Sister Sandra Rodemyer was born in La Crosse, WI, but was raised in Des Moines, IA.
She attended St. Augustin Grade School and St. Joseph Academy. Upon graduating from SJA in 1959, Sandra attended Clarke College (now Clarke University) in Dubuque. Both St. Joseph Academy and Clarke were staffed by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (the BVMs) whose motherhouse, Mount Carmel, is in Dubuque. After two years at Clarke, Sandra entered the BVM Sisters on July 31, 1961. From Mount Carmel, she was sent to Mundelein College in Chicago to finish her degree.
After graduating from Mundelein in the fall of 1965 (with a major in Social Studies and minors in English and Theology,) she was missioned to St. Albert Catholic High School in Council Bluffs, IA, where she taught World and U.S. History. Six years later, she moved to Regina High School in Iowa City, where she was chair of the Social Studies Department and taught history. In 1974, she moved back to the Des Moines Diocese and began an 18-yr-teaching career at Dowling. At Dowling she taught in three different departments: Social Studies (World and U.S. History, Government and Global Issues); English (American Literature and Sophomore Composition); and Theology (Freshman Religion and Religious Issues). Some years she taught in two departments at the same time.
In February of 1995, following her retirement from teaching and a sabbatical year, she began her ministry as the Food Pantry Director for the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) Emergency Food Pantry. She ran the warehouse where she was responsible for ordering food for the 11 pantry sites, overseeing volunteers who prepared the orders for pickup, and a larger group of 50 volunteers who sorted and repacked food that came in from food drives. She retired from the Food Pantry in December of 2007.
Sister Sandra began volunteering at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women (ICIW) in Mitchellville, IA, while she was still teaching at Dowling. During her Dowling years, she had been very active in the Teens Encounter Christ (TEC) retreat program for seniors. Then she heard the call to work with adults. In April of 1992, she moved into the Residents Encounter Christ (REC) prison retreat program. In total, she worked on 32 REC retreats. In addition to her REC Ministry, she volunteered two days a week in the prison Religious Library. During her time with REC, she served as the Prison Liaison between the prison and the REC program, and between the REC program and the Diocese of Des Moines. She retired from her prison ministry on Dec. 24, 2018, after volunteering for a total of 23 years at ICIW.
Sr. Sandra served on the Catholic Peace Ministry board for 10 years and was a member of the Holy Trinity Peace and Justice Committee. Both gave her an outlet for her commitment to peace and justice issues.
In July of 2012, she and other members of Holy Trinity Parish entered the Stephen Ministry program. She served as a trainer for new Stephen Ministers for over five years. She was a member of the Des Moines Sisters’ Council for over 40 year, serving in leadership positions many of those years.
She currently serves on the BVM Ministry Grant Committee. This committee awards grants to organizations which serve the needs of women and children, both nationally and internationally.
On October 19, 2007, Sr. Sandra received the Governor’s Volunteer Award for her prison volunteering. On February 5, 2008, Sr. Sandra was awarded the Des Moines Register’s STAR Award. She remains grateful to Jim Cooney, retired Des Moines Tribune writer, for his nomination.