Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sister M. Annette Ferneding

It was in the pre-war year 1936, on September 10, when I was born into the family of Ludwig and Anna Ferneding in Nikolausdorf and baptized with the name Elisabeth. My parents had seven children. I was the 5th with four brothers and two sisters. The grandparents also belonged to our family. I experienced the peaceful dead of my grandmother and the dead of one sister, soon after her birth. I grew up secure and happy in a Christian family. I felt this when one day I burned my legs with hot water. To bandage my wounds Sister Nacalis came by bicycle every day. I was very happy when I saw her arrive - with waving veil and laughing face. Was she the first through whom the idea of vocation was placed in my child's heart?

In my school days I experienced the 2nd World War and especially in 1945 hard attacks between the fronts. I spent many days in the bunker with an infected leg until I was admitted - by special permission - to St. Josefs Hospital in Cloppenburg and was operated just in time. During the long time in the hospital, I experienced for the second time the loving care of the Franciscan Sisters.         

After the war I experienced with the family a great joy: the first home visit of my aunt, our Sister Odalgera. This visit was the third time I met our Sisters. I was also fascinated and influenced by the description of the life of St. Therese of Lisieux and her little way."I always want to bring joy to Jesus" and the motto of St. Don Bosco: "Be cheerful, do good, and let the sparrows chirp".

I spent my youth years in my parents' house. On Sundays I met with my schoolmates.  Everyone aimed for a destination. Again, the spark ignited: I wanted to take care of the sick as cheerfully as Sister Nacalis did. I entered the Congregation as a candidate in the Motherhouse in Münster on October 9, 1959 and began my religious life. On the day I received the habit,  I was given the name Sister M. Annette, derived from my mother's name: Anna.      

Beginning of work in nursing and socio-pedagogical facilities
From 1961 - 1964, I served in St. Francis Hospital. After graduation and the exam for social pedagogy in 1966, I assumed the ministry of being the head of the newly built kindergarten in Lindern/Cloppenburg. Unfortunately, I fell ill and had to spend a year at the lung sanatorium in Neuenkirchen. In 1971, I changed to Steinfeld/Vechta and in 1974 to Steinbild/Emsland.
In addition to the Fröbel diploma, I obtained a diploma in Montessori pedagogy. In the parish of Steinbild, I made reading and creative activities possible for the kindergarten and school children - as head of the Borromäus library. One evening a week I dedicated to parents and young people.

Once a year, we Sisters, who worked as kindergarten teachers, met. The mutual sharing of our joys and sorrows, the introduction of new things in the kindergarten gave joy and strength.

Further education and additional training followed: In 1970,  I began a correspondence course in theology, and in 1980, I obtained the Missio Canonica. After passing the teaching tests and the exam in religious education before the school councils, I received the episcopal teaching permission to teach religion in the schools up to grade 12. It was a joy to take over the classes 3 and 4. The children had the opportunity to participate musically in the Holy Mass school service by playing flutes and orff instruments.

Others enjoyed being involved as lectors or altar servers. Connected in this way with the whole parish community, I felt right in place in my commitment to spread the joy of God. 

In 1987, I was given the opportunity to take a time out and participate in a spiritual renewal course at Regina Mundi in Rome.  The celebration of my 25th anniversary of religious profession and the experiences of Florence, Assisi, Subiaco, Manopello were Tabor times for me!

At the end of the 1989 school year, it was time to say goodbye - with difficulty and gratitude - to everything that had become dear to me.                                           

In 1990, I was given a new ministry in the Academy of the Diocese of Osnabrück, in the Ludwig-Windhorst Institute in Lingen, in the section of education for older adults. As a lecturer, I had the opportunity to organize many new things: Study trips with the European political education organization in different three-country corners, summer camps, training seminars for dance leaders and spiritual weeks for the holidays of the year for older people. It gave me great joy to offer life help to people of different ages, in different life situations and areas of interest: When the eyes of the elderly lit up when I said goodbye, I was also a recipient of gifts. With my efforts to "conjure" joy into the daily lives of the elderly, I have been able to fulfill my Franciscan mission of "Option for the Poor".

I myself completed trainings in meditation and sacred dance, in senior dance and dancing while sitting.  These dance trainings were popular, as well as dance camps with explorations of the Emsland region, which I gladly organized and carried out. These camps gave all of us a lot of joy. Important to me was a theological correspondence course and the study weeks in Vienna "Growing older in faith" in the years 1992 - 1994. After three courses, I received a certificate and the assignment "Pastoral accompaniment of older people in congregations and old people's homes".  Quite grateful for 10 years of educational work in the Ludwig-Windthorst-House, I was given a farewell concert by the flutist Hans-Jürgen Hufeisen.

After half a year of work for INFAG and an assignment in St. Stefano in Assisi, I returned to the Motherhouse in 2000. They were already waiting for me. In collaboration with Sr. M. Gabrielis, I was active for many years in the order's internal education unit. We created a flyer with offers: Seminars for Sisters in pastoral care for the elderly and day events for Sisters and those interested in occupational therapy and pastoral care. I was available to accompany women who wanted a time-out. I participated in the meetings of the Associates. I was very happy to offer meditative dance days as a proclamation of faith before feasts, as well as the oasis days for women. When I was appointed to the parish council of St. Mauritz, I was active as a catechist and at parish festivals. Everyone enjoyed being involved in a parish community, celebrating with each other and performing "Sister Act" with the women at the parish and the Motherhouse.

In 2010, I was given a surprise; I was allowed to travel to America. I visited the Sisters at the Motherhouse in Springfield and my Sister in Baltimore, who had not been home for 20 years.

In this phase of life, I gladly served the Lord; dancing for Him and for my joy. I felt like "Myriam" who took her drum to give thanks and dance with the women for salvation. Yes, praise God with me with drums and harps, sing and dance to Him, my Lord! Now, after 20 years of intensive service in the Motherhouse, the time had come to say goodbye.  In the convent of St. Anna-Stift in Lohne-Kroge, I can live the last third of my life with the other Sisters in peace and serenity, in opportunities for service to one another and with one another, joyfully and cheerfully - as long as He wills.  For the joy of the Lord is my strength, hallelujah!"