Childhood experience inspires sister’s work with immigrants, migrants

Sister Irene Munoz, CHM, talks to a migrant family in Muscatine in the late 1960s.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Although it happened more than 70 years ago, Sister Irene Munoz, CHM, will never forget the day she was short-changed at her local general store. As a young Mexican-American girl living in small-town Iowa in the 1940s, she thought the prospect of going back and asking for the proper change was daunting. Her father encouraged her to return to the store and do just that. “I went, and I was so nervous. But the clerk gave me the right change, and it felt good!”

In the years since, Sister Irene has worked to bring about other kinds of “change” — particularly in the lives of immigrant and migrant women. Her mission is and always has been to show them that their voices and their lives are important and worth fighting for.

Sister Irene, who serves as the multicultural minister for the Ottumwa area, joined the Sisters of Humility in the late 1950s. Her sister, Molly, also became a Sister of Humility. Sister Irene recalls, “We had this crazy idea that we could change the world and love people and teach them to respect each other. Our strong faith engineered us to really get in there and think about these people who are suffering and ask, ‘How can we relate to them? What can we do?’”

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the Munoz sisters worked with migrant farm workers in the Muscatine area. “I saw many injustices, especially for the women,” Sister Irene recalled. “The women worked long hours with the men, stooping over and picking tomatoes, and then they’d return home … sunburned and tired, having to make the meals and look after the children.” The women did not have the time or money to take care of health issues including pesticide poisoning, pregnancy and spider bites.

To empower the women, the Munoz sisters helped to establish an on-site clinic. Senior medical students from the University of Iowa School of Medicine in Iowa City provided the care. “Every Friday during migrant season we had a free clinic for them,” Sister Irene said. “They were able to get prenatal and postnatal care and get immunizations.” The sisters also advocated for better housing and education for the migrant workers and their families.

In Ottumwa, Sister Irene observes that immigrant and migrant women continue to face obstacles related to poverty, health care, an “inhumane” immigration system and racial discrimination. Culturally, it has been challenging for women to speak out, “but this is starting to change. I’m seeing it more in younger women. They’re getting more involved with politics, community issues and national issues in addition to caring for their families.”

In Ottumwa, she sees women get more involved in organizations such as League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “I’m really pleased with that,” Sister Irene said. “They have to be able to voice what they want; they are entitled to have a decent life and should not be mistreated or violated. We need to let them reach the fullness of their lives, whatever that is.”

Speaking out isn’t always easy and not every scenario will end positively, like the day Sister Irene requested and received proper change from the general store clerk. “When you speak out on issues, you can make friends and lose friends, and people are very cruel sometimes when you speak up for the rights of people who are hurting,” she said, adding, “It’s what we need to do.”

About Sister Irene Munoz

Sister Irene entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1957 and professed first vows in 1959. Sister Irene received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the St. Joseph School of Nursing in Ottumwa and a master’s degree in pastoral ministry from St. Thomas Theological Seminary in Denver. She is a graduate of the Catholic Biblical School of the Archdiocese of Denver and received her CPE in Clinical Pastoral Education from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

She was an appointed member of the Governor of Iowa to the Spanish-Speaking Commission of Iowa, was a member of the American-Health Delegation to “Red China” in 1973 and attended the International Women’s Year Conference in Nairobi, Africa, in 1989.

Sister Irene was featured in the 2018 book “Amazing Iowa Women,” an illustrated guide to some of Iowa’s most extraordinary women. In March, Sister Irene received the Barbara Boatwright Lifetime Achievement Award at the Emerge Iowa DAWN awards. In August, the USA TODAY Network recognized Sister Irene as one of 10 Women of the Century from the state of Iowa.

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CHM sisters, associates celebrate milestones


For The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — The Congregation of the Humility of Mary (CHM) announced the jubilees of 10 Sisters and one associate. A private Mass was celebrated Aug. 30 with Bishop Thomas Zinkula and concelebrants Msgr. Lawrence Beeson and Msgr. Francis Henricksen.

75 years

Sister Rosalia Riedel (Mary Andrew) was born in 1923 in Milford, Ohio. She entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1945 and made her first profession in 1948. She received a BA in elementary education from Marycrest College-Davenport and 40 years later received a certified nurse’s aide degree from Scott Community College-Davenport.

Sister Riedel

Sister Riedel’s ministry as an elementary school teacher in Iowa found her in St. Mary-Centerville, Lourdes Memorial-Bettendorf, St. Mary-Albia, St. Theresa-Des Moines, St. Mary-Oskaloosa and St. Patrick and Sacred Heart schools in Ottumwa. She also taught in St. Leo-Lewistown, Montana, and St. Pius X-Rock Island, Illinois.

After teaching, her ministry focused in a different direction. She worked in Davenport at the Center for Active Seniors (CASI) as a program assistant, a program facilitator and finally as a volunteer.

Sister Riedel resides at Bishop Drumm Care Center-Johnston, Iowa, where she is active in a ministry of prayer and witness.

70 years

Sister Rachel Beeson was born in 1932 in Des Moines. She entered the CHMs in 1950 making her first vows in 1953. She studied education at Ottumwa Heights College-Ottumwa, received her BA in education from Marycrest College-Davenport and an MA in elementary administration from Southeast Missouri State University-Cape Gerardeau, Missouri. She also completed a corporate ministry program at St. Louis University in St. Louis.

Sister Beeson

Sister Beeson’s ministry included teaching and administration in the following Iowa schools: Consolidated Schools-Cosgrove, St. Joseph-Dunlap, St. Mary-Oskaloosa, St. Anthony-Des Moines, St. Mary-Centerville, St. Vincent Lab-Davenport and St. Mary-Albia. She was a teacher, assistant principal and principal at St. Pius X-Des Moines; principal at St. Albert-Council Bluffs, St. Anthony-Des Moines, North Catholic Grade School-Clinton and Hayes Elementary-Muscatine. She also taught at St. Austin-Minneapolis, Minnesota, and St. Denis-Benton, Missouri.

Sister Beeson’s varied ministries also included: plant coordinator at Ottumwa Heights-Ottumwa, coordinator of retired at Marycrest-Davenport, women’s counselor at New Life Style-St. Louis, Missouri, and religious education coordinator at St. Anthony Parish-Knoxville. She was a member of the Seeds of Hope team in Davenport matching volunteers with opportunities to serve the homeless, migrants and refugees, inner- city children and the elderly.

Sister Beeson currently lives at Humility of Mary Center-Davenport where she is active in a ministry of prayer and witness.

60 years

• Sister Judith Carrara (M. Antonia) was born in Canton, Illinois, in 1937. She attended St Mary Grade School-Canton. After graduating from Marycrest College in 1960 with a BA in history, she entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary and pronounced first vows in 1963. She received an MA in systematic geography from the University of Iowa, an MA in European social history from Northern Illinois University-DeKalb, Illinois, and an MSW in social work with a concentration in mental health and aging from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sister Carrara

Sister Carrara taught at Ottumwa Heights Junior College and was assistant professor at Marycrest College-Davenport. She was coordinator of elderly services for Rock Island County at Project Now-Rock Island, Illinois; program and compliance manager at Western Illinois Area Agency on Aging, which covers program support and funding to aging services in 10 Illinois counties. Her work in Davenport included social work/case management coordinator at Center for Aging Services (CASI); elder services program director at Friendly House; and supportive services coordinator to older residents for Signature Management. In 2007 she moved to Peoria, Illinois, to care for her mother who died at 100 years of age. After a sabbatical she returned to ministry with senior citizens.

Sister Carrara currently lives in Bettendorf and volunteers as a support person to older adults and as a social justice advocate.

• Sister Kathleen Hanley (Edward Mary), a native of Lewistown, Montana, was born in 1942. She entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1960 and made her first vows in 1963.

Sister Hanley

She received an associate’s degree in education from Ottumwa Heights College-Ottumwa, a BA in English from Marycrest College-Davenport, an MA in religious education from Seattle University-Seattle, Washington, and an MA in pastoral liturgy from Santa Clara University-Santa Clara, California.

Sister Hanley’s ministry of teaching began at St. Vincent Lab School-Davenport. She taught at St. Austin School-Minneapolis, Minnesota, St. Pius X-Rock Island, Illinois, Lenihan High School and St. Henry-Marshalltown, Iowa, and Columbus High School-Waterloo, Iowa. In addition, she served as campus minister of music at the University of Northern Iowa-Cedar Falls. From 1978-1980 Sister Hanley was the CHM director of novices, from 1980-1984 she served as CHM vice president, and from 1983-1986 she was the CHM coordinator of retired at the Humility of Mary Center. From 1995-2000 she served as executive secretary for the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in Saratoga, California. She has since been in music ministry at St. Jude Church in Havre, and St. Leo Parish in Lewistown, both in Montana. She also served as music director at St. Patrick Co-Cathedral-Billings, Montana.

Sister Hanley sings in the Billings Symphony Chorale. She belongs to two book groups, one of which focuses on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home.” She volunteers as a cuddler in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings. She is dedicated to the ministry of prayer and witness.

• Sister Kathleen Henneberry (Madonna Marie) was born in Bernard, Iowa, in 1938. She entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1960 and made her first profession in 1963.

She received her BA in elementary education from Marycrest College-Davenport. She continued her education at many colleges with a focus on spiritual direction, theology, hospice care and pastoral ministry.

Sister Henneberry’s teaching ministry in Iowa found her at Ottumwa Heights-Ottumwa, St. Vincent Lab School-Davenport, St. Mary-Albia, St. Mary-Centerville, St. Joseph-Dunlap and Holy Trinity-Davenport. She also taught at St. Matthew-Sidney, Montana, and St. Pius/Jordan Catholic-Rock Island, Illinois.

Sr. Henneberry’s parish ministry found her at St. Mary and St. Joseph-Davenport; St. Louis University-St. Louis, Missouri; St. Catherine Church and Mercer County Catholic churches-Aledo, Illinois; St. Mary-Beardsley, Minnesota; and in the Iowa parishes of St. John-Blairstown, Sacred Heart-Oxford Junction, Sacred Heart-Lost Nation, St. James-Toronto, Sacred Heart-Chariton and St. Francis-Corydon.

From 2008-2010 she served as the CHM coordinator at Bishop Drumm Care Center in Johnston. She currently lives at the Humility of Mary Center where she works with Sister Rosie Restelli as sacristan, volunteers for the CHMs and visits immediate family members who suffer serious health issues.

• Sister Catherine Linnenkamp (Ramona Marie) was born in Sigourney, Iowa, in 1938 and entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1960. She pronounced first vows in 1963.

Sister Linnenkamp

She earned her associate’s degree in education from Ottumwa Heights College-Ottumwa, a BA in education from Marycrest College-Davenport and an MA in education from George Peabody College for Teachers-Nashville, Tennessee.

Sister Linnenkamp’s ministry of teaching in Iowa found her at St. Anthony-Des Moines, St. Mary-Ottumwa, St. Mary-Albia and Lourdes Memorial-Bettendorf. She returned to Albia as principal in 1970 and also served as principal at Lourdes and Holy Trinity-Davenport. Her ministry as assistant registrar at Marycrest College-Davenport began in 1986. She then became registrar at Teikyo/Marycrest University. Changing ministries in 2000, she worked in health information management at Genesis Medical Center-Davenport. Currently she lives in Davenport and serves as the CHM finance clerk at Humility of Mary Center.

• Sister Rosalind Restelli (Mario) was born in 1942 in Great Falls, Montana, and entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1960. She pronounced first vows in 1963.

She received an associate degree in teaching from Ottumwa Heights College-Ottumwa and a BA in elementary education from Marycrest College-Davenport. Her ministry of education found her at schools in Iowa including St. Mary-Marshalltown, St. Pius X-Des Moines, Lourdes Memorial-Bettendorf, and St. Joseph School-Neola. She also taught at Our Lady of Sorrows-Wahiawa, Hawaii. Sister Restelli also served as a pastoral minister at St. Patrick Parish-Neola. She was the last Sister of Humility to serve in Neola, having ministered there for 37 years. She now lives at the Humility of Mary Center where she is a sacristan.

• Sister Johanna Rickl (Mary Johanna) was born in 1942 in Glendive, Montana, and entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1960. She pronounced first vows in 1963.

Sister Rickl

She earned her associate degree in education from Ottumwa Heights College-Ottumwa, a BA in biology from Marycrest College-Davenport and an MS in zoology from Arizona State University-Tempe, Arizona. She later completed the Qualified General Interpreter Program at Des Moines Area Community College and is a charter member of the Iowa Interpreters and Translators Association.

Her ministry of teaching began at St. Anthony-Des Moines, Iowa, and continued at Great Falls Central-Great Falls, Montana, Walsh High School-Ottumwa and Bourgade High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Sister Rickl did pastoral work in Chiapas, Mexico, for 13 years and later at St. Michael-Conrad, Montana. She was pastoral administrator of St. William-Dutton, Montana, for 10 years. From 2003-2008 she lived in the CHM New Hope Community, serving residents of the River Bend neighborhood of Des Moines and interpreting at Mercy Medical Center.

She has served as president and vice president of the CHM community and is currently part of the CHM Leadership Team in Davenport. Much of her attention is directed to the CHM sponsored ministries, Humility Homes & Services, Inc., and Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat-Wheatland.

• Sister Nancy Schwieters (John Mary) was born in Davenport in 1940, entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1960 and made her first vows in 1963.

Sr. Schwieters

She earned an associate degree in elementary education from Ottumwa Heights College-Ottumwa, a BA in elementary education from Marycrest College-Davenport and an MA in religious education from Seattle University-Seattle, Washington. Sister Schwieter’s ministry of teaching in Iowa found her at St. Pius X-Des Moines, St. Mary-Marshalltown and Holy Trinity-Davenport. She also taught at Sacred Heart-Glendive, Montana, and coordinated the CHM formation program at the Ottumwa Heights Center.

She served with John Lewis Community Services in Davenport as a job connect and computer lab mentor. She continued that ministry with Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc., in Davenport. She has since retired and is active in a ministry of prayer and witness.

• Sister Mary Penelope Wink (M. Damien) was born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1941. She entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1960. She pronounced first vows in 1963.

Sister Wink

She earned a BA in biology from Marycrest College-Davenport, an MS in biology from Kansas State Teachers College-Emporia, Kansas, and an MA in gestalt psychotherapy from Integro-Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. She also has various certificates in programs related to pastoral services and psychotherapy.

Sister Wink taught in Iowa at St. Pius X-Des Moines, St. Mary and Lenihan High School-Marshalltown, and at Ottumwa Heights-Ottumwa. She worked with single mothers while working in a university laboratory in Nashville, Tennessee, and Houston, Texas. She also acted as CHM formation director and associate coordinator. Since 1975, Sister Wink’s ministry has been that of pastoral work in different parishes of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas in the state of Chiapas in Mexico. She also serves on a variety of diocesan commissions. In addition, since 2002 she has ministered as a psychotherapist and since 2018 as a Polarity Integration therapist in Chiapas.

25 years


CHM Associate Pat Knopick of Davenport, has served as the CHM Associate Coordinator from 2006-2017. Sharing her passion for the associate relationship and the gift of hospitality, the CHMs welcomed many new associates during those years. In addition, Knopick has been a dedicated member of Sacred Heart Cathedral-Davenport. There she taught religious education, was on the team for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and volunteered at the Sacred Heart Clothing Center. In 2003, she retired after 43 years of teaching biology at Davenport West High School.

The CHM Associate program was developed to answer the call of many seeking a deeper spiritual existence without becoming vowed members. The linkage with the Humility Sisters offers a support system, a way to experience other perspectives, a nudge to keep growing, and a spiritual resource.

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