Ana Maria Rieping died amid loved ones at her Madera, California, home at 10:59 p.m., Jan. 16, 2017, after a two-year fight with cancer.
The eldest of three children, she was born at Madera County Hospital on Oct. 1, 1966, to Mary Angelina Grahiola, and baptized Jan. 22, 1967, at St. Joachim Catholic Church. She first met her future husband, Bernard Rieping, when his mother taught summer school at Sierra Vista Elementary School and introduced a seemingly shy boy to her class. After she introduced him, a classmate exclaimed how cute he was, which spurred him to hide behind his mom.
She graduated from Madera High School in 1984 and spent two years as an engineering student at University of California, Berkeley. But didn’t meet “Bernie” again until a church canoe and camping retreat during her years at California State University, Fresno, for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. They became friends, dated, and married Jan. 18, 1997, the same day his parents had married.
She first worked as a supervisor for Madera County’s Migrant Head Start. As a teacher, she moved on to Ripperdan Elementary School in 1996 and Madison Elementary School in 1997. At Madison, she became a teacher on special assignment in 2004 and an academic coach in 2009. She became a districtwide academic coach for Madera Unified School District in 2013. She completed the Bridges Program for her administrative credential a few months ago.
She loved children, teaching, singing, music, the color purple, and her dogs and cats. She sang and played the flute in the St. Joachim Youth Choir for many years when it was led by her guitar-playing husband.
Ana had a strong determination in life and wanted wholeheartedly to live. But she repeatedly said she hoped God would use her cancer to bring someone closer to him, whether or not she was healed. She believed the cancer could not defeat her, even if it took her life, so long as she didn’t lose heart or her faith in God. The last words she told her husband were “I love you.”
She is survived by her husband of 20 years, Bernard; her sister Michele Elizabeth Irving; her children of the heart Michael James Valverde and Bernadette Marie Rodarte; her sons Jeremy, Alexander, Benjamin, Timothy, and Zachary; and two grandchildren, Kiara and Sebastian. She is preceded in death by her mother and her younger brother, Joseph Rodriguez, whose anniversary of death is Friday, Jan. 27.
The rosary will be prayed Friday, Jan. 27, at 5 p.m. in St. Joachim Church, 401 W. 5th St. A Mass of Christian Burial will be Saturday, Jan. 28, at 3 p.m. in the same church with a reception afterwards at Holy Spouses Hall, 320 N. I St. Internment will be for immediate family at a later date.
Below is a 2013 Christian music video in which Ana Rieping, her husband, and some of her children played key roles.
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.
Teresa “Terri” Rieping died in the presence of her beloved husband at their Madera, California, farm home around 7:25 p.m., Feb. 23, 2016, after battling Alzheimer’s disease for more than six years.
Fourth oldest of 11 children, she was born in Los Angeles on March 26, 1935, to Higinio and Carmen Lozano, and baptized May 9 in San Fernando. In Fresno, she attended St. Alphonsus Elementary School. At her confirmation, she chose Mary Magdalen as her patron saint May 9, 1947. She graduated from San Joaquin Memorial High School in 1953.
She worked as a histology technician for pathologist Dr. Parisi and as a legal receptionist for attorney Gilbert Lopez. She performed in a Mexican folkloric dancing troupe. She sewed her own ornate dance attire and wedding dress.
She first met German immigrant Josef “Joe” Rieping at a Catholic young adult gathering across from St. John’s Cathedral in Fresno around November 1962. He recalled her from a charity she’d danced at in Sanger, though she was skeptical when he said, “Didn’t I see you? We met before?” But Joe persevered, drawn by her reserve and strong Christian values. They dated and would marry Jan. 18, 1964.
They raised their family in the San Joaquin Valley. She worked as a bilingual teacher’s aide at Sierra Vista Elementary School, but may be best known for decades helping with the children’s bilingual faith instruction at St. Joachim Catholic Church. She led as its director of religious education for 20 years, impacting the spiritual formation of thousands.
She often visited the Juvenile Detention Facility in Madera after work as a volunteer to minister to young people. She served as a spiritual director for members of her church and embraced the international organization Focolare, which promotes ideals of unity and universal brotherhood as well as regular meditation on the Christian gospels. She repeatedly welcomed the homeless into her home, viewing them as Jesus coming to visit.
Under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican awarded her the Benemerenti Medal for long and exceptional service to the church on May 22, 1996.
She loved oil painting, portrait drawing, playing guitar, reading, praying, teaching, dancing, flowers, the color blue, and singing. She sang as a soprano in several choirs, most recently in the St. Joachim Senior Choir.
She would advise her children and grandchildren to “offer it up” to God when distressed, and to “remember Jesus forsaken” during trials. Her greatest hope for her loved ones was God’s grace.
She is survived by her husband of 52 years, Joseph Rieping, her son Anthony and his wife Noel, her son Bernard “Bernie” and his wife Ana, her son Eugene “Gino” and his wife Angelica, her daughter Maria-Helena Uribe with husband Hector, her son John, 16 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren — all of Madera.
The rosary will be prayed Monday, March 7, at 10 a.m. in St. Joachim Church, 401 W. 5th St. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m. with a reception afterwards at Holy Spouses Hall, 320 N. I St. Internment will be for immediate family only.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the nonprofit soup kitchen The Holy Family Table at 401 W. 5th St., Madera, CA 93637.
My mom Theresa, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, has been unable to swallow food or liquid properly and so has been unable to eat. She last ate and drank Tuesday and has been in Madera Community Hospital since Wednesday. Her longtime physician, Dr. Zafar Sheikh, is unsure she'll make it through the weekend.
She received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick by Rev. Gustavo Lopez, OSJ, around 3 p.m. today (Friday) and should be returning home tomorrow (Saturday) with in-home comfort (hospice) care by St. Agnes Hospital. (Pictured beside her is her husband Joseph, my dad.)
Your prayers and stories are welcome, especially as I know so little of my mother's life before my birth and I will have to write of it for her obituary when the time comes. It is hard to lose a mother, even to Heaven, but it has always been her greatest heart's desire. She may soon be with her eternal Valentine.
Thank you and may God bless you and your loved ones always.
Theresa Rieping died in the Lord around 7:25 p.m. Feb. 23, 2016
By John Rieping | 27 December 2015 |
'That special time of the year has arrived when people gather around and pass on fantastic tales about Christmas. I refer, of course, to the modern myth that the 12 days of Christmas are just a continuation of pagan Nordic "Yule" time.
Dangerously, I was asked to research it myself. So I did, and I do like to share with others, especially around the holidays.
A modern pagan Yule would be Dec. 20th to Jan. 1st. Those aren't the same dates as the traditional "12 days of Christmas" (evening Dec. 24 to evening Jan. 5), a period that actually adds up to 12 or 13 days, depending on how you count it up. That time for Christmas was defined by a council of Christian bishops in the city of Tours in A.D. 567, though originally the middle three of those days were for fasting -- not feasting. (The Christian holy day of Christmas itself began at least two centuries earlier. According to 4th century Patriarch John Chrysostom of Constantinople, Dec. 25 was believed to be the birthday of the messiah based on Roman records and tradition.)
In comparison, the ancient nordic Yule lasted only three days or less. The length was for as long as the alcohol they were drinking didn't run out. It began on a slaughter night of ritual animal sacrifice.
The medieval and modern version of Yule became 12 days in imitation of the traditional Christmas celebration, arguably beginning with King Haakon of Norway (920-961). The king converted to Christianity and made a law that from henceforth his pagan subjects would have to celebrate their Yule at the same time as the Christians celebrated their Christmas “and at that time everyone was to have ale for the celebration with a measure of grain, or else pay fines." (I guess he didn't approve of drinking on an empty stomach.)
Though Orthodox Christians and some Protestants still observe the traditional 12 days, Roman Catholics no longer officially do so. Since 1969, their Christmas season ends on a Sunday celebrating the baptism of Jesus, which is a few Sundays after Christmas. Because of that, the length of their Christmas differs each year. This year (2015), their Christmas season is 17 days long.
Meanwhile some Catholic countries in western Europe and Latin America celebrate Christmas for 40 days, a practice that began in the middle ages.
So why did Catholics change the official ending of their Christmas season? Ancient tradition long carried on by our Orthodox Christian siblings in faith.
For Orthodox Christians, Christmas falls on Jan. 7 on western calendars but Dec. 25 on their own, and it isn’t traditionally the biggest holiday of this time of year. More important is the day that Yeshua (Jesus) was revealed as divine during his baptism in the Jordan River, a day of Theophany. A holy day in January celebrating that event ends the Christmas season for Orthodox Christians, as well as now for Catholics. Christians have been celebrating that baptismal feast day since before the Christmas holiday itself existed.
I thought all of this might be interesting to others, whether your Christmas lasts one day, 12 days, many more, or none at all. Either way, may love find a home in your heart, and may that home have an open door for others to enter in as well.
By John Rieping | Published 6 June 2015 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
Four years ago, an unexpected terror held me inside its giant metal grasp. I speak of a spin within a Ferris wheel.
Though such amusement rides are not known for stealth, this one managed to ambush me at the annual Horned Toad Derby in Coalinga, California, about an hour and a half drive southwest of my hometown of Madera.
As a journalist for the Coalinga Recorder weekly newspaper, I thought a turn of the wheel would offer the highest perch from which to photograph the fair-like park. And this was so.
What I had forgotten is my accident a month before in which my Honda Civic DX had flipped into a soft dirt field during my morning commute. My acrobatics crushed my car and produced a sensation like that a roller coaster or Ferris wheel would.
That day I discovered I no longer enjoyed such a feeling as I once did.
As unreasoning fear filled me, I forced myself with the aid of silent prayer to stay outwardly calm and even took several photos. But I could not relax until I stepped again on solid ground.
A sense of vulnerability and lost control isn't always welcome, which makes it all the more surprising that less than two millennia ago a Jewish rabbi named Yeshua (aka Jesus) called such a state "blessed."
From a mount and on a plain, Yeshua taught his followers: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3; cf. Luke 6:21)
As he spoke Aramaic, the word for poor would have been ányâ, which means "bent down, afflicted, miserable, poor" (scholar John Peter Van Kasteren). To be poor meant to be vulnerable to abuse by the rich and the mighty.
So what does it mean to be like this in spirit?
A similar Aramaic word, ánwan, suggests an answer. Based on the same root as the other one above, it means "bending oneself down, humble, meek, gentle" (ibid).
It is not the circumstance of being vulnerable that the rabbi called blessed. It is the embrace of it, whether or not it is necessary to be so.
This is a hard teaching in any age, past or present. For none of us like to be vulnerable. Rich or not, we want to be secure, respected, and strong. In them, we see the path to happiness.
Oxford University scholar and priest John Henry Newman (A.D. 1801-1890) once wrote, "All bow down before wealth. Wealth is that to which the multitude of men pay an instinctive homage. They measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability ... It is a homage resulting from a profound faith ... that with wealth he may do all things.
"Wealth is one idol of the day and notoriety is a second ... Notoriety, or the making of a noise in the world, ... has come to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground of veneration."
How little times change.
Yet it is to the vulnerable, the poor in spirit, that Yeshua promises the "kingdom of heaven," not the comfortable (Luke 6:24-26). Property, health, fame, power, or achievement cannot win it.
How can we embrace poverty of spirit?
The answer is indirectly given in the same lesson by Yeshua. For he continued: "Blessed are those who mourn ... Blessed are the meek ... Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ... Blessed are the merciful ... Blessed are the pure in heart ... Blessed are the peacemakers ... Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." (cf. Matthew 5:4-11)
In short, be willing to "weep with those who weep" (cf. Romans 12:15), restrain your power out of concern for others, be unashamed of goodness, show mercy to the undeserving, keep God your top priority, make peace with those who wrong you, and do what is right even if society tells you it is abominable.
Even more challengingly, Yeshua asked his followers, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you... Give to every man who asks of you." (cf. Luke 6:27-28, 30; Matthew 5:38-48)
It is impossible to take seriously such ideals and remain comfortable and secure. We will be bruised, hurt, and exposed instead of safe behind the walls to which we cling.
But beyond those walls lie those poor in reality, not "in spirit." The hungry, strange, sick, imprisoned, and others -- God in distressing disguises (Matthew 25:31-46).
Let us love.
By John Rieping | Published 30 May 2015 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
The first book of Jewish scripture, Bereishit (aka Genesis), tells of the creation of the universe — once. Yet the origin of humanity is told twice.
As a writer myself, I suspect the author wanted us to pay particular attention to that part.
One sentence from the first telling has always delighted me: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (1:27)
As a Christian, such words speak to me of the equal dignity of men and women. For Christianity sees our creation in the image and likeness of God as the root of our human dignity.
Now notice another implication: the image of God is displayed in humanity, but humanity is fully revealed in a couple -- not an individual.
That's hardly an American stance there. After all, the U.S. is a nation that especially prizes independence and self-reliance. Tough individualism marks our mythology, from the western frontier heroes to many of our superheroes.
However that isn't the only challenging thought of this verse.
Consider this: we may take the sexes of humanity for granted, but it is no absolute necessity. Some creatures do fine with only one sex (look up the female-only New Mexico whiptail lizard). Why would humanity's two sexes, together, show the divine image better than only one would?
As the rock band Boys Like Girls sang in a 2009 duet with Taylor Swift, "Maybe two is better than one," though I think we can go deeper than that.
The medieval thinker Tommaso di Aquino (A.D. 1225-1274) once claimed Christians had to admit that the abundance and variety of God's creations were intentional.
God, Tommaso wrote, wanted to share and show the divine goodness with and through creation. So God made many and diverse creatures because the creator's goodness "could not be fittingly reflected in just one creature." Thus "what each individual thing lacked in order to reflect the divine goodness would be made up for by other things." ("Summa Theologiae," 1, q. 47, a.1)
One just isn't enough. It is not that we, as individuals, are incomplete. Rather all creatures, at their best, offer little glimpses of the divine. We form a mosaic.
Even so, there's a more subversive idea here. For if humanity's two sexes can show the image of God better than one, then it seems they must not be identical. Men and women are equal in dignity, personhood, and humanity, but we differ. And we do so in more than where our mushy parts can be seen or are absent.
These differences, far from being bad, show the divine creator more fully than either sex could alone.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this is when a man and a woman, acting according to their natures, take part in creation itself by together bringing a new life into existence. It is hard to be more creator-like than that.
That relies on those aforementioned mushy parts and such, but that isn't all there is to it. There's a natural result of offspring that, ideally, shows us God in a special way: motherhood and fatherhood.
The Jewish and Christian scripture often uses such imagery of mother and father to describe God, as well as the image of a husband. As a spirit, God transcends male and female. Nonetheless, God is paternal, maternal, and spousal in the most wonderful of ways.
We can't reflect that in solitude. Others evoke our parental or spousal sides in us. Thus it is we cannot reach our human potential in isolation. Instead, it is our relationships with others (especially God) that expose us most fully, even to ourselves.
As God reportedly said in the beginning, it is not good for us to be alone (Bereishit/Genesis 2:18). So let we who claim to believe in God dare to love, patiently and perseveringly, like God loves us.
"Listen, and tell your grief: But God is singing! / God sings through all creation with His will. / Save the negation of sin, all is His music, / even the notes that set their roots in ill / to flower in pity, pardon or sweet humbling. / Evil finds harshness of the rack and rod / in tunes where good finds tenderness and glory.
"The saints who loved have died of this pure music, / and no one enters heaven till he learns, / deep in his soul at least, to sing with God."
— Jessica Powers, aka Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit (1905-1988)