Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis
“There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens….”
With this scripture from the Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, I want to start my story:
In Emsdetten, a town on the River Ems about 30 km north of the university City of Muenster, I was born on April 2, 1940. In the south of the city, where before the heather flourished, my parents bought a plot of land, to build a house with a large garden. My Father and my Mother hails from a large family and they wished, to found also a large family. However, due to the effects of World War II on our family, it came differently. My father, Josef Dehne was in 1941 drafted into military service. My mother, Theresa Dehne, father's parents and siblings received in the meantime messages from our father. The last letter from my father to his sister Helene was dated December 12, 1943. At a later time my mother received the sad news that my father died on April 21, 1944 in Sevastopol / Russia.
Apart from the painful reality to master the life alone with us children (I have a three years older brother Heinz), it was not easy for the widows at that time and society to prevail against the authorities. My mother was a tailor. In order to earn the living for us, she has, so to speak, worked day and night. In addition, she gave hospitality to the students of the college of education, which fell victim to bombing. These students had full family connection.
I have experienced our mother's sadness at the age of four, but otherwise I can remember of a carefree childhood. I attended elementary school, from which I was released after the 8th grade.
Following the school, I started a commercial apprenticeship and completed this training after three years with the degree as a commercial assistant. In my spare time, I used to sing in the church choir and joined the YCW (Young Christian Workers). In the group work it was important for us to talk about the bible and our faith, based on the workbooks of YCW. We also discussed current issues in the Church and society, and especially about everything else. We were all itching, to get our hands on. Joseph Cardijn (+1967), the Belgian worker priest, was the founder of the YCWA. It was a concern of him, to improve the working atmosphere in the companies. His motto was: "See - Judge - Act". A quote from him is: "Your life is the fifth gospel". As members of the CAJ we had to do a voluntary engagement. I decided to do Sunday service at the hospital. From 1947 - 1976 our sisters served in the hospital of my hometown.
My aunt, Sister M. Gudelia a sister of my mother, was also a member of our congregation. She died in 1961 at the age of 46 from lung tuberculosis.By visiting my aunt and by the Sunday services at the hospital I had many encounters with our sisters.
After completing my professional training, I thought: I have a job, an income; that can’t be everything!? - And more and more grew the longing, to be completely there for God and the others. Our mother lived her faith convincingly for us. She came from a faithful christian family. In addition to her sister in our Congregation her brother Josef belonged to the Divine Word Congregation. Unfortunately, Josef died in 1942 at the age of 25 during the second world war in Jablunkau / Czech Republic. His deep desire, to become a priest, could not be fulfilled.
Within the framework of the international YCW pilgrimage, I went to Rome in 1957. In these days my vocation for a life in an active apostolic congregation became more clearly. It was the time of Pope Pius XII. I was deeply touched from this meeting in Rome with 30,000 young people. Soon after, I got in touch with our Congregation. Since I was not yet 19 years, the leader of the novitiate, Sister M. Roswindis, said: "There are two other young women of your age enrolled, who also will not give rest". So I got the confirmation for the entry into novitiate for January 30, 1959.
Three entrance dates were scheduled for our group. In 1959, we were 22 postulants in the second group. There were always the Spring and Autumn classmates.
After the novitiate and the training as a nurse, I got my commitment in the motherhouse administration, already during the so-called "practical year". At that time the administration was led only by sisters - except the administrative head. At first, this service was not easy for me, because I would have gladly done the service of the sick people. But after a while I realized, that my service in the administration is indirectly a service of the sick, which corresponds to our mission.
In 1983, I completed a practical training in nursing in preparation for a "one year seminar" in Regensburg with the degree "nursing manager". Subsequently, from May to November 1985, I served in our St. Bernard Hospital in Kamp-Lintfort on the Lower Rhine. There I should get to know the hospital at the base. I had the opportunity to work in the HR-department as well as in the nursing management and got to know the area of responsibility of the Administration Manager.
Back in the Motherhouse, I was working again in the central administration. In June 1989, after a time of close cooperation with the former General Treasurer, Sister M. Irmhild, I was elected by the Sisters of the General Leadership as the General Treasurer. At that time, Sister M. Angela was the General Superior. From May 1989 to January 1998, I served in addition as a co-director of the hospital companies. My term in office as the General Treasurer ended with the Provincial Chapter in 1997 after the merger of the Westphalia and Rhine province, I was elected as the Provincial Superior of the one German province. With the provincial vicaress, Sister M. Manuela,
and the ProcincialCouncillors, Sister M. Bernwardis, Sister M. Margarete and Sister M. Reinlind, our four year term began on January 4, 1998. The words of Scripture: "It is the LORD who goes before"(Deuteronomy 31.8) as the theme of the provincial chapter, accompanied our province during the new term of office. This term was marked by profound changes in our German Province. Each term has its own challenges. The chairmanship of the hospital companies and effective 2004 the Board of Trustees of the St. Francis Foundation belonged to my area of responsibilities. The service in the St. Francis Foundation I carried out until October of 2005.
Following a second term as Provincial Superior, I took a long sabbatical to strengthen myself for a new task. The new Provincial Leadership, under the direction of Sister M. Birgitte, chose me as the Provincial Treasurer for the term from 2006 to 2010. During this time, I had the opportunity on an extra occupational basis to graduate from a three-year course "spiritual direction" at the Institute for Spirituality (Institute under the sponsorship of the Capuchin Province). For health reasons, I asked Sister M. Birgitte to be relieved from my office and I retired in April of 2010.
Since several years, I have been serving at the visitor’s entrance of our Motherhouse in Münster.
Looking back at these different services in our community, I am grateful for the many encounters with sisters at home and abroad, for the rich experiences and for all the support. In many situations, especially in unpredictable events, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit and I really enjoyed all these tasks. I am grateful for the opportunity of having an insight into the life of our sisters by visiting all Provinces and the region of India (now a Province). I am richly blessed!