Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis
"Today I am really 100 years" said Sister M. Theresia on Saturday, September 7, 2013, with a cheerful twinkle in her eyes in a circle of many Sisters and guests, who congratulated her on this occasion.
I was born on September 7, 1913 in the small village Ostbevern, near Münster. “My father was a farmer and we had a farm. I was one year old, when the First World War started. My father was called up for service in the army; he did not come home.
I remember well, that at that time, at the death of a family member, the whole family wore black clothes for one year - and we children did too.
In the parental home, I learned, like everyone, to care for and to support one another in this difficult time. I also got a solid foundation in faith.
Role models were my good mother, my stepfather (the brother of my father), my uncle, Monsignor Hugenroth, and my great uncle, Bishop Johannes Poggenburg (1913 – 1933, Bishop of Münster). My aunt, Sister M. Theresia, a Franciscan Sister in Münster, also impressed me. She died at the age of 42 years and later on, I received her name.
I am a Franciscan since 1936. At that time, I entered our Congregation with 50 young women. For our First Profession of Vows, 10 Novices from Silesia joined our group. So we were 60 Novices when in 1938, we made our First Profession of Vows before the Lord.
In many respects, St. Francis was leading the way in my life.
However, I also have a great devotion to St. Teresa of Avila. She is a wonderful woman. She says for example “Teach me to be thoughtful and helpful… Teach me silence about my illness and complaints. They are increasing, and the desire to describe them is growing.”
Yes, in old age, reading and hearing are burdensome. I am grateful to know many hymns, psalms, and prayers by heart. So I can participate in the community prayer and, sometimes even in my room pray a psalm or sing a hymn.”
Sister M. Theresia can look back on a turbulent century, which was marked by two disastrous wars, but also by diligence and the work of reconstruction by countless people. One of these persons is our Sister M. Theresia.
“Often, especially when I cannot asleep, memories of the wars come to my mind”, she says. In World War II, as a young hospital sister, I went to Dorsten.
There I experienced heavy bombing attacks: Not only experienced, I must also say I survived! In the hospital, we mourned the deaths of 40 people; among these were four of our religious sisters. To this day, in my mind's eye I vividly see our Sister M. Eupora, with a child she wanted to save, who died in the hail of bombs. For days, we were clearing away the rubble with our hands, trying to find her and the child, but they remained forever lost, without a trace. Or I hear the progressive weakening of the voice of our Chaplain under the ruins, encouraging the people who were buried with him, and giving them general absolution. Later on, our four sisters and many more deceased were found. So we could bury them.”
One of the focal points in her religious life was the time as Provincial Superior in Telgte from 1958 to 1964. She was often traveling for long periods for visitation in the convents. Since there was no car available, the respective convent ensured that she was brought to the next convent. To write each report, without a typewriter or even a computer, was certainly a special challenge.
Sr. M. Theresia had a special assignment when the new St. Bernhard Hospital was being built in Kamp-Lintfort. While living in the neighboring convent in Moers, she was significantly involved in the planning and implementation of the new hospital. Later on, (1966 to 1973), as the convent superior, she was a true pioneer, bringing together nearly 50 young sisters in the new convent.
She fondly remembers the later time as sacristan in the Motherhouse Church, where her religious life began. “I am grateful for all the gifts of grace given me by the Lord in the course of my long life for the service of people. I am still very interested in all that is happening in society, the church and, especially in our community. At this time, the Provincial Chapter of the German Province takes place in the Motherhouse. I am following it with great interest and accompanying it with my prayer.
Today, I enjoy sitting at the window or on the balcony, with the view into the beautiful garden, and observing nature, especially the zealous rabbits, magpies, and jackdaws, which sometimes compete to defend their territory.
With St. Francis, I might almost say:
“I have done what is mine to do; may Christ teach you yours.“