Eulogy for Sister Philomene Reiland — April 11, 1941 – Aug. 2, 2021

August 6, 2021 by

 

Vigil: Aug. 5, 2021, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Mary Jo Thummel

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and organs,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

 

Philomene (Barbara Frances Reiland) was born on April 11, 1941 to Edward and Philomena Monaco Reiland in Aurora, Illinois. She was the second of three children: James, Barbara, and Thomas. She is survived by James and Thomas.

Barbara says very little about her growing up years but I know she kept in close touch with her family members and always spoke well and proudly of each of them.

Barbara was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph from grade school through college. She remembers sitting on a piano bench in first grade. This is when she started taking lessons from Sister Edmund. In 5th and 6th grades Sister Irene taught her organ and violin. She loved her music lessons and found them fun.

Barbara felt called to be a religious from the time she was in 4th grade and started attending daily Mass. In the fall of 1955, she and a group of six other young women came from Aurora, Illinois, to attend the Apostolic School at Nazareth Motherhouse. She loved the school, the teachers, the good education she received, and felt that it was a really fun experience.

In 1959, Barbara entered the postulancy. She professed her first vows on Aug. 15, 1960, and was given the name Philomene. She professed final vows on Aug. 15, 1963.

About her early ministry, Philomene says, “I taught for 14 years in Nebraska, Kansas and Illinois and loved it tremendously!”

In 1980, Philomene went into church music ministry full time. Her duties in that ministry included coordinating liturgical music and music personnel, selecting and training song leaders and parish musicians, being a resource and assisting at weddings and funerals, overseeing the condition of all parish musical instruments and church sound system, being responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of missalettes and music issues and being available to help with the parish Religious Education Program. This is only a partial list, because, as many know the parish ministry contract usually ended with a statement that generally ended with, “and other duties, as needed.”

Several times I visited Philomene in several of the parishes, where she ministered and I know that she enjoyed working with all ages of students training and teaching anything having to do with music. She made learning music fun and the students reacted by giving their all and responding to Philomene with eagerness and enthusiasm.

Father Richard R. Kramer, who is a retired priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, and a dear friend of Philomene’s, had this to say about her and her ministry. “Philomene was a good witness to the Catholic faith and women religious. She had a tremendous sense of humor and loved to be around people. She is a real credit to the Sisters of St. Joseph!!! I can speak for many parishioners and friends when I say we truly loved you, Sister Philomene and will always miss you deeply. But now play your music and sing your personal songs to the Lord Himself and His angels.”

Philomene loved everything music. She had a bachelors in music education, and a masters of of arts in church music and liturgy. The piano and organ where her instruments of choice but she could also play the guitar, violin, string bass, bass guitar and accordion. She once played the accordion in the middle of Soldier Field in Chicago. Philomene also had a lovely singing voice and taught voice students. She has composed musical scores. In late 1981 she composed a Mass in honor of our Centenary Year, which we celebrated in 1983. She named it Mass Joseph Fili David.

In 1986, Philomene, asked for and was given a sabbatical year …  a year of sabbath …  to take time to study and sometimes travel. Philomene did both. Her parents had given her a Silver Jubilee gift of a trip abroad. She signed up for an organ study tour of East and West Germany, France, Luxembourg and Belgium. Highlights of her tour were the birthplaces of Bach and Handel, many of the places where Bach worked as a church musician and all the organs that the tour group could get their hands on — sometimes as many as four in one day. The most intense experience was the time in East Germany behind the Iron Curtain. It made all of them happy to be Americans and live in a free country.

The place of the arts in Europe were an inspiration to Philomene. The organs were in tip-top shape, the art work had been lovingly restored, the countryside was beautiful and they were constantly in awe at the marvelous sights.

Philomene says that her time of living in New York was a marvelous experience. She lived with the Sisters of Charity and was close to Broadway, Times Square, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Lincoln Center and Juilliard, where she was attending classes. The highlights of her time in New York were her organ lessons from a great teacher, her other classes and the dedicated students.

One other component of her year was Matthew Fox’s Creation Spirituality Program. She was excited by the fact that she found touchstones in his spirituality that she felt were compatible with our own charism. She considered her Sabbatical year most enriching and profitable spiritually and musically.

Philomene had a real heart for the poor and those that she felt were in need in some way. She personally did what she could for the poor near her living and working situation, wrote letters and petitioned city officials. She urged us to reach out to a number of groups through our St. Joseph Ministry Fund. Philomene could be a force to be reckoned with.

I believe that Philomene’s music was her deepest prayer. It was the expression of the Godly love at her core. When she helped us as a group to prepare for our special celebrations, she had a way of working with us that brought out the best in us and enabled us to make beautiful music together. She could make both us and the musical instruments she was playing sing praise from our hearts.

Philomene said, “My passions in life are praising the Lord, vocations and music! In the life of a CSJ there is never a dull moment! I have been a sister for 62 years and feel like it has just been a year. Every day is new, different and full of blessings and surprises!”

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and organs,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150 is called the musicians Psalm. It is an eloquent, passionate cry to all creation to give the praise of which God is due. It is a prayer of unlimited praise of God using everything that can be used to worship God. There are nine instruments named – trumpet, harp, lute, tambourine, dancing (ram’s horn), strings, organ, cymbals (two kinds). The many instruments symbolize that every class and group of people are called to praise God.

Philomene’s life was certainly one of praise to God through music! Over and over on her commitment slips she reiterated “I commit myself to use and share my musical gifts and talents in whatever way that I can, to give God glory.”

Philomene, we trust you are now truly sharing your musical gifts and talents with all the other heavenly musicians.

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