The month of September evokes special memories in us of the Blessed Mother. In the liturgy calendar for this month there are five feast days dedicated to the person of Mother Mary. On September 8th we celebrated her birthday; on 12th, the feast of the most holy name of Mary. On 15th we remembered with gratitude her sorrows; on the 19th we commemorate her apparition at the little village at La Salette, France. On 24th celebrating her feast as ‘Our Lady of Mercy’ we seek her protection and resolve to find consolation and comfort in the folds of her mantle.
The Blessed Mother is an integral part of our faith journey. Our congregation was founded in her heart, at Telgte. She had been the comforter and faithful companion for Father Bernsmeyer, especially in his hard times… As a religious congregation, we enjoy her patronage.
During our 176 years of journey as a congregation, we have tangible experiences of her protection. Unquestionably when the Motherhouse was moved from the village setting of Telgte to the city of Münster, against the mind of Father Bernsmeyer, his parting gift to his beloved sisters was, ‘take the Blessed Mother along’.
Like the Israelites who found consolation and renewed hope and vitality during their 40 years sojourn in the desert in carrying the arc of the covenant to the promised land the thoughts of her continued presence and intermittent intervention strengthened our former sisters under the leadership of a ‘new founder’, a ‘new director ‘ and a ‘new superior’.
We outlived two world wars; our community had faced extinction several times. Director Bothe in his letter to the sisters on October 5, 1944 wrote, “our beloved old Motherhouse, through whose entrance over 6,000 Sisters have passed into the sanctuary of the convent in the course of decades, exists no longer…none of the sisters, employees and sick lost their lives or even suffered the slightest injury. We thank Him furthermore that we all still have a roof over our heads and a bed, even though it is sort makeshift… As we quietly consider everything today, we gradually, slowly realize the danger we were in with our Motherhouse and the hospital. It was due to God’s mercy that we were not wiped out.”
On October 26, 1944 amid the debris in the sanctuary of the devastated Motherhouse church, the sisters found this image of the Perpetual Help lying unharmed. Today this image occupies the wall where the Motherhouse superior and her council have their office rooms. Our congregation is the sole property of the Blessed Mother. On December 8, 1954 our congregation is dedicated to the Heart of Mary. From this day we add the name Mary to our religious names.
The memory of her close affinity and tenderness sustained our missionaries of all times. It was this memory that sustained them in the battlefields, in their missionary undertakings. It was their firm faith in the Lord and His Mother that gave them courage in the phase of persecutions.
Late Sister M. Odorika Lin, our last missionary in China wrote to Sister Paulette Collings, the then provincial superior on December 5, 1983: “…. I am happy. For over thirty years, I was not able to go to Church or didn’t have a Church to go to because all the Churches were destroyed. Now we have permission to go, but there is nothing left in the broken and empty Church. The windows, door and altar are all gone. Now the people try to build up an altar with clay and paid somebody to paint a picture of the Blessed Mother to hang on the wall. I also contributed my share to the repair project”.
Apparently, Sister M. Odorika and several of our sisters nonverbally proved that ‘struggles of this life may weaken us, but we could never be buried of the Blessed Mother’s love and care for us. When a Church outside is destroyed, then there arises a sanctuary, a Church in our innermost soul, where the Blessed Mother and our Master are seated. With the Corona Virus outbreak, with all its impacts our families, the entire human race and we go through this reality in our present day. May the remembrance and feasts of all of the five feasts of the Holy Mother Mary this month give us grace to imitate her and bring us a little more closer to her person.
May we also be lead and strengthened by that same invisible power that had sustained our Blessed Mother to go on in our earthly pilgrimage.