation, Rosalia got a job babysitting for the Evitts family and then started working at the telephone company.

Although Rosalia said she first thought about becoming a sister in the third grade, she did not enter the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in Ottumwa, Iowa, until September 8, 1945, at age 22. She received the habit and her name in religion, Sister Mary Andrew, the following summer. She made first vows in 1948 and final vows in 1951. Sr. Rosalia is the last of her class that had included Srs. Edith Giacamuzzi, Anastasia Rose Glenn, Ann Leahy, and Rita Ann Lenaghan.

One of her fondest memories was her trip to Rome during the Holy Year of 1950. The Sodality of the Blessed Virgin was taking a tour of Marian Shrines. She was one of nine CHMs who made the wonderful trip, which she described later as “a great grace.”

After graduating from the Heights in 1948, Sr. Mary Andrew began her long teaching career in grades kindergarten through sixth grade, teaching music as well as the usual classroom subjects. Like many CHMs, she attended summer classes at Marycrest College, where she received her bachelor of arts degree in elementary education in 1960. She taught in the Dioceses of Davenport and Des Moines, Iowa, Great Falls, Montana, and Peoria, Illinois, in single and double grades from 1948 to 1986, 38 years in all.

St. Mary’s School in Centerville was special to her as she began her teaching career there for three years from 1948 to 1951, with more years to come later. Sr. Mary Andrew got her out-of-state teaching opportunity in Montana at St. Leo’s School in Lewistown from 1951-56. She also taught in Rock Island, Illinois, at two different times. She explained her mission tours by saying, “They sent me where they needed me.”

Eventually, she made it to her alma mater, St. Patrick’s in Ottumwa, for three years from 1967-70. Those were important years, historically, as the congregation was beginning to adopt changes in religious and professional areas following the Second Vatican Council. Like many CHMs, she resumed use of her baptismal name, Rosalia. She said her brother joked that he had just gotten used to calling her “Andrew” and now had to remember “Rosalia” again.

Sr. Rosalia returned to St. Mary’s School in Centerville for twelve years from 1971 to 1983, now under very different circumstances from her first assignment just after vows. In 1948, there were no such things as parish councils or Diocesan Sisters Councils. She served on the St. Mary’s Parish Council for three years and was regional representative on the Diocesan Sisters Council from 1980-83. She has a special scrapbook from that extended period. It includes a record of her “going away” party in 1983. That year, she was appointed the Sisters Area Coordinator for the Centerville region of the Pastoral Council of the Diocese of Davenport. In that capacity, she said she participated in the Diocesan Synod of 1985-86.

Sr. Rosalia completed the last three years of her teaching career from 1983 to 1986 at Lourdes Memorial School in Bettendorf, where she had been thirty years earlier. She celebrated 40 years in religious life there and was quoted in the parish bulletin, “I have found the religious life filled with many blessings and so rewarding.”

In 1986, the congregation purchased the former Holy Family Convent in Davenport, and Sr. Rosalia moved in with the first Humility Sister residents. She served as the local coordinator for the sisters and shared responsibilities for keeping healthy food available for meals and welcoming guests. She had a “green thumb” and liked working in the yard. She selected and planted perennials and seasonal flowers. Her albums document the residents, guests and activities there over the years.

Soon, Sr. Rosalia began a new ministry, this time working with persons at the other end of the age spectrum. She volunteered at the Center for Active Seniors Incorporated (CASI), where Sr. Germaine directed her in a 6-month “Seeds of Hope” experience. Sr. Rosalia began a long relationship there, working “wherever they needed me,” she said. “I observed clients, did exercise with them, read with them, and reminisced with them.” She even completed studies for the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) credential from Scott Community College. She had also attended related workshops in Sinsinawa and DePere, Wisconsin, and at Loretto Heights in Denver. In 1995, she retired from that career but continued as a volunteer, doing a weekly bible study for ten more years.

Never one to be idle, Sr. Rosalia next volunteered with the Archives Office at Humility of Mary Center. Sr. Christine Conaway described her as “a delight to have.”

When Humility Convent was sold to St. Ambrose University in 2007, Sr. Rosalia moved to Humility of Mary Center. She always helped with mailings and whatever else was needed. However, in an interview, she was quoted, “Sometimes I just like to sit and do nothing. That’s nice, too.” Her well-documented albums are a visual record of people, events and memories during her seven years as part of the evolving community at the Center.

Sr. Rosalia’s colorful quilt square includes 1) a collection of dates: birth, entrance, and years teaching, 2) book, pencil, and music notes—all related to her education ministry, plus needlework and flowers. Hers may be the only square with a rocking chair, representing the senior citizens with whom she did so much.

Sr. Rosalia moved to Bishop Drumm Care Center in 2014 and continued an active life until very recently. Staff said she entered every activity offered and took advantage of learning and trying new things. She attended the Iowa State Fair multiple times with a Bishop Drumm group. Of course, she attended daily Mass, even directing the music from her seat in the front row! She enjoyed playing Rummicube with her friend, Vina, didn't miss a Bingo session, and went outside at every opportunity. Not surprisingly, she was sometimes difficult to find because she was hardly ever in her room!

Last week, on October 31, she had attended the Halloween party before leaving us that evening, slipping off to join the CHM saints for November 1. Staff said she was known and loved by many at Drumm because of her active lifestyle. They added, “Sr. Rosalia will be dearly missed because her optimistic and joyful spirit was a gift to so many.”

Written by Sister Mary Rehmann, CHM

Video produced in 2013