By John Rieping | Given on Monday morning, March 7, 2016, in St. Joachim Church in Madera, California |
My mother (Theresa Lozano Rieping) would be pleased, I think, to see you all here. For she loved her family, friends, and the church very much. Today brings all of you together.
My mom embraced her faith deeply.
She and my dad were traveling one cold day and came to an ice-covered bridge. My dad slowed his car down but the car ahead of him did not and began to spin wildly, out of control. As it headed for them, my dad reacted with colorful language while my mom instead started praying immediately. The car missed them somehow and they went on their way.
My mother’s faith led her to put her hope in God and his grace.
In the 1970s, Father Gus Severin, OSJ, asked her to direct the parish’s CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) program and offered her the same pay she received as a teacher’s aide at Sierra Vista Elementary School. She accepted and guided the teaching of this church’s children for 20 years — without ever seeking a pay raise. That wasn’t why she did it anyway.
One day my dad learned she had long prayed for God to keep our family poor and humble. At the time, this upset him, but my mother’s ambitions were for God and Heaven, and she did not want distractions for us.
My mother loved God above all others. She made it clear to my dad that he was number two in her life, for God was number one. But her love of God enabled her to love her family, friends, and strangers more and fearlessly. She would welcome the homeless to our home for food and shelter, and serve her best. After one stew dinner for us and a homeless guest, my dad looked in the freezer and found his filet mignon missing.
Once an older brother of mine told all the kids in the neighborhood to come to his birthday party. Not only did he not tell my mom about this party but his birthday was half a year away. Yet her response when the children arrived was to start baking a birthday cake.
My aunt Concepcion, a missionary sister and teacher, complimented my mom’s dress during a visit and said it would work well for her in Japan, where she wasn’t allowed to wear a habit. So my mom went to her bedroom, changed her clothes, and gave the dress to her sister. That dress had been a gift from my dad and the only time he had splurged on nice clothing for her.
There are more stories I could share, and many of you have stories of your own, some of which I have never heard. But there is no time for them all.
Thank you for coming here today to celebrate the gift of my mother, Theresa. Let us also be a gift to others. May God help us all to put our faith, hope, and love in him. If we do so, I trust, hope, and pray we will one day be reunited with my mom again. May God bless you all.