By Anne Marie Amacher
For nearly all of her adult life, 83-year-old Sister Rosalia Riedel, CHM, has lived and served in the Diocese of Davenport.
Near the end of second grade, Sr. Riedel moved from Ohio to Ottumwa. She had plenty of Sisters teach her while at St. Patrick School and St. Joseph Academy there, but did not enter religious life after high school.
“I had thought about being a Sister since third grade. But it wasn’t until four years after high school that I decided I wanted to follow God.”
Following high school, Sr. Riedel worked for the telephone company. “I realized I didn’t want to do this the rest of my life. I wanted to do what God wanted me to do,” she said during an interview in the Humility of Mary Center in Davenport where she now resides.
When she entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1945, she was open to do whatever the Sisters assigned her to do. She professed her first vows in 1948 and final vows in 1951. She took the name Sister Mary Andrew.
She completed two years of college and began teaching. Her first assignment was in Centerville. During the summers she continued to work on her bachelor’s degree at Marycrest College in Davenport.
After three school years in Centerville, Sr. Riedel was assigned to a teaching job in Montana. “I enjoyed traveling, so this wasn’t too bad,” she said. “I was sent to wherever they needed me,” she said of her school assignments.
Sr. Riedel said that after a while she could request where she wanted to go, but that didn’t necessarily mean she would get her preferred assignment. “We would get our assignments Aug. 15 and then move to our school,” she said. Even though she didn’t get to go back to Centerville earlier in her teaching career, she wasn’t disappointed. She believes God has a plan for everything and she was there to serve him.
Eventually Sr. Riedel did return to Centerville, where she served a total of 15 years. Other schools she served in the Diocese of Davenport were in Albia, Oskaloosa, Bettendorf and Ottumwa. She also taught in Des Moines, Montana and Rock Island, Ill.
Some memories that remain strong of her religious life include the closing of schools in Ottumwa, the Ottumwa Heights fire, her community’s move to Davenport, and taking back her birth name.
“I taught at Sacred Heart and then St. Patrick’s in Ottumwa,” she said. “It was sad to see them close when I was there. I went to St. Patrick’s as a student and came back to teach there.”
Around 1966, while she was living in Ottumwa, the Sisters began to replace their habits with regular business clothes. At about that time she went back to using her birth name. “My brother joked he just got used to calling me Andrew and had to get used to going back to Rosalia.”
When she was serving at St. Pius School in Rock Island, she received news during the noon hour of Oct. 18, 1957, about the fire at Ottumwa Heights – the motherhouse, college and academy in Ottumwa. “By 9 p.m. we had two Sisters from the Heights come to be with us. They had nothing but the clothes on their back. We had to share everything we had with them.” Sr. Riedel said many Sisters were scattered across Iowa to live where other Humility Sisters were serving.
Another memory is of the Humility Sisters’ motherhouse moving to Davenport. Sr. Riedel was already in Davenport and living at the Sisters’ residence on Pleasant Street. She remembers going to Ottumwa to help pack items for the move. She continued to reside at Pleasant Street until 2007 when that site was sold to St. Ambrose University. Since then, Sr. Riedel has been living at the motherhouse.
After teaching for 38 years, Sr. Riedel retired – for the first time. She worked at the Center for Active Seniors Inc. (CASI), which offers an adult day center among other things. “I helped wherever they needed me. I observed clients, did exercise with them, and read with them, reminisced with them.” After nine years she retired from that career and began 10 years of volunteer service doing a Bible study once a week at CASI.
Currently Sr. Riedel keeps busy doing whatever is needed at the motherhouse. “I help with mailings or what I am called to do. Sometimes I just like to sit and do nothing. That’s nice too,” she chuckled.