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Sr. Helen Joseph celebrates St. Columban's 90th anniversary

Posted on: October 25, 2016 4:00 pm
Tags: Education,

Sr. Mary Helen Joseph Riehle

St. Columban School in Loveland, Ohio, celebrated its 90th anniversary on October 20, 2016 with a school-wide Mass. Sr. Mary Helen Joseph Riehle, age 81 and a former student of St. Columban School, was one of several SNDs in attendance.

Sr. Helen Joseph said the Mass was beautiful and she was impressed at the student involvement. “The students were precious,” she said. “During the entrance procession the students carried in large, colorful streamers. I was amazed that some of the students, who are so small, could carry them!”

St. Columban students also took on the roles of lector, cantor, Eucharistic minister, usher, and even bell choir members. Sr. Helen Joseph said that everyone at the Mass, young and old, sang every song. She described the children as devout and attentive, especially when Fr. Tensi invited all former students to come forward to be blessed.

“We turned and faced the congregation and all of the children held up their hands to bless us,” Sr. Helen Joseph said. “Since it is my home parish, it thrilled me to see the faith and community spirit that is there.” She was also touched that the Sisters of Notre Dame were recognized for their role in starting the school with Fr. Otto Auer.

Sr. Helen Joseph attended St. Columban School in the 1930s and 1940s before attending Notre Dame Academy and then entering the Sisters of Notre Dame community. She said that when she was at St. Columban, there were four grades per classroom. It was small and the relationships between the families and the teachers were strong. Sr. Helen Joseph recounted the unique ways she experienced this tight-knit feeling:

One night while studying multiplication with my family, I gave the wrong answer for 6x9. I was convinced the answer I gave was what I had heard at school. I would not believe my mom nor my brothers when they corrected me. I said I would only believe Sr. Mary Teresa Doyle. Finally, they took me to Sr. Teresa and they asked her the answer to 6x9. She told me the same answer my family had said all along—the correct answer!


While Sr. Helen Joseph laughed at her mathematics lesson from Sr. Teresa, she showed a humble smile when describing her First Communion experience with Sr. Mary Ignatia Kimmich:

When I was to make my first communion, my sister (deceased Notre Dame Sister Mary Adrienne Riehle) got Scarlet fever and we were quarantined for three weeks. We even put a sign on our house to warn others. Everyone had to stay in the house, except my dad, who was permitted to leave since he had to work. Because of the quarantine I did not make my First Communion alongside my classmates. There were only five in our group, but Sr. Ignatia made sure I had my First Communion celebration after the quarantine. She even had another girl dress in her First Communion dress and go up with me. I was very touched by her concern.


After reflecting on her student experience and her interactions at the 90th anniversary Mass, Sr. Helen Joseph remarked that a tradition of compassion and faithfulness still runs strong at St. Columban School. It is this compassion and faithfulness that will carry on St. Columban School for another 90 years. 

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