Neufeld, Irene M. Loewen (1926-2016)
Irene Loewen Neufeld: missionary, mother and teacher; born on 15 January 1926 in Fairbury, Nebraska, to Marie (Ratzlaff) and Isaac T. Loewen, the youngest of seven siblings. The family subsequently moved to Steinbach, Manitoba where she grew up, with the exception of three years in Carman, Manitoba. Irene was baptized in 1943 by G.S. Rempel into the Steinbach Mennonite Brethren church. She spent two years boarding in homes while teaching school in Bristol (1943-44) and Kleefeld, (1945-46) Manitoba. On 17 August 1946 Irene married Abram Neufeld, son of Anna (Enns) and Johann Neufeld, of nearby Niverville. She and “Abe” had three sons: Thomas, Charles and Gareth. Irene died of cancer in Winnipeg on 29 September 2016, survived by Abram to whom she was married 70 years.
After marrying, Irene studied at Mennonite Brethren Bible College in Winnipeg for a year, followed by motherhood and accompaniment of Abe’s ministry in Yarrow, British Columbia, Kief, North Dakota, and Hillsboro, Kansas. But the moves had just begun. In 1954 Irene and Abe Neufeld responded to a call to refugee and church-planting work with Mennonite Brethren Board of Foreign Missions in Linz, Austria. Their son Gareth’s cancer had them relocating to Steinbach in 1959, and then to Zollikofen, Switzerland, from where Abe did itinerant ministry and Irene spent much time on the home front with the boys. Irene was blessed with a wonderful voice and shared musical radio ministry with Abe. More moves took them to Langen and Griesheim, Germany, Fresno, California, and then Winnipeg, Manitoba, as their sons transitioned into young adulthood. During this time Irene attended University of Manitoba, receiving her Manitoba Teacher’s Certificate in 1968, followed by a year of teaching Special Education at Aberdeen School in Winnipeg.
In 1969 Irene and Abe Neufeld embarked on a new venture and innovative mission model in Vienna, Austria, investing deeply in forming local Austrian leadership for what eventually became the Tulpengasse congregation and its many daughter churches. The fifteen years in Vienna were perhaps the highlight of their fruitful ministry.
Irene mentored women, and shared in counselling and music ministry with Abe in many locations in German-speaking Europe. Later short-term assignments took them to the Soviet Union and Paraguay. After the Neufelds’ return to Canada in 1983, Irene served for a time on the Board of Mission and Services (MB). She offered gifts of joint ministry and counselling with Abe at Portage Avenue Mennonite Brethren Church and then Elmwood Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg, where they attracted many Paraguayan persons into the German language ministry. Irene and Abe were recognized in 2014 as Seniors of the Year, an award presented by the mayor of Winnipeg.
Irene Neufeld was blessed with a strong desire to grow in her faith, a willingness to risk and learn new things, an ability to relate well intergenerationally, great enjoyment of interaction with people, and deep love and empathy. She freely shared these gifts in her life ministry of teaching, mothering, pastoral counselling, singing and hospitality.
Epp, Margaret A., 8., Tulpengasse: A Church Blossoms in Vienna. Winnipeg, MB: Board of Publication, Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1978.
Loewen, Melvin J., The Descendents of Cornelius W. Loewen (1827-1893) and Helena Bartel (1833-1876). Goshen, IN/ Steinbach, MB: Heritage Classics, 1994:136-137, 161-163.
Podori, Martin, Die Mennoniten in Österreich: Entstehung, geschichtliche Entwicklung und Ausblick; Studien zur Geschichte christlicher Bewegungen reformatorischer Tradition in Österreich, Band 9. Bonn, DE: Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft/Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, 2014.
Records of Mennonite Brethren mission work in Germany & Austria, 1950-1999 (Archives at Fresno Pacific University, Record Group A250-19. Finding aid available at http://Library.fresno.edu/files/a250-19-mb-mission-german-austria.pdf)
|Author(s)||Rebecca Yoder Neufeld|
|Date Published||March 2017|
Cite This Article
Neufeld, Rebecca Yoder. "Neufeld, Irene M. Loewen (1926-2016)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2017. Web. 21 Aug 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Neufeld,_Irene_M._Loewen_(1926-2016)&oldid=147524.
Neufeld, Rebecca Yoder. (March 2017). Neufeld, Irene M. Loewen (1926-2016). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 August 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Neufeld,_Irene_M._Loewen_(1926-2016)&oldid=147524.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, HERALD_PRESS. All rights reserved.
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