Sister Maria Rieckelman died on Dec. 28 at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Maryknoll. She was 91 years old and had been a Maryknoll sister for 73 years.
She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on Aug. 31, 1927 to Mary (Mathews) Rieckelman and Harry H. Rieckelman and given the name Alice. She had two sisters: Mary Louise and Edith and two brothers: Harry H. Jr. and Charles J.; all of whom have predeceased her.
In 1945, Alice graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Hyde Park, Cincinnati. She then entered the Maryknoll Sisters Novitiate at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining on Sept. 6, 1945 from St. Mary’s Parish in Hyde Park (Cincinnati Diocese). At her Reception into the community she received the religious name, Sister Maria Fidelis, which she retained throughout her religious life. She made her First Profession of Vows on March 7, 1948, at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, and her Final Vows on March 7, 1951 also at the Maryknoll Sisters Center.
From 1945 to 1947, Sister Maria studied at the Maryknoll Teachers College in Maryknoll. In 1947, she transferred to the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York, where she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in 1951. She continued her studies at Marquette University School of Medicine (now known as The Medical College of Wisconsin) in Milwaukee, and graduated in 1955, earning her Doctor of Medicine Degree. Sister Maria then began her internship in medicine and surgery at Mt. Carmel Hospital in Columbus, from 1955-1956.
In 1956, she received her first overseas mission assignment to Pusan, Korea to do medical work. Then in 1958, Sister Maria was sent to Kowloon, Hong Kong where she studied language and supervised the building of Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital which opened in 1961. From 1963 to 1967, she served as the Hospital Administrator. She then returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, and was elected to serve on the Leadership Team for three years.
From 1971 to 1974, Sister Maria was assigned to Honolulu, where she completed her Residency in both Adult and Child Psychiatry at the University of Hawaii.
She was then appointed as Coordinator of Health Services for the Church in the USA Office of Domestic Social Development at the U.S. Catholic Conference in Washington, D.C from 1976-1977.
Sister Maria remained in Washington, D.C., from 1978 to 2004, her “itinerant” ministry focused on doing Psychiatric Therapy and Spiritual Psychiatry to missioners and leaders in over 30 countries. This included: workshops, seminars, and retreats for communities and leadership groups of all faiths. She helped her participants face issues of interpersonal growth, leadership, trauma, stress, and interconnectedness, highlighted by women’s movement and ecological awareness. In 2006, she served as individual and workshop facilitator with members of the Maryknoll Society, Maryknoll Affiliates and Lay Missioners.
In 2007, Sister Maria returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, where she provided spiritual direction to people until 2014 when she retired.
Sister Maria donated her body to science.
A Vespers service will be held for Sister Maria on Monday, Jan. 21, at 4:15 p.m. in the Chapel of the Annunciation at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll. A Funeral Mass will be held on Jan. 22, at 11:00 a.m., also in the Chapel of the Annunciation at the Maryknoll Sisters Center.
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