Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sr. M. Anne Günnewig

I want to tell you about the most important time and place of my life: Stift Tilbeck. It is an institution for mentally retarded people, founded in1881; our sisters are working and living here since 1899.

When I came to Tilbeck for the first time, more than 30 years ago, it was a real Franciscan experience for me: “That is what I seek for. That is what I want to do with all my heart!” (St. Francis) I came to know, and I experience it still every day: Here, a human being is not what he/she achieves, what he/she is able to perform, what he/she knows, what he/she is owning, what is his/her profession --- but simply a human being, lovable with all and in spite of all weaknesses, diseases, disturbances and handicaps, sometimes without speech, unable to move, paralyzed and deformed, “ugly” and awkward (in German un-ansehnlich means: you don’t want to lock at him/her, and you don’t look at them and don’t notice them) – here he/she has a reputation (respect), he/she is looked da and loved, and he/she is loving him-/herself – spontaneously, unintentionally, and is showing  this love.

I think, in the first 40 years of my life I didn’t experience as much love as I did in one year in Tilbeck – and now it is already more them 30 years.

I have worked here as a medical doctor. After being retired seven years ago I am going to the laundry for some hours to keep the contact.

In Tilbeck we live and work together.  Our philosophy once was entitled: meeting – understanding – accepting. For us, people with handicaps are not marginal. They are in the center of our lives, as Jesus put the sick and the handicapped in the center of our lives, as Jesus put the sick and the handicapped in the center, and St. Francis lived with the lepers. People with mentally retardation are not an object for our charity and work, but people who can teach us to accept our weaknesses and failures, to believe and to love unreservedly; we don’t “serve” the “poorest of the poor”, but receive more than we can give – every day!

 “It is nonsense, reason says.
It is what it is, love says.
It is misfortune, calculation says.
It is nothing but pain, fear says.
It is hopeless, insight says.
It is what it is, love says.
It is ridiculous, pride says.
It is reckless, caution says.
It is impossible, experience says.
It is what it is, love says!”
Erich Fried


I didn’t choose this place. I was sent, I went, and I lost my heart. And I still say: no where else I would like more to live than in Tilbeck.