Friday, March 31, 2017

Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf

This week's excerpt from Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf (In Response to God's Call, by Sister Anna Schwanz, translated by Sister Mary Perpetua Rehle, copyright 2016, Bonifatius) comes from the section entitled "The Second World War and the Destruction of the Motherhouse."

"The Nazi ideology had a disastrous effect on the old and the ill.  Whoever was not able to be absorbed into the workplace, 'was no longer of use to the national community.' He was considered useless and was treated accordingly.  Here a new need opened.  Many of the Sisters who had returned to the Motherhouse from their apostolates trained for nursing or studied to be caregivers, to be able to help these people.  So that the openness for social and caregiving activities would be more apparent than before, the Congregation for Religious in Rome permitted the expansion of Article 4 in the Constitutions:  'The Community will also undertake the administration of institutions and works of love for neighbor, which are suitable for the, especially care of the sick, activity in homes for the elderly, support of the poor, the blink, those at risk, the squalid, the mentally challenged, etc.'  The Sisters were convinced that in her ready openness to change and her willingness to address the needs of the times, Mother Pauline would have done the same."
. . .

"The most difficult war years were still to come: the Russian Campaign in 1941, the declaration of war on Japan by the United States and the resulting declaration of war on the United States by Germany.  'Thus almost the entire world was involved in destructive war.' The active mail correspondence from Germany with the General Superior, who was in North America, as well as the Sisters of both Provinces, was hampered."
. . .

"The Motherhouse and the Retreat House in Paderborn avoided seizure, when the Retreat House was repurposed as Maria Immaculata Reserve Military Hospital and was under military administration from May 1941 on.  The Sisters promised service as nurses and housekeepers.  By July 7, it was at capacity with 150 ill soldiers.  For the most part, they were not severely wounded.  Some suffered from eye injuries or from mental problems.  Several Red Cross workers supported the Sisters in their work.  All the soldiers' laundry was washed, ironed and mended in the Motherhouse, which also assumed responsibility for the meals at the doctors' center in the School for the Blind.  The soldiers felt comfortable, were grateful for the loving care, and helped with tasks as soon as they felt able.  They enjoyed the weekly visits from the hospital chaplain. . . . Thanks to this good spirit, one or the other Candidate who wanted to enter, could be received.  The management of the hospital requested her as temporary worker from the Employment Office and she could then, as a Postulant, work in the military hospital.

Additional military hospitals were established in the Minor Seminary, the Leokonvikt, the Priests' Seminary and the male residence in the School for the Blind.  In all of these, the Sisters assisted with the nursing and the housekeeping."

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

From Darkness to Light

Thanks to the West Virginia Institute for Spirituality -- and our very own Sisters Mary Irene and Gale --- for providing this Lenten reflection booklet, "From Darkness to Light."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Earth Hour

From 8:30 to 9:30 this evening (local time), we are invited to take part in "Earth Hour" -- that is, an hour to bring our environment to mind.  Some people observe Earth Hour by turning off their lights or their electronic devices for an hour.  Others find different ways to observe Earth Hour, including an hour of prayer.  However you choose to observe the hour, try to make it a catalyst for significant environmental awareness in your life.  Click here for more information.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf

This week's excerpt from Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf (In Response to God's Call, by Sister Anna Schwanz, translated by Sister Mary Perpetua Rehle, copyright 2016, Bonifatius) comes from the section entitled "The Second World War and the Destruction of the Motherhouse."

"[In 1939] . . . the most drastic changes in personnel were affected.  Overnight, more and more Sisters lost the apostolic activities for which they had been prepared.  In some places, it was possible to spontaneously take on another activity, which arose from an emergency. In Soest and Magdeburg, empty rooms in homes for women were made available; later on in other places, lodging for the employed, students, evacuees and refugees.  The Sisters in other places gave religious instruction after school hours and also tutored.  In the towns nearby they helped children with their homework, served as organists and sacristans, conducted days of recollection for young people, cared for girls and were open to any tasks that arose.  Later, they also took on the management of kitchens in various men's monasteries, because the Brothers were often drafted for military service.  As far as lay in their power, the Sisters thereby ensured the existence of the convents.  They received an introduction to pastoral care and work in the parish by attending courses offered at the Motherhouse.  Many received the Missio canonica (certification to teach religion).  In all, 87 Sisters left their homeland in 1933 for service in the USA, Chile and Uruguay/Argentina.  The last eight Sisters left on May 19, 1939.

There were, however, also new foundations: in March, 1939, the Sisters took over a small Home for the Elderly in Stieldorf and on July 1, they made a foundation in Halle on the Saale River in the Diaspora.  Here the Sisters helped in the parish office and with pastoral care and served as organist.  Because the Nazis tolerated no religious in Halle, in reply to the appeal of the parish priest, the Provincial sent the Sisters there in modified dress, which they wore until December 8, 1947.  During the course of the war, small missions were opened in Scharfenberg, Ottbergen, Winterberg, Altenb├╝ren and Bochum.

The Generalate made a new foundation in Beek, near Nymwegen, Holland, in March, 1939.  The house was planned as a refuge for Mother Anselmis, for whom, despite the end of the court proceedings regarding finances, it was not advisable to return to Paderborn even for a brief visit.  A home for older women and a sanatorium for persons with eating disorders were also established in Huize St. Elizabeth.  Six Sisters from the German Province began work there, one of them a native of Holland.

Despite the hard times, the Sisters celebrated the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation on August 21, 1939 in the firm hope that Mother Pauline's life's work was secure in God's Providence even amid the storms of the present time."

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf

This week's excerpts from Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf (In Response to God's Call, by Sister Anna Schwanz, transl. Sister Mary Perpetua Rehle, copyright 2016, Bonifatius) come from the section entitled, "The Congregation from 1926 until 1945."

Court Proceedings Regarding Finances
"With the introduction of the court proceedings regarding finances in 1935, an extreme manner of defamation and persecution of religious congregations began.  As was later uncovered in secret documents, the aim was to have them disappear completely, step by step.  'The religious Congregtions, in which we see only the negation of life and a great danger to the morale of the German people, must disappear. . . We can no longer tolerate these clerical-conventual confinements in the Fatherland.  There is only one Reich, one religion with the leader of the Reich as the head' (Chronicles of the German Province).  Our Congregation and the German Province were also involved in these proceedings."
. . .
"After Hitler seized power . . . general economic distress grew worse from month to month.  The German Province found itself in a difficult financial situation, because for years already the municipal and state subsidies had practically ceased, the number of students and children in their care had decreased, and, as a result, the missions had been able to send little or no funds to the Motherhouse.  Thus, it was barely possible to meet the increased interest obligations.

With a heavy heart, on February 19, 1934, Mother Godeharda Koch, Provincial at that time, addressed a call for help to the missions and suggested ways they could save money.  These dealt with travel, clothing, correspondence, repairs and purchases.  Regarding living expenses she wrote:  'By a basic reduction in our cost of living, it would be possible for each house to save at least 10 Pfennig per person per day, which could then be sent to support the burdened Motherhouse.  We also hope for and expect, that by avoiding expenditures and improvements, etc., each foundation will find it possible to send the Motherhouse a donation in proportion to the circumstances in that house.  That is the only way that will make it possible for us to meet our payment obligations and to avert disaster for the Congregation.'"

[The explanation for and a detailed chronology of the arrests and seizures during this time can be found in the text of the book.  They are far too detailed to include in a blog post, but are very well worth the time and effort to read.]

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf

This week's excerpts from Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf (In Response to God's Call, by Sister Anna Schwanz, transl. Sister Mary Perpetua Rehle, copyright 2016, Bonifatius) come from the section entitled, "The Congregation from 1926 until 1945."

Effects of National Socialism on Apostolic Activities
German Province
"In 1933, apostolic activities were not affected at first.  There were even some permissions granted. . . . The professional education of the Sisters was still possible, especially in the final examination at the close of their studies.  Several Sisters took examinations for the teaching profession, for social work in our homes, for nursing or in practical professions, such as dressmaking or gardening.  At every examination, regardless of type, a 'socio-political qualification' was necessary.  Soon there were obstacles and intrusions into every activity.  The sales tax for schools (1933) was followed by the difficulty which Sisters encountered when they attempted to pursue higher education (1934) and in 1936 School Directors had to produce an Arian Certificate.  Officials and those employed in public service were not permitted to send their children to private schools.  The depleted school population that resulted caused major financial problems."
"When bombs totally destroyed the schools in 1943, our educational activities in Dortmund ended a second time.  Several Sisters found shelter with the Vincentians at the orphanage.  Until 1945 they ministered in pastoral and charitable activities in various parishes. . . . Not only the schools offering a general education were closed, but also home economics schools and schools for young women. . . . Work in the kindergartens became more and more difficult. . . . In the area of the education of the blind, both the school and the job training department suffered limitations and setbacks. . . . Similar developments can be related about other orphanages and homes. . . . Retreat work also suffered much interference. . . . Nursing services continued to be rendered in the Hospital in Anrath, as well as within the parish.  To this was added the vast activity in the military hospitals, because most of the episcopal facilities where our Sisters served as housekeepers had been transformed into military hospitals.

Under the most difficult circumstances, the Sisters tried to work for the Church and the common good, to fulfill their mission by taking on various activities and, as best they could by their contributions, to ensure the survival of the Congregation."

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

Friday, March 3, 2017

Stop Trafficking Newsletter for March

The March 2017 issue of Stop Trafficking -- focusing on how ordinary citizens and computer specialists assist victims of human trafficking via the Internet -- is available here.

Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf

We continue our reading of excerpts from  Als Antwort Auf Gottes Ruf (In Response to God's Call), by Sister Anna Schwanz, SCC (copyright 2016, Bonifatius), translated by Sister Mary Perpetua Rehle, SCC.

The First World War and its Consequences
The limitations set on travel and mail service, e.g. strict censorship, specified length, very slow delivery, caused a major break in communication for our international Congregation.  It was no longer possible to send German Sisters to America on a regular basis, as it had been previously.  It was not until 1920 that another group was sent.  Communication with Provincial Leadership and with the convents in America was often only possible via a neutral country or through trusted persons who were traveling there.  One tried to keep up contact as best one could.  When the USA entered the war in 1917, there was no longer any direct postal contact with North America.  In vain did the Sisters attempt to send food supplies to Germany via neutral ships.  A year after the end of the war, in August 1919, they began new shipments.  At the beginning of November the first precious packages reached Paderborn.  Many others were sent during the following years.  The Chronicles recorded these with deep gratitude.  Many poor people could be helped with these supplies.  The Superiors in the American Province also repeatedly helped with considerable sums of money.
. . .

The news of the completion and dedication of the new Province Motherhouse in Wilmette was the last direct communication to the Generalate in Paderborn from an overseas Province until the end of the First World War.  The Sisters found the limitations placed on travel and mail service, which presented a major obstacle to communication with Community Leadership, very painful.  This fact is repeatedly mentioned in the Chronicles from 1914-1917.  Contact with America was completely cut off for a long time or was possible only occasionally when sent via a neutral country.  So much the more, did the willingness to help show itself in the form of donations once the war ended, an invaluable aid to the survival of the European Province and many other people in Germany.  How precious every package and every financial help was, could only be understood by the generous donors when the representatives from all the Provinces gathered in Paderborn for the General Chapter in 1920 and experienced the situation firsthand.

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lent 2017: The Word is a Gift. Other Persons are a Gift.

Click here to access the Holy Father's message for Lent 2017, in which he uses the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) to express the theme, "The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift."  The conclusion of the message follows:

"Dear friends, Lent is the favourable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbour. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favour the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter."

Blessed Lent, everyone!