Sr. Bissell is a co-founder of CIRIMEX


Sister Mary Kevin Bissell, CHM, (Katherine A. Bissell) a former teacher in the Diocese of Davenport, died March 31 in Johnston. She was 90.

She was born Nov. 26, 1926, to George and Anna O’Connor Bissell in Wapello County near Ottumwa. She received her AA from Ottumwa Heights College in 1945 and a BA in 1950 from Mary­crest College, Davenport.

Sr. Bissell

Sr. Bissell entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1950, professed vows in 1953, and then began an extensive career, teaching many subjects in all grades from kindergarten through post-doctoral work. Teaching positions in Iowa took her to Ottumwa, Pleasant Plain, Monroe, Wapello, Centerville, Marshalltown, Des Moines, Dunlap and Neola; in Montana to Sidney and Great Falls; and in Alaska to Kotzebue.

She held undergraduate majors in five fields, two master’s degrees and a doctorate in four fields.


Her final teaching position was at Howard University Graduate School in Washington, D.C., where she taught research methodology and was director of graduate research.

For the Diocese of Northern Alaska, she did community development with Eskimo communities. Sr. Bissell returned to Iowa to become director of research for the Latin American Bureau of the U.S. Catholic Conference in Davenport. She then became national director of research, Division for Latin America, U.S. Catholic Conference headquarters in Washington, D.C. With Sister Caridad Inda, CHM, she designed and presented courses on Vatican II to women religious of the five dioceses of southern Mexico.

While working in the Washington, D.C., area from 1975-97, Sr. Bissell designed and implemented large-scale international research projects for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, The Justice and Defense Departments and the Agency for International Development, Department of State, Pacific Consultants, Inc., Ideamatics, Inc. and the Institute for Urban Affairs. She also designed and chaired the International Women in Development Conference in Amsterdam, and designed the International Conference of Women Scientists in Vienna for the United Nations.

Sr. Bissell served as assistant commissioner to the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). She was awarded the Mary Pinkerton Award, the highest national service award for federally employed women. She was a charter member of the Christian Feminists of Washington, D.C., and served on the Boards of Wider Opportunities for Women and The Housing Counseling Service, Washington Chapters. Memberships include American Political Science Association, International Studies Association, Women in Development and PAX Community Organization.

In 1982, with Sr. Inda, she designed and founded The Center for International Resources (CIRIMEX) in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico; from its founding, she served as U.S. director. CIRIMEX principally provides one-on-one, total immersion Spanish language and culture training for church and religious personnel, seminarians, diocesan and order priests and prelates nationwide and from 26 foreign countries.
Her funeral was to be held April 5 at St. Mary of the Visitation Church in Ottumwa. Her body will be cremated following the service. Interment will be in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Ottumwa at a later date.

Memorials may be made to the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, 820 W Central Park Ave, Davenport, IA 52804.

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