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Schierbrock Marilyncropped

Sister Marilyn Schierbrock

April 27, 1939 - February 28, 2022   |   Passed On

Tribute to Sr. Marilyn

Marilyn Regina Claire Schierbrock was born on April 27, 1939 to Leo Joseph and Regina Lafferty Schierbrock in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She was the fourth of seven children, including twins Kathleen and Eileen, the youngest. 

The family lived in Neola, Iowa, where CHMs had long been teaching at St. Joseph School and were a presence in the parish in the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa.  

Marilyn entered the community on September 8, 1957. The following summer she received the habit and her name in religion, Sister Regina Marie. She and her classmates made vows in August 1960, at St. Mary’s Church in Ottumwa. A devastating fire had destroyed the entire Ottumwa Heights complex – Motherhouse, Novitiate, Junior College, and Academy – in  October 1957. She made final vows in 1963, in the middle of Vatican II.

While the new Ottumwa Heights was being built, the sisters, novices, postulants and college students lived in the Bachelors Officers Quarters (BOQ) of the former World War II air base outside Ottumwa. The city of Ottumwa made the facility available to the community and classes were held in buildings on the campus. A yellow school bus transported the sisters and students to and from classes and the BOQ.

In 1961 Sr. Marilyn received her Associate’s degree from Ottumwa Heights College which enabled her to be certified to teach in Iowa. Her first assignment was to St. Anthony’s School in Des Moines where she taught first grade for three (3) years, taking additional classes at Marycrest College during the summers. She went to Marshalltown, in the Archdiocese of Dubuque and taught first grade at St. Mary’s for two years. She received her BA in Elementary Education from Marycrest College in 1966. She continued teaching primary grades at Sacred Heart School in West Des Moines through the 1969-70 school year. 

By this time the Humilities were well into adaptation of their lives consistent with the Vatican II Document on the Appropriate Renewal of Religious Life. They had adopted the principle of “self-determination” by which individual sisters, in consultation with community leadership and others, discerned their call of the Spirit in terms of prayer, ministry and community life. Beginning in the fall of 1970, what might have been a natural transition, she started serving as Religious Education coordinator at Sacred Heart parish in West Des Moines. This meant that she was responsible for arranging religious classes and teachers, usually for Catholic students in the parish who attended public schools, anywhere from kindergarten through high school. Publishers were producing new curriculum materials and dioceses introduced training for teachers in the programs. Classes were generally held in the evenings for junior and senior high school students, Saturdays for elementary grades.From 1971 to ’75 she attended Loyola University in Chicago during the summers, studying for her MA degree in Religious Education.

In 1973 she moved to the Diocese of Davenport where she was listed as teacher and Director of Religious Education at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, continued to 1982. In 1982 she accepted the position of Director of Religious Education for the Iowa City Vicariate, supported by continuing education credits from the Sinsinawa Biblical Institute at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. She served 10 years in that role, eventually working out of Regina Education Center there.

When she introduced herself to people of St. Alphonsus parish in Mt. Pleasant in September 1993, she said that she had enjoyed a sabbatical year in 1992-93. Part of the year was at the University of Notre Dame from which she received Certification for Continuing Formation Ministry.  The scope of pastoral ministry is revealed by a certificate from Henry County in Iowa for Volunteer Hospice Training in 1994, from the Archdiocese of Dubuque for  preparation of forms as Parish Auditor for “decrees of nullity” of marriage in 1995.  Her title was Pastoral Associate until 1999 when she was named Pastoral Minister and continued in that role until 2001. 

Sister Marilyn served two terms on the Cabinet of Advisors when Sr. Jude Fitzpatrick was president from 1996 to 2004. She contributed her experiences to exploring ways of community living as well as serving the very poor and adapting to circumstances. Early in that period the community built the 6-unit building for CHMs and volunteers on Vine Street, and Humility of Mary Housing built units for homeless, single-parent families. At the time of John F. Kennedy Junior’s death in July 1999, she quoted from a columnist, “Wake up and don’t take loved ones for granted.” Following a family reunion near that time, she wrote what a “treasured gift” each one of her siblings was.

It was the 6th Street neighborhood in Davenport where Sister Marilyn “bloomed where she was planted.” The title “Neighborhood Advocacy Coordinator”, while employed by the John Lewis Café Inc., sounds comprehensive; as time went on, she incorporated more and more in its scope. She began with meeting and befriending residents and those who frequented the food pantry and clothing center. 

When asked if she could use the help of groups on service projects, she said “Yes” as she had begun a community garden in the “hood”. The Christian Experience Weekend (CEW) group from St. Ann Parish in Long Grove was one of the first to be welcomed to the neighborhood. An  adult volunteer from Erie, PA, was assigned to help an elderly resident “clean up his ‘junk yard” as ordered by the city of Davenport. This volunteer said the resident got “great joy” from repairing lawn mowers, bicycles and small motors, many of which were “waiting” in the yard for his attention. Appreciating that attachment, the volunteer negotiated on some of the “save or pitch” decisions, giving the owner the dignity and respect he deserved. In reflecting on the half-hour, silent prayer-walk taken around the neighborhood one evening, a young person described the experience, “You use your senses to pick up on things. You look. You smell. You hear.”

The community garden grew to be  huge success, with typical headaches too. Residents could have plots of their own; as summer progressed they might get less and less attention , especially if it was a “dry” year. However, the inner-city garden was selected for “gardens to visit lists” in the local papers. Sr. Marilyn was described as a “green-thumbed Sister of Humility." The  local free monthly magazine, Radish, credited her with “greening things and breaking down barriers, growing community as well as plants.”

When asked if she felt “safe”? living and working in the inner city? Sr. Marilyn replied that she was mindful of “safety “early on but, once she became a familiar face, she felt at home. Her credits include several citations from law enforcement groups. She completed “Citizen Awareness Training” conducted by the Davenport Police Department in 2002 and in 2012 she received a “Certificate of Appreciation for Five (5) years of Faithful Support for all law enforcement, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

In 2008, after John Lewis ceased operations and the Congregation established Humility of Mary Shelter, Sr. Marilyn continued her advocacy with the re-branded Central City Circle and was responsible for the Food Pantry. That meant ordering from the regional distribution source, checking on deliveries, and managing the days and hours of operation. There were “bread pick-ups” from regular sources, often with distribution upon arrival at the pantry. As record-keeping transitioned to digital methods, volunteers did that work.  Sr. Marilyn continued as a worker and presence there. 

After moving to Bishop Drumm Care Center Sr. Marilyn was eager to help in whatever ways she could. She was a regular reader at Community Prayer and appreciated for that. Having been told she could not push wheel chairs, she was frustrated but found satisfaction in arranging chairs in the chapel for special events there. Classmate Sr. Cathy Talarico came for evening prayers and the Hagedorn sisters, Sr. Elaine also a classmate, were in touch with her. Classmate Sr. Cathy Burns visited her at Senior Star in Davenport until COVID-19 interrupted, then resumed when visitors were allowed again.

Sr. Marilyn is remembered as a very generous person, a woman much loved by the various communities she served. Her quick step and ready smile said it all.

Composed by Sister Mary Rehmann, CHM

Sr. Marilyn's obituary can be found HERE...

Memorials may be made to the Congregation of the Humility of Mary.

Sr. Marilyn, far left, was instrumental in the upkeep of the Central Community Circle Garden Place in Davenport, Iowa. She helped the neighborhood residents to learn gardening and share the produce.