Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sister M. Dietmara Ahlmann

My story of life

Being asked about my age, I gladly reply:
"I am two months younger than our Pope Francis." I really appreciate him. His positive attitude towards life, his outgoing personality and his love of freedom repeatedly open up pathways, according to the scripture: 
"You set me free in the open." For this I thank the Lord and the people who walk the way with me.

Childhood, youth and education

My family home is located directly on the church square in Lüdinghausen, a small town in the Münsterland. So our family life, our church and community life was a self-evident unity. I grew up with four siblings and a large number of cousins. Our kindergarten and later the high school were run by Franciscan nuns and an aunt was a Franciscan. Four cousins felt called to the priesthood, so I was very close to the church and the religious orders. I also felt the call to become a religious Sister.

After my graduation from the school of nursing it seemed natural, that I felt drawn to the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, especially since I went on a pilgrimage to Rome / Assisi together with my mother, on which I got to know St. Francis in a very new way.  

And the certainty grew, that in a special way, I want to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis according to the gospel. A Franciscan, a Sister, a nurse, yes, that's what I wanted to be.

Entrance in Community

In 1962, I joined the Congregation, at that time together with 27 like-minded young women. It was a blessed, a wonderful and a carefree time.

But then everything turned out differently: Shortly after my first profession, I was called to the former General Superior, Mother Odilia. She told me: "Looking to the future, we need for the community a dentist with exam" and she added: "We thought about it and we want you, to go for study."

Of course I was very scared and also disappointed. It saddened me to stop working as a nurse in future. And I also expressed my doubts whether at all I can complete such a long study successfully.

After a period of reflection, I said with a heavy heart: "YES, I will try it." I had just recently professed my first vows, and as our formula of profession say, “I place myself completely at the disposition of this community for the service of the church.”

With God's help and the invaluable support of my Sisters I passed the state examination and earned a doctorate.  I am particularly grateful to my Sisters, who worked for years in the dental practice with great dedication for the Sisters and who supported me with advice, practical help and prayer.

Working as a dentist became my new profession and gave me a lot o joy. The environment grew. In addition to the Sisters' treatment, I assumed emergency services in the hospital and beyond. Especially the work with the handicapped children/people in 'Stift Tilbeck' was challenging. As a Sister, however, I had a special advantage, because our Sisters in Stift Tilbeck were persons of trust to the patients, and that's where I belonged.

In many other situations, I experienced help and encouragement from people, walking together with me, and especially from my Sisters.

And all in all, I feel that God is on my side. I do not know situations like God-forsakenness or threatening danger. Maybe I have worries, but in everything, again and again, I experienced what Jesus promises to us "I am with you every day”.
For me, this promise has become an encouraging word from the Holy Scripture.

Due to my profession, the motherhouse remained my permanent residence and this for almost 60 years. Sisters were jokingly saying, that I became a so-called 'motherhouse pillar'.

The terms in office in the General- and Provincial Leadership are very precious to me. In this time my "mother house horizon" grew worldwide, for which I am very grateful. It is important in everyday life, to support and to shape the tasks and the aims of the community.

Now, at the age of 82, my life is getting shorter and the thoughts of the end of life or of eternal life are coming more often. What will happen and how will it be? For me, heaven is a symbol for eternal home with God, a symbol for security, peace and joy and that is what I wish for all who were or are still with me on the way here.

For the many shortcomings or difficulties in everyday life, I always like to take St. Francis as a model. He loved the church despite all weaknesses and shortcomings. Through his life he gave the church a new face and he said:

"Lord, let it begin with me.”