Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf

As part of our ongoing observance of the 200th birthday of Blessed Pauline von Mallinckrodt in 2017, we continue to post excerpts of Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf (Bonifatius, 2016),  the history of the Congregation of the Sisters of Christian Charity since 1881, by Sister Anna Schwanz, SCC (translated into English by Sister Mary Perpetua Rehle, SCC).

[Note:  This post wanders from the chronological order of previous and future posts.  However, its significance to Holy Week seems to direct us to present it at this time.]

"In comparison to other cities, Paderborn was spared from heavy attacks until 1945, despite frequent alarms and minimal local bombing.  On January 17 and on March 22 and 27, the city experienced frightful attacks. . . . On March 27, Tuesday in Holy Week, the sirens howled at 5:00 pm.  'We couldn't get to the cellar fast enough.  In great haste, driven by the fear for their lives, crowds of people came to us:  our neighbors . . . travelers from the Casselertor train station where the train had just arrived, pedestrians from the street.'  Groups of heavy bombers flew low over Paderborn and dropped aerial mines, phosphor canisters, incendiary and high-explosive bombs on the defenseless city.  The hail of bombs poured out over the Motherhouse.  The people who were crowded into the corridors in the cellar could hear and feel the floors of the building above them collapse.  No one even thought about rescue. 'Suddenly, a nerve-shattering shock. The ground beneath us rocked under our feet, the walls buckled doors and windows sprang out of their frames. . . . We covered ourselves with coats and blankets and held each other tight.' A high-explosive bomb had landed near the chapel, about 10 meters from the group.  Finally, after a 28 minute hail of bombs, there was a pause.  Shortly after, one of the soldiers in the military hospital called out in a loud voice: 'The entire house is burning.  Everybody out of the cellar!'  All found a way out and there was no loss of life.  A horrifying sight awaited them outside: the Motherhouse, the Retreat House and the non-residential building were one huge conflagration, with flames coming out of almost all the windows.  Even the trees, bushes and shrubs were like blazing torches.  The other foundations in Paderborn were also destroyed: St. Joseph House, the School for the Blind, the Leokonvikt (Sister Coleta Pennekamp lost her life here), Priests' Seminary, Minor Seminary, Archbishop's Palais.  In all, 255 Professed Sisters, 6 Novices and 5 Postulants were homeless.  Most of them, like the other inhabitants of Paderborn, fled out of the burning city to the surrounding farming communities or to families at the edge of the city whose houses were still standing, and found refuge there.  Among them were two Sisters who had rescued the Blessed Sacrament in the portable tabernacle from the cellar.  The willingness to help was evident everywhere.  The flight was especially difficult for the old, sick and helpless Sisters like critically ill Sister Carita Becker.  Archbishop Lorenz Jäger, who had also lost everything, tried to help wherever and however he could.  He himself went to Dörenhagen by bike to find lodging for the Sisters and even obtained a commercial vehicle to convey the sick.  Even though the people there had already filled all available places with evacuees from the large cities, 60 Sisters still found temporary shelter there.  The stress of the flight proved too much for Sister Carita.  She died on Good Friday, March 30.  With great difficulty, her body was brought to Paderborn a few days later in a handcart and buried in the Sisters' Cemetery to the right of St. Conrad's Chapel."

Reflection:  What do you find most interesting about this excerpt?  Perhaps you could share this with someone today.

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