Sister Alice Imdieke looks around her family farm north of Meire Grove June 1. The original brick house, built in the mid-1800s, and barn still stand, along with a newer building with an old tractor in front. 

It is where she and her nine siblings grew up and where, years later, she provided foster care to middle-aged people for seven years at the “Peace Farm.” 

“That was a wonderful setting,” she said. “Being in the rural area, they loved raking and gardening, the cats, the dogs. For me, I just wanted to provide a good life for them.” 

Her life of ministry has been filled with God-given experiences, the past 23 years in Albany, the last five of those coordinating the chaplaincy and spiritual care program at Mother of Mercy Nursing Home. This mild-mannered woman said it was hard telling residents she was leaving, transitioning to St. Benedict’s Monastery. 

“I told them I was going to go to St. Ben’s and pray and pray and pray, but I can’t do that all day, so I’m going to take up rollerblading and football,” she said. “I’ve been offered some footballs.” 

She was humbled May 29 during a farewell Mass for her.

Her life stories are many, starting when she was born 81 years ago at the Melrose Hospital, the daughter of John Benedict and Fredericka Eullalia Imdieke. Her living siblings include Irene Mergen of Waite Park, Fred of Melrose, Doris Ethen of St. Cloud, Richard of New Munich and Aloysius of Meire Grove. Mildred Gans, Celine Caspers, Agnes and John have passed away. 

Bricks for their house were made by her German ancestors at the Imdieke brickyard, south of the home site, now a rolling hill. When the land was depleted of clay, it was cultivated and put into cropland. 

She attended St. John’s Catholic School in Meire Grove all eight grades and graduated from Melrose High School. 

She first knew she wanted to become a sister in second grade. Years later, before making up her mind, she attended a retreat and was surprised to find five other young ladies she knew who were interested in the religious life.  

“We didn’t spread it around. It was like a secret amongst us,” Imdieke said. “We still wanted to be in high school and have fun.” 

And fun she had, participating in many extracurricular activities. 

Eventually she registered to attend the College of St. Benedict and to become a sister. She told her parents by letting them know she would be getting mail from St. Ben’s. 

“Dad dropped his newspaper and he said, ‘Well, that’s a good life but if you don’t like it, you can come back home,’” she said. “That was so wise. It made me feel so free, to give it a try, but I would also be welcomed back here.” 

Her mother was doing dishes when she informed her. 

“She started to cry and some of the tears went into the dishwater,” Imdieke said. 

Five years later, Imdieke was a Benedictine sister, choosing to become an elementary teacher. When asked why she chose the Benedictine Order versus the Franciscan Order, smiling, she said, “I didn’t know how to get to Little Falls (where the Franciscan school was), but I knew how to get to St. Ben’s.” 

“The reasons aren’t always ‘pie in the sky.’ For me, it was practical,” she said. 

Directed where to go by her Benedictine administration, she rattles off Catholic schools she taught at, including locally in Sauk Centre, Long Prairie and Meire Grove. 

With her mother’s health diminishing, she asked to take time off from teaching so she and Agnes could care for her. Imdieke also worked part-time at the Pettit Home in Sauk Centre for 10 years which led to her to do foster care at the Peace Farm. She was also the faith formation director for the New Munich parish for nine years. 

She had a passion for providing foster care. 

“I not only shared life on the farm but also in the community, taking them to sew quilts at the St. John’s Church basement,” she said. “There were so many people from Meire Grove who were so good to my foster people.” 

It reminded her of when her parents took in “brothers,” hobos who came to the farm, sharing a meal with them. One of them was gifted with her dad’s new pair of shoes.  

“Mom and Dad had a real compassion for people,” Imdieke said, reciting a phrase she learned, “We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.”  

Around 23 years ago, after letting the idea “roll around in my bonnet,” she became the faith formation director at Seven Dolors Parish in Albany, thankful to people like Dave and Cindy Dirkes who supported her throughout. 

One morning she was driving from the Peace Farm to Albany when it was like God was telling her to start a confirmation retreat, but she thought to herself, ‘No Lord, I’m too busy.’ Half an hour later, at work, she received a phone call from Jan Herzog, who asked her if she thought they could do their own confirmation retreat. 

“I told her ‘you freaked me out. I was just thinking about that, but I said, no, Lord, I’m too busy,’” Imdieke said. “I told Jan if she got someone else to help, I would do it.” 

That someone was Sheila Mitchell. 

“Jan, Sheila and I met every week and prepared for the first retreat, and it was a huge success,” she said. 

The lively confirmation retreats, she helped coordinate for 18 years, included prayer and music.

“We had them rocking and rolling,” she said. 

For 30 years Imdieke has dealt with sarcoidosis, a parathyroid issue. Around age 77, Imdieke noticed she was having more difficulty breathing, a sarcoidosis symptom, and told the Rev. Cletus Connors it was time to resign her position.  

Not wanting to leave Albany, because she had two blood sisters at the nursing home, she took him up on his idea to become the chaplaincy and spiritual care coordinator.

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “It was more like what I did with my foster care.” 

She shared meals with residents and was there for them and their families during challenging times, like death.

This year, she decided it was time to move to St. Benedict’s Monastery. Packing up her items one morning Psalm 16 came to her – “I shape the future and mark the best place for you. You make known to me the paths of life. You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” 

“I was sad to leave the people, but God works in mysterious and creative ways,” she said. “He has the upper hand.”

Tears were shed as she announced she was leaving, and there were what she called “powerful moments,” like when she felt silent prayers for her and residents. 

“That, to me, was a precious part of my farewell,” she said.  

She may be leaving Albany, but she is not done ministering and may have another opportunity floating around in her bonnet. In the meantime, she is content to pray and relax at the monastery while discerning what her future is. But you can bet this lady, who loved to ice skate in her youth, will not sit still long.  

Serving people as a sister for 62 years has been her joy and a blessing.

“I’ll leave it up to the Lord,” she said. “A sister doesn’t retire. She just changes her tire and keeps on going.”