Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sister M. Bernwardis Kolberg

My story of life

In September 1939, at the beginning of World War II, I was born in Hamm/Westphalia. I was the sixth child. My brothers and sisters, two girls and three boys, were loyal companions to me; for they always knew what was good for their little Sister.

Due to the turmoil of war during the time of National Socialism, my father lost his job in Dortmund. My uncle in Stuttgart got him an adequate job as a master electrician and at the same time he found a home for the family. After a few months, my mother died of an insidious illness. How could things go on now?

A friend of my father told him, that in Gladbeck lived a widow, who had lost her husband and two sons in the war and who now lived alone in a timbered house. The house had a garden and a wonderful environment. A year after my mother's death, they married. We got a wonderful home and so I experienced a carefree childhood despite the years of war, which however also had frightening moments, such as the alarm siren, often as full alarm, which meant that we all had to spend the next few hours and sometimes days in the bunker.

The day of my First Holy Communion is a special memory for me. As a gift, I got a book about the life of the little St. Theresa. The content of this book touched me deeply. Even today I remember looking for a quiet hiding place in the garden to read it. At that time the wish arose: I would like to enter a cloister one day.

After my school years, the question of a professional education came up. For us young women there were only 3 professions to choose from: Hairdressing, office and sales area. I decided to get an apprenticeship as a seller. Soon I realized that this probably did not correspond to my inclinations.

Now my mother decided that I should first acquire knowledge in housekeeping. I began a 3-year education in Oberhausen at a private housekeeping school run by the Arenberg Dominican Sisters. It was a good time, during which my desire to become a religious sister became stronger and stronger. After this time, I completed a practical training in preparation for an apprenticeship as a housekeeper. This education at the Hildegardis School in Münster was now a final point in finding a profession; for I had a profession that gave me joy.

Since I had not lived in my parents' house for 5 years, I was looking for a job in Gladbeck. When I applied for a job at St. Barbara Hospital in Gladbeck, I was accepted for the diet kitchen. 50 "Mauritzer" Franciscan Sisters, worked In this hospital with about 500 beds and many specialized departments, mainly in the nursing care. The combination of a job and my parents' home suited me very well in my search for the right path.

Entrance into the Congregation

After 3 years I decided to enter the Congregation of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis in Münster in 1962. The postulancy and novitiate period was a carefree and beautiful time. As it was customary in our Congregation, we learned the profession of nursing after our first profession of vows. After completing my nursing exam, the education as a dietician followed.

In 1968, the time of probation in my professional life began. For 4 months I worked at St. Bernhard Hospital in Kamp-Lintfort.

After that, I moved to St. Josefs-Hospital in Bremerhaven.  Both the convent life with 35 Sisters, but also the work as a dietician corresponded completely to my ideas. In June 1969, I got a new assignment in Münster in the diet school.

In 1970, I professed my perpetual vows with 35 Sisters. A few months later the General Chapter took place in the Motherhouse. At this Chapter, Sr. M. Barthola , the Director of the Dietetic School at that time, was elected General Superior. For me a world collapsed, since from now on the direction of the school was entrusted to me.

For about 10 years the question accompanied me: How can I get out of here? In a retreat, the words of the Gospel according to John came very close to me: "Because without me you can do nothing!" My heart widened. I went back to my ministry with renewed élan.

A new phase of my life began in 1997, when I was elected to the Provincial Council in the Provincial Chapter. Now it was time to set out on a new path. Until then, my field of activity had been the contact with the younger people, but now it was time to walk a path with the Sisters. Slowly I grew into this ministry.

In 2010, at the age of 70, after my time in the provincial leadership, I was given the ministry as Motherhouse Superior. During this time I became more and more aware that listening, really listening, is more important than giving all kinds of advice.

In 2016, I experienced a wonderfully relaxed time at St. Joseph's House in Seppenrade, which, however, ended in 2017 with a new request to go to the Convent Maria-Hilf-St. Rochus as Superior. Telgte was very unfamiliar to me, since I originally belonged to the Rhineland-Westphalian Province. After the death of Sister M. Theovita, a secular director had already been appointed. I was responsible for the spiritual guidance of the Sisters. I gave my "YES" to this. At the beginning the convent numbered 41 Sisters. Since we are not a nursing home, in the course of time many Sisters moved to a nursing home for the elderly because they needed care. At present, 16 Sisters live in our convent.

Now I am facing the day of great expectation. What will it be like when I face the Lord? I trust that my lifelong search has a final destination. I conclude these thoughts with a word from Eduard Mörike:

In Him all beginning
who reigns, ever spinning,
the moons', suns' and planets'
celestial parade.
You, Father, you counsel!
Be guide and defence!
Lord, into Thy hands
beginning and end,
the whole world be laid.