OTTUMWA — Their life's journey has not been easy.
A winding road greeted them with adversity and courage. Yet they managed to educate children, feed the hungry and help the poor.
The stories of the Sisters of Humility of Mary are central to Ottumwa’s history and are often told with great affection. They were the women who left their families to make the ultimate leap of faith, living out vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience in the covent and the community. The were inspired by God to serve his people.
Though their presence in the Ottumwa community has dwindled in numbers, their affection has not.
On Saturday, the Sisters, their families, former students and members of the Ottumwa community gathered to celebrate 150 years of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary at Indian Hills Community College, the site of the former Ottumwa Heights College.
It was a day to celebrate their spiritual nourishment to Ottumwa.
“We are a better community because of their caring and compassion,” said Ottumwa Mayor Tom Lazio. “They educated us, cared for our physical and spiritual needs. You’ve been an example of how to seek God in others.”
The Sisters of Humility of Mary began their life in Ottumwa with a knock on the door of Father John Kreckel. They were on a fundraising trip, but Father Kreckel had other ideas. He was looking for someone to open a boys’ school. After discussing the prospect, the entire community of seven members moved to Ottumwa.
The year was 1877, and Ottumwa had the first of many schools in Iowa to be staffed by the Sisters of Humility. Later in the early 20th century, the sisters would found St. Joseph’s hospital and Ottumwa Heights, a two-year college and education center for liberal arts and teacher training.