Sister Leona Reidelberger, MM
Born: March 31, 1903
Entered: October 15, 1927
Died: February 24, 1979
We are gathered together today to celebrate the birth into new life of our Sister Leona Reidelberger. It is very fitting we should be celebrating the death and resurrection of Sister Leona on this great feast of the liturgical year, Ash Wednesday, when, with the whole Church throughout the world, we pause to reflect on the finiteness of our human life and the wonder of our ultimate destiny.
“If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his Resurrection.” (Romans 6:5.)
The words of the Epistle chosen for today capture something essential of Sister Leona’s life, for we know that as she followed Christ in suffering so now she has followed Him to eternal joy.
Leona Reidelberger was born on March 31, 1903 in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents died when she was a young girl. Leona completed a commercial course at a local high school and worked some years as a stenographer before coming to Maryknoll on October 15, 1927. She took the name “Sister Mans Stella” at Reception and made her final vows on April 30, 1933.
Sister Leona worked for over 40 years at Maryknoll and at Crichton House, using her many secretarial skills in the service of mission. She served for years as secretary to the Rector of the Maryknoll Seminary, working closely with Bishop Edward A. McGurkin, Bishop John W. Comber and Father Albert Fedders, among others. She had also been Mother Mary Joseph’s secretary at one time. In her last years of service at The Center, she took over as sacristan for The Center Chapel.
Shortly after her Golden Jubilee celebration in 1977, she became so ill it was feared she would not pull through; but she recovered and spent her last months at Bethany and most recently in our Nursing Home.
In 1967, Sister Leona was assigned to Hawaii; but ill health dictated her early return home. At that time she wrote, “I am most grateful for the opportunity of being here these months (almost a year). I especially value the opportunity of getting to know some of the Sisters I had not known before. All have been wonderfully kind and loving. I’m sorry I could not be of more service to them….” (June 9, 1968) Her whole life was one of total service despite the fact that she suffered for years from poor health. All who knew her, remark on her heroic acceptance of pain in silence and her generosity.
Sister Leona was very devoted to Scripture study and was forward-looking in her approach to the changes in the Church since Vatican II. She maintained an interest in events of the world and her vision was outward. The night before she died, weak as she felt, she was at the evening news keeping up on the latest happenings.
Her last words were addressed to the two Sisters who were helping her the morning she died; but in many ways they were addressed to all of us who shared life with her. With great difficulty, she struggled to say, “Thank you.” She died peacefully at 03:15 p.m., on February 24th. Those of us who were privileged to be with her at that moment, shared a sense of peace that her long sufferings were now ended, and a sense of gratitude to Sister Leona for the life she gave to us.
As we celebrate the Eucharist today, may we all rejoice in the new life that is Sister Leona’s.