Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sister M. Camilis Zysk

On August 26, 1939, I was born in Gladbeck. My parents, Helene Zysk née Smith and Anton Zysk, were good Catholics.  My father was recruited to the military a few days before my birth, so he did not see me. My father was a miner and I grew up in the middle of the Ruhr area. I attended the catholic Elementary School "Rosenhügel". After the eighth year of school, I left the school. We lived in normal conditions, prevailing at that time after the war.

We were not rich, but my parents gave us a good and happy childhood. In our home of three girls, we all had our little duties to do, starting from a certain age. As my mother was ill, and I was the oldest girl, very soon many duties passed on to me.

The Sisters from the “Care of the Family” often walked through the street. Very early on, I cannot remember exactly when. I said to my mother, that this is what I want to be. However, as it often is, this feeling of 'being attracted' got lost for a long while, until the day, that brought me to the decision.

Looking back on my life, I am particularly struck by some events that, although small, were directional and life giving to me. In my parents' house, prayer was always fostered and we children learned to pray. The wartime was a very difficult time for my mother, because we were very often evacuated to other areas.

However, my mother persevered in faith and led us children in this direction.

Then suddenly we received a letter from America from my great aunt, Sister M. Camilla, born Klara Achtermann.  She was a Mauritzer Franciscan Sister and as a postulant went to America. A lively correspondence began after the war. I always wrote the letters and reported about our everyday lives.

After leaving school, I found work in the hospital in Horst, first at the entrance and later in the lab. I started watching the sisters, their way of dealing with the people and with the staff. Something awoke in me, which I did not know how to interpret. I was young and I often went dancing with some colleagues, but sometimes I had the feeling that I was not listening and that I did not enjoy dancing. One Sunday afternoon I was in the chapel. Then the sisters came and when it was quiet, there was a knock and all the sisters raised their hands to prayer. That was a shattering experience for me that kept me busy for a long time. Once I talked to Sister M. Gilduina about it and she explained it to me. I believe that this experience was the key to respond to my inner call. In 1959, I was joined the Mauritzer Franciscan Sisters. I made my first profession of vows in 1962 and I professed perpetual vows in 1967.

I studied to become a nurse in St. Francis Hospital in Münster. After completing this exam, my first assignment was in Havixbeck, a town with a small rural hospital. Sometime later, I changed to the hospital in Emsdetten, where I worked in the lab and the x-ray departments. Later I committed myself, for about 9 years, in the hospital in Haselünne. After that, I was asked to assume another profession. Through the diocese of Muenster, I made an apprenticeship as a 'library assistant' in Bonn at the Borromäusverein. This is a large Catholic library association. For many years, I was very active in this service. I established five libraries in the hospitals in Emsdetten, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven and Leer.

In 2002, I started a correspondence course from the Theological Institute, Trier, to become a Liturgical Leader for the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word on Sundays and holidays. In 2004, I graduated, with success. I am grateful to my Superior for allowing me to study.

I held many Liturgy of the Word services in the parish and in the hospital. I have done this service with great passion. Now it is time to say goodbye to this ministry, for reasons of age and health. I know that many Sisters, including those in the States, have accompanied me with their prayers. Many of them were called home to God a long time ago, but I still think of them. A special “thank you” to my parents who have been my role models and examples, and who taught us what is truly important in life.