Send a note as Sr. Cecelia, former music teacher in Rock Island, turns 100 June 26

Sister Mary Cecelia Vandeberg dressed for music ministry as a young Sister of Humility (left) and in 2018 as she approached her 100th birthday on June 26. Still going strong, she visits nursing home residents once a week and makes a Holy Hour every afternoon.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Sister Cecelia Vandeberg, CHM, once helped to fill the halls of St. Pius X School in Rock Island with music. Now the Congregation of the Humility of Mary is inviting friends and former students to fill her mailbox with cards and letters for her 100th birthday.

Sister Cecelia will reach that milestone on Tuesday, June 26, and as part of the celebration a card shower is being held. Mail may be sent to her at the Humility of Mary Center, 820 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport, IA 52804.

Sister Cecelia shared the gift of music with the students at St. Pius X School in Rock Island from 1959 to 1966.

Mary Ann Vandeberg grew up on a farm in Epping, North Dakota, as the youngest of Leona (Benoit) and John Godfrey Vandeberg’s three children. Because of drought conditions, the family moved from the farm in Epping to Great Falls, Montana. She attended St. Mary’s Institute and it was there that she met the Sisters of Humility.

She entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1936 and received the habit and religious name, Mary Cecelia, in 1937. She made her first vows in 1938.

Congregation officials noted that their young Sister could play the piano, so she was sent to study at Siena Heights College in Adrian, Michigan. Sister Cecelia received a bachelor’s degree in music in 1941.


Her long ministry included teaching classroom music, directing choirs, and giving music lessons until 1988. While most of her work took her to Montana, Sister Cecelia shared the gift of music with the students at St. Pius X School in Rock Island from 1959 to 1966.

Father George Wuellner, a talented artist, was the associate pastor at St. Pius X in those years and made a life-size drawing of each Sister’s patron saint on her feast day. Sister Micheline Curtis, who lived with Sister Cecelia, recalled the day they returned from school on the feast of St. Cecilia and found a floor-to-ceiling depiction of Sister Cecelia as St. Cecilia, playing the piano with red shoes tapping and red curls visible at the edges of her coif and veil.

Sister Cecelia doubled up with laughter. The picture hung in her music room at school after that.

She retired from the classroom in 1988 and stayed busy by doing hospital ministry, volunteered to teach adults to read, served as a catechist, choir director and extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and was involved in the RENEW program for parishes of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, Montana. Eventually she gave up teaching and directing the choir, but continued to play the organ for several years.

Sister Cecelia has been living at the Humility of Mary Center in Davenport since 2012. There she is a member of the Legion of Mary and visits nursing home residents on Fridays. Her ministry of prayer and witness sees her making a Holy Hour every afternoon in her community’s chapel, and offering many prayers in-between.

The maladies of older age may be part of her everyday life, but what she prays for is that the Lord will increase her faith.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The information for this story and the accompanying photos were provided by Lisa Martin, communications director for the Congregation of the Humility of Mary.

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