Companions on the journey: Congregation of the Humility of Mary celebrates 150 years in U.S.


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Sisters representing nine religious communities participated in the Congregation of the Humility of Mary’s June 28 celebration marking 150 years in the United States.
“We wanted to let the Humilities know that we support them and our prayers are with them as they continue their mission,” said Sister Rita Cameron of the Dubuque-based Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Martin Amos celebrates Mass commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Sisters of Humility arriving in the United States. The Mass was celebrated June 28 in Christ the King Chapel, St. Ambrose University, Davenport.

Among other communities represented at the celebration on the St. Ambrose University campus were the Pennsylvania-based Sisters of the Humility of Mary, which sent 13 members. The Iowa (CHM) and Pennsylvania Sisters of Humility (HM) share roots dating back to their founders’ journey from France to Pennsylvania in 1864.

Acknowledging that bond in a visible way Sister Johanna Rickl, CHM president, and Sister Toby Lardie, HM pastoral leader, walked side by side in the procession to Mass in Christ the King Chapel at St. Ambrose. Next month, seven members of the Iowa Sisters of Humility will travel to Pennsylvania for a special 150th celebration there. Both communities have hosted events throughout the year to mark this significant milestone in their ministry of service to the Church.


In her welcome at the Mass, Sr. Rickl said, “We, like our founders, have had companions on the journey. You are among those who have dreamed with us and shared our struggles and successes. So it is fitting that we join together in offering praise and thanks to God for blessings received during these 150 years.”

The Mass took place on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. Bishop Martin Amos observed in his homily that both the apostles and the Sisters, led by the Spirit, left behind the life they knew to pursue a new vision.

Each of these evangelizers faced innumerable difficulties and challenges. For the Sisters, saying “yes” meant journeying across the Atlantic in a terrible storm that made them seasick and beginning their new ministry in abject poverty.

They persevered, and some of them later responded to calls in Missouri and then to Iowa, where they settled in Ottumwa. They established schools for the poor, hospitals, orphanages, and Marycrest College in Davenport, the first liberal arts college for women in southern Iowa. Some of the Sisters went on to Montana to teach in parish schools and educate rural children in the basics of faith. The community encouraged advanced degrees for the Sisters and embraced the call of the Second Vatican Council, the bishop noted.

He read an excerpt from the mission statement of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, which describes the community’s commitment to live the Gospel with simplicity and joy, following the example of Mary. They strive to be attentive to the call of the Spirit in the signs of the times and to work for justice and care for the earth.

Today, their ministries include Humility of Mary Housing Inc., Humility of Mary Shelter, Cirimex Inc., Our Lady of the Prairie, environmental awareness, holistic spirituality and health-based and pastoral ministries.
“It has been a spiritual journey for all to whom, with whom and for whom they have been another Peter or Paul, and ultimately, Christ,” Bishop Amos observed.

The journey has also led to collaboration within and outside the CHM community, as evidenced by those in attendance for the 150th anniversary celebration.

“We work together,” said Sister Dolores McHugh of the Dubuque-based Sisters of Charity of Blessed Virgin Mary, who entered the BVM community in 1949. That collaborative spirit among religious communities didn’t develop until after Vatican II. “When I was a young Sister we didn’t even visit with other communities,” she said. “It was a time when everyone was competing.”

Years later, as a superintendent of schools, she lived with two Sisters of Humility in Des Moines: Jeanie and Elaine Hagedorn. “They tried to teach me humility and I tried to teach them charity,” Sr. McHugh joked.

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