Sister Modesta Neubauer
Sister Modesta made it easy to write her tribute because of all the work she had done on her family genealogy. In fact most of the information in this tribute came from her own writing. Early members of her family came from Canack, Luxembourg, to Avon, Minnesota. Sister spent many hours on her genealogy and loved to share it. She made sure that her family members had copies of the fruits of her labor.
Rosalia Laura was born on May 30, 1925, in Portsmouth, Iowa, the seventh child in a family of ten children born to Joseph and Susan Gondringer Neubauer. Her parents and all of her siblings except her brother Max are deceased. Rose was baptized in St. John’s Church in Adair. A few years later the family moved to a farm near Norwalk, just south of Des Moines.
Rose atended and graduated from Norwalk High School in 1944. She started working at the Christ Child Home in Des Moines and it was there that she met the Sisters of Humility. On January 6, 1945, Rose entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary. She received the habit on July 11, 1945, and her name in religion, Sr. Mary Modesta. She made vows on July 17, 1947. We are glad to have with us Sister Janice McCann, the last member of her novitiate class.
We saw that very early that Sr. Modesta was interested in caring for others. This thread would run through all of her ministries, from caring for small children through assisting her CHM sisters who needed nursing care. She took courses about caring for children, youth, and ill and elderly patients. In 1968 she received certification from the Institute for the Care of Children and Youth at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. In 1977 she completed certification from the Institute of Child Care at St. Louis University. In 1986 she completed a program for Nurse Assistant at Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society with on-the-job training at Mercy Hospital in Davenport, Iowa.
Her first mission was at the Christ Child Home in Des Moines where she took care of infants. She then served in food service at Marycrest College for five years. She was assigned to St. Vincent Home in Davenport where she took care of the “little girls” from age two (2) up to age seven (7) or eight (8) for 15 years. Understand this was a 24/7 job, with occasional weekends off and a week-long annual retreat. Over the years some of the girls, now women with families, would show up for a surprise visit with Sister.
St. Vincent ceased operating as an orphanage and home for needy children in the mid-1970’s. It was then that Sr. Modesta became a certified nurse-aide and was employed by Mercy Hospital in Davenport. In 1983 when the congregation moved from Ottumwa to Davenport, she joined the staff at Humility of Mary Center where she worked in the Care Center, taking care of the sick and infirm CHM sisters.
Sr. Modesta retired in 1995 when the sisters needing nursing care moved to Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston, Iowa, to the new section and chapel built by the community in conjunction with the Sisters of Mercy. Sr. Modesta lived at Humility of Mary Center until she moved to Bishop Drumm in 2010.
Family was very important to Sr. Modesta, from searching family genealogy to keeping in touch with brothers, sisters and their children. In her biography she makes note of how much she enjoyed her golden jubilee as a Sister of Humility in 1994, when so many family and friends celebrated with her. She was an avid bird watcher, loved history and liked to travel.The last item she lists in her writing is that she enjoyed a good political argument, whether she won or lost! Sr. Micheline recalls getting into a few of those arguments with her and, as they got into it, Sr. Modesta seemed to change positions so Sr. Micheline was never sure who won or lost.
For many of us, our most vivid memory of Sr. Modesta is her smile. Her rosy cheeks and smile could light up any gray day.
Micheline Curtis, CHM
Mary Rehmann, CHM