If anyone were to be identified as thoroughly rooted in Ruma’s soil, it would be Sister Edwiga Degenhardt, raised on a farm only three miles from Ruma’s holy ground. Born on August 6, 1902 and baptized Mary Eva, she was the oldest of five children of Frank and Mary Mosbacher Degenhardt.
Although her parents were both American-born, the family spoke German at home, so little Mary Eva learned English when she entered first grade at St. Patrick’s School that shares a road with the convent. The Adorers were the Sisters she knew as teachers and role models. She made first vows on July 20, 1920 and perpetual profession on August 6, 1925. Her first years in Ruma coincided with the construction of the main building.
Years as a Domestic
Although Sister Edwiga Degenhardt taught grade school for seven years, she found the diocese’s newly adopted Lewis Story Method of teaching reading and spelling difficult and requested to be a domestic. Her move to Ruma in 1926 was the beginning of 65 years of caring for the chaplain’s quarters, assisting Father Witte, working in the garden and grounds, supervising the laundry, caring for the chickens, picking berries and apples, feeding the birds, planting and picking potatoes, peeling vegetables, cracking and shelling nuts, and washing dishes.
Even after she broke her knee in 1985 and although chickens no longer clucked in Ruma, Sister Edwiga Degenhardt continued to work outdoors as much as her age and health permitted. Her love of nature, all creation, and Earth and her love of God and prayer were so intertwined that they became one. Her simplicity, joy, and happiness radiated to all who visited Ruma and to the sisters with whom she shared daily life. She was a true Earth Mother.