Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis
On June 16, 1943, I, Maria Elisabeth Keller, was born in Ibbenbüren, as the second youngest of 11 children of my parents Maria and Franz Keller. I spent my childhood with five older brothers and five sisters, familiar with farm work and the animals there. The basis for us was our large christian religious family. My father's main job was working underground as a coal miner. Therefore my brothers in particular and my older sisters had to help on our farm, later in addition to their professional work - whether in the office, in the post office, as a tailor or in the factory - everyone was busy at home. Even the youngest of us were assigned to fieldwork after school. From childhood on, I enjoyed working on our farm, especially to plow or harrow the large areas of the fields with our horse Flora. Therefore, my father's hope grew that I would later on take over our farm.
I desired to learn a commercial profession after school (eight years of elementary school) and I practiced this for a few years to the great disappointment of my father. However, more and more my “inner voice” to become a woman religious urged me. Unfortunately, a very personal feeling stood in the way, namely a hospital disgust.
To counteract this, I completed a training as a Maltese auxiliary nurse, which also included an internship in the hospital. Due to this confrontation in the hospital, my enthusiasm for hospital work grew.
I committed myself - in addition to my professional activity as a sales assistant in the large department store - at 14-day intervals to weekend services in St. Elizabeth Hospital in Ibbenbüren. This Hospital was led by the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. Now, after my three-year commercial apprenticeship, I got much closer to my inner desire to "be there for others". After a few years, the desire for a spiritual profession grew stronger in me, probably also due to my role as a group leader in the CAJ, (Young Christian Workers movement, found by Father Joseph Cardijn). Repeatedly the "restlessness of my heart" came up. Therefore, I trained as a Caritas nurse in Ibbenbüren in 1964. Very quickly, this task revealed my strengths of being able to help people, a task which completely fulfilled my life. I felt at home in the hospital and in contact with the Sisters, but I hadn't yet reached the end of my path. The question "What does He actually want from me?" occupied my heart and my thoughts for several years in my job. In June, I heard the sermon of a Franciscan father on the subject of “discipleship". Like a spark the word “Follow me” ignited. The same day I called the Motherhouse in Münster and asked for an appointment with the Novice Directress.
Finally I had my goal in sight. I ended my employment relationship effective October 1 and entered the Congregation of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Münster on October 2, 1969. I was 26 years old. It was very difficult for my parents because it was no longer possible for them to run the farm. None of my brothers or sisters had chosen this profession and therefore our farm land was declared as building land. My parents accepted my decision in tears, but my brothers and sisters showed a lack of understanding.
In the still unknown atmosphere of the Motherhouse, I went through the Postulate, Novitiate and Juniorate with two other postulants. When working in the nursing care, my knowledge was not relevant and rather a hindrance, because we had to serve and to ask everywhere.
After my temporary profession in 1972, I worked in several hospital wards. This service challenged me, both in my work and my religious life. But this was the time when we were needed and it corresponded to my ideal of wanting to be there for God and for people. I professed my perpetual vows in 1976.
From 1984 to 1985 I completed a training and obtained a certificate as a director of nursing and as a nursing instructor.After several commitments in various hospitals, I spent almost 13 years in "Stift Tilbeck", an institution for mentally handicapped and acutely psychiatric ill patients.
In 1986, I was elected by the Provincial Chapter as a Councilor of the Rhine Province “Christ the King”. I served in this ministry until 1989. During my time at Stift Tilbeck, I was allowed to work actively as a board member of the Federal Catholic Association for Disabled People, a professional association of the German Caritas Association, Freiburg. I was the only elected woman religious on this board. During the six years term of office, the ministry gave me strength and foresight to work for the benefit of the disabled.
For health reasons I concluded my ministry in Tilbeck in 2001. After a time out, I assumed the pastoral care and care of the residents in the Elizabeth House (retirement home) in Emsbüren for ten years. It was a very interesting and multifaceted task and I was very glad to carry it out in close cooperation with the nursing home direction and the staff, as well as with the villagers and the parish.
In 2011 the Bishop of Osnabrück asked for a sister for the pastoral care in the prison in Bremen. I gladly accepted this task and carried it out for almost four years. In many conversations of faith and confession of guilt by the prisoners, I was often only able to listen, but I always tried to give them hope for a new beginning. In addition, I worked in St. Joseph school in Oslebshausen, taking care for the children at lunchtime and supervising their school assignments.
I was deeply connected to the church's interfaith contact group with the Muslim women. Regularly, I took part in the meetings and exchanges. Together, in intensive discussions, we considered the question "What unites and carries us?”.
In 2014, I changed to House "Maria Hilf" in Telgte. For two years, I served at the reception desk. In 2016, I went to St. Mary's Hospital in Vreden and committed myself in the pastoral care and the care of the chapel. It was a very intense and challenging task.
Since October 2019, I have been living in the Motherhouse in Münster in the convent. After many different activities and assignments, it is like coming back home, for which I am grateful and I gladly commit myself in the Motherhouse.
Trying to fulfill our mission to bring Christ's healing presence to humanity, I am present in the church foyer in Münster every week. I want to be there for the people and for many encounters. I hope to be able to serve our Congregation, the "Mauritzer Franciscans" for many years to witness the Church in this world.