Sister Philomene Reiland

Sterling, Ill.

Born and raised in Aurora, Ill., Sister Philomene never wavered in her vocation.

“I felt called in the fourth or fifth grade and started going to daily Mass. The Apostolic School, a high school for those considering religious life, opened at the Motherhouse in 1954. In the fall of 1955, seven of us came from Aurora, Ill., to attend school. I loved it! I loved the teachers, received a good education and had a really fun experience. Several of us entered the postulancy together in 1959.”

She taught fourth grade her first year in ministry and “loved it tremendously!” She continued teaching in various schools until 1980 when a priest who had somehow gotten her name — and to this day she does not know how that came about — asked her to go to Sterling, Ill. She has been there ever since. She laughs and says, “I have been in Sterling longer than I have lived anywhere in my whole life.”

Sister Philomene enjoys participating in community events on a volunteer basis. “Every year Hospice has a Festival of Christmas Trees fund-raiser. They have entertainment and I volunteer to play. I play with the Sterling Jazz Band in the summer and have played with the Sauk Valley String Orchestra. At Thanksgiving, we have a community Festival of Praise which combines all the choirs and I help with that. Students who are competing in high school music contests frequently need an accompanist and I enjoy being part of that. There are plenty of musical venture outlets to be involved with!”

Sister Philomene remembers sitting on a piano bench in first grade. “I started taking lessons at that age from Sister Edmund . In the fifth and sixth grades, Sister Irene taught me organ and violin. She made music so much fun. She is such a marvelous teacher!”

Sister Philomene plays the guitar, violin, piano, organ, string bass, bass guitar and the accordion. She has even played the accordion in the middle of Soldier Field in Chicago!

Instruments are not Sister Philomene’s only gift; she also has a gorgeous singing voice and has taught voice students.

“With a music education degree,” she says, “one has to play all instruments. The education I received at Marymount College is something I use every single day of my life. I received a good, solid, education.”

She has composed original musical scores. “In the late 1970s, Sister Agnes Irene Huser said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody composed a Mass based on our community song, Joseph Fili David?’ That stuck in the back of my sub-conscious. We were going to celebrate our centennial in 1983. So in January of 1981, I sat down and wrote the Mass. I started simply with the alleluia, went to the acclamations, then continued on from there. I wrote it for women’s voices — soprano, second soprano and alto. That’s what we were, all those voices. I even wrote in a part for guitars and two trumpets for the sisters who played those instruments. I didn’t know that the sisters who played the trumpets had sold their instruments! The Holy Spirit made all that happen.”

Her main hobbies have to do with music. “It is second nature for me and something that is fun!” Another hobby for her is the computer. She enjoys taking classes to expand her knowledge and capabilities. She learns more about computer music programs and using then with her own compositions.

“My passions in life are praising the Lord, vocations and music!” Sister Philomene says, “In the life of a CSJ there is never a dull moment! I have been a sister for 45years and feel like it has just been a year. Every day is new, different and full of blessings and surprises! I can’t believe that 45years have gone by already!”

2 thoughts on “Sister Philomene Reiland

  • January 2, 2023 at 11:47 pm
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    Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord. I just now saw Sister’s obituary above the link to this article. It is truly a small world. Bishop Charles Chaput was consecrated bishop in the diocese of Rapid City where I now live. His father owned the funeral home in Concordia. Thank you for posting this wonderful article. JK

  • January 2, 2023 at 11:33 pm
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    Dear Sister Philomene, I took piano lessons from you in Grand Island, before my family moved to South Dakota in 1969. You were a huge influence in my young life. There is so much I can remember. I remember when the sisters modernized their habits and how different it was to see your hair the first time. I remember coming back to visit and you were playing the organ at the cathedral with greatest finesse. I went on to get an art degree and was later certified to teach in the elementary general classroom and also taught 8 years middle school art. I too, became fascinated by (McIntosh) computers and had a home business designing corporate identity and marketing when our sons were young -but not at all interested in computers anymore, only as a necessity like this! Our youngest son gave me a German made metronome for Christmas this year and I started “practicing” the piano again – it is the music you chose for me. I still remember traveling to Marymount College (think I was the only public school piano student – I felt a little out of place) and receiving a Superior for “Rhapsody” by Margaret Wigwam. It was so unexpected and remains one of those experiences that changed my life and seems like recent past! As you wrote above, life is full of blessings and surprises – and life is enriched by those who believe in us. “Encourage each other daily…” That first “pilgrimage” remains a cherished highlight, including a brief stop at Concordia. I could go on! You are a wonderful person. With best regards from Rapid City SD

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