Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sister M. Marlene Schmidt

"I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, Do not fear, I will help you." 
 (Isaiah 41:13)

 This sentence from the Book of Isaiah has influenced my life in the community and helped me, especially in the beginning of my religious life, to go my way.

I was born on Sept. 24, 1951 in Friesoythe-Neuscharrel, a small town in the Oldenburg region in the district of Cloppenburg (Lower Saxony). My parents, Anna and Bernhard Schmidt, had a Farm. I grew up with two brothers and two sisters. In addition, our grandmother, two aunts and a cousin lived in my parents' house. From an early age, I experienced community in this multigenerational household and I always felt secure and not alone, But that also meant that I had to help on my parents' farm, in the household or with gardening and field work. I was always happy when I could help in the fields; I really enjoyed it. The Christian faith was practiced in my family. The Sunday church service and also the attendance of weekday church services, the prayer of the rosary together in October, the May devotions in the family; all this was the most natural thing in the world and was not questioned - it simply belonged to my life. My brothers and sisters and I were actively involved in the church. For my brothers it was the ministry as altar servers, for my sisters and for me it were the lector ministry, the parish council,the girls' groups, charity collections and library work. My parents always encouraged us in these activities.

I attended elementary school in my hometown of Neuscharrel for nine years and then the intermediate commercial school in Friesoythe. After graduating from commercial school, I worked in the office of a slaughterhouse for 17 years. The serious side of life began.

The year 1974 was a very difficult year for my family. At the age of 55, my father died of a brain tumor. This was a very hard stroke of fate for my family and for me. My youngest sister was just 11 years old. During this time I got to know the Mauritzer Franciscan Sisters. After my father's death, I volunteered there on Sundays for 12 years and got to know sisters who helped me a lot in my grief for my father. In 1978, my mother died at the age of 59. During this time I experienced not only grief, but also learned what it meant to have a family in which cohesion is a priority. During this time, I completed additional training as a teacher and taught young people shorthand and typing in courses at various educational institutions.

In this time, I often asked myself if that is all there is. I did not really want to enter a religious community. In my free time I had many contacts with religious.  A sister once asked me when I was going to enter the Congregation, and I replied, "When Easter and Christmas will fall on the same day." To prove to myself that I didn't want to do that, I indeed built a house, although I never moved in. For a long time I reflected on whether God was calling me to follow Him. I participated in weekends of reflection in the Motherhouse, I talked with sisters from different communities. The decisive factor in my decision to join a Franciscan community was the Catholics' Convention in Aachen in 1986. A sermon given by Bishop Hemmerle on the theme "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord" touched me, spoke to me, and brought a restlessness to me. Just at that time the company where I worked was dissolved and I had to look for a new job. At that time I made a "deal" with the dear Lord. I prayed to find a new job. I didn't want to enter because of not having a job, because then I would have thought that the religious life was an emergency solution. But suddenly I had the opportunity to get several jobs at once. And so I was able to decide freely to accept God's call.

In 1987, I entered the religious community of the Mauritzer Franciscan Sisters in Münster. The beginning was not easy, and in a crisis, when I wanted to leave the Congregation, God gave me the Bible verse from the Book of Isaiah. This was a promise of God to me personally. In 1989, I professed my first vows. In the retreat before the day of first profession I had doubts and God gave me another Bible verse from the Gospel of Luke: Let the dead bury their dead, but you go and proclaim the Kingdom of God. For me, this was both; a mission and a mandate. In 1997, I professed perpetual vows.

During the years of Juniorate, I often worked in the patient reception and in this time I also graduated as an office clerk. But at the same time, I felt the desire to work in the pastoral care, in the parish.

My wish was fulfilled in 1992/1994, when I attended a further qualification measure in pastoral care,  in the work with the elderly. Following this, I worked in various facilities and parishes. From 2000 to 2003, I completed a further training in hospital pastoral care in the Diocese of Münster. After my certification I got a job in Recklinghausen as a hospital pastoral care worker, but with the assignment in the pastoral care of the elderly. I am still there today and have been working for 18 years in two homes for the elderly and in a large parish. During this time I was able to complete additional studies in palliative care and grief counseling. Since the Bible is important to me and my life, I also had the opportunity to be trained as a bibliologist in the Diocese of Münster. I am very grateful to my community for my training and further education.  I really enjoy working with the elderly and working in the parish of St. Peter in Recklinghausen.

Looking back, I can say: God goes with me on all paths and the Good News is the direction for my life. Because the promise of Jesus: I am with you always is a very personal promise for me. That is why I look to the future with confidence, because I am on the way in the name of the Lord.