How Lovely is your Dwelling Place, O Lord….
On July 2nd we commemorated the 176th anniversary of our Congregation’s founding. The Motherhouse Church in Münster is symbolically the pivotal point of our international Congregation. It was in 1853 the Sisters moved from Telgte to the parish of Saint Mauritz. Entering the Motherhouse campus one can feel a deep solitude and peace. What we profess in the Apostles’ Creed ‘communion with the saints’ is a reality here. Saint Francis Hospital, the international motherhouse and the cemetery of the sisters, surrounds the motherhouse church as the center of the campus. Standing at the sisters’ cemetery one is spellbound because of the inviting tranquility felt here; after a lifelong meritorious, self-sacrificing toil over a thousand sisters are ‘resting’. Standing at the foot of the concrete cross surrounded by the graves of the former spiritual directors and the sisters bridges the past with the presence and the future.
It was on October 3, 1857 this Motherhouse Church was dedicated. The church has had the relics of Saint Magnus and Saint Speciosa and was entrusted to the special protection of the Blessed Mother Mary and Saint Francis.
Historically this was an uncertain and confusing time for the sisters as well as for Father Bernsmeyer: a plethora of troubles - in December 1851, Father Bernsmeyer had agreed to the request of transferring his house and its properties to the Bishop of Münster. Moving the motherhouse from Telgte to the city of Muenster. The young Congregation had to face many challenges: Father Bernsmeyer was not the director of the sisters anymore, and a new sister superior from another religious congregation was appointed.
However, those worries would not discourage our founding sisters, and Father Bernsmeyer. Before the community was officially founded in 1844, they had already learnt looking at the life of Father Bernsmeyer how to be deeply grounded in one’s Franciscan call. Although apparently separated from him the greater number of the sisters still stood behind him as their trusted founder and Father. For nearly a century this church stood beside the parish church of Saint Mauritz as the epitome of trust, loyalty, and unreserved commitment to the Lord until an ill-fated day in 1944 it was devastated by an explosive air attack. Nevertheless, the tabernacle was found unharmed amid the ruins.
With many political upheavals and two world wars, especially during World War II, many times the congregation was at the verge of extinction. At the second world war the structures in the motherhouse campus was subjected to well-aimed bomb attacks. Hundreds of sisters selflessly served the wounded soldiers in the battlegrounds. It was from the ruins of the first and the Second World Wars, from the innumerable self-sacrificing services of the sisters, like a phoenix the congregation rose in Europe. Along with the new motherhouse church blessed on April 1952, the community steadied in terms of membership and expansion in and out of Europe.
Before every missionary endeavor, each of our missionaries knelt on these steps leading to the sanctuary and received their missionary crosses… Over the years, thousands of young sisters knelt on these steps and affirmed their fidelity to His call through the profession of evangelical counsels. Undoubtedly peace and tranquility followed them as they radiated the Lord’s healing presence, in the houses of the patients, in field hospitals, in Leprosy patients’ colonies, in classrooms, in the slums… the thoughts of the motherhouse church always comforted them… they were always bound even when they could not return to her bosom…
We, as Hospital Sisters of Saint Francis, during our 176 years’ journey, strive to serve, by our charism to bring and to be Christ’s healing presence. We strive to adapt ourselves to the signs of the time. Thousands of laity today share our charism of healing presence in socio-pastoral services, mission outreach, medical care, formal and non-formal education.
On July 2, this year 2020 a new motherhouse with a chapel is blessed and dedicated within our international motherhouse campus. Evermore we are grounded and united closely to our roots: on the altar lies the relics of five saints who are closely associated with our roots in Westphalia: Blessed Cardinal Graf von Galen, Saint Konrad from Parzheim, Saint Mauritius, Saint Ida von Herzfeld, and Blessed Maria Euthymia. In all provinces of our congregation several of our sisters materialize ‘being’ the healing presence of Christ; they continue interceding for our still wounded world while several of our sisters and Associates across the world ‘bring’ the healing presence of the Lord through varied ministries.
The light that Father Bernsmeyer had lighted at the village in Telgte in 1844 has crossed the borders to Poland, to Netherlands, to the United States, China, Taiwan, to Japan, to India, Haiti, Korea, Tanzania, Kazakhstan, Vietnam to various lands and cultures. With joy and gratitude, we sing,
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord;
What Peace and Joy we feel so close to you… (Ref. Psalm 84)