Monday, February 16, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Peramiho Priory

 In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World.
Our first four sisters arrived in “Deutsch Ostafrika” (later called “Tanganyika”) in 1888 under the leadership of Fr. Bonifatius Fleschutz.  In spite of great deprivations and diseases their missionary efforts in Pugu proved to be fruitful.  However, on January 13, 1889, the mission was destroyed by Arab-incited rebels.  Our Sr. Martha Wansing and two brothers were murdered. Sr. Benedicta Sivering was taken captive and released in March after a heavy ransom was paid.

The Pugu rebellion only enhanced the desire of the German sisters to return to African soil to bring the Good News.  In 1889 a new foundation was made in Dar es Salaam. Later, in 1901, the first four sisters came to Peramiho. With true missionary zeal, they bore the difficulties of the climate, disease, language and culture.  They started immediately a “hospital” and school.
However, tragedy descended upon the community once again, this time in the “Maji Maji Uprising” of 1905.  Sr. Felicitas Hiltner and Sr. Cordula Ebert were en-route to their new assignment in Kigonsera (Peramiho Priory) when they were murdered along with Bishop Cassian Spiss and two other monks. Hearing rumors of the rebels nearing Peramiho, the missionaries fled. The mission was attacked and destroyed. 
Never to be stopped, within two years the missionaries returned to Peramiho with new vigor and confidence in God’s help.  Yet, once again, during World War I, under British occupation, the missionaries were taken prisoners to South Africa and were later repatriated to the Mother House. 
Finally, in 1923 three non-German sisters were allowed to return to Peramiho.  By 1926 the Germans were allowed back and a steady influx of new missionaries came to build up the mission. There was an intense need at this time for well-trained personnel to open the Teacher Training School and Trade School according to the rules of the British government.  Twelve outstations were founded under the first Prioress, Sr. Ermenilde Morrisey.  In 1933 Peramiho Priory was officially established under Abbot-Bishop Gallus Steiger. The priory grew to nearly 100 sisters. 

Already in these early years, many of the native girls expressed their desire to become sisters.  It was decided to help them found their own community. The girls were taught by our sisters and had their first convent on our compound. This was the birth of the Congregation of St. Agnes (often referred to as “The Chipole Sisters”) which has grown to be over 700 members today.

By the 1950s fewer and fewer missionaries could be sent from the Mother House and the hardships of missionary life became burdensome for many of the senior sisters.  It became impossible to keep up all the outstations.  One mission after another was handed over to the Chipole Sisters.  However, as our congregation also developed, new missionaries were sent, first from the Philippines and later from other countries.
In the early 60s a strong political independence movement began in the country and Tanganyika became independent under Julius Nyerere. The name of the country was eventually changed to Tanzania.  In 1969 the Peramiho local Church received its first African bishop: Bishop James Komba.  Many of our schools and institutions were nationalized.  
However, uncertainty of the political situation lingered heavily and in 1973 the sisters were invited to follow the monks to establish a new foundation in Kenya in case they would have to flee once again the Peramiho mission.  This little sprout developed well into our Sacred Heart Priory in Nairobi.

In the 1980s a “New Chapter” began in the Peramiho Priory history when the first African candidates were received.  This hopeful step was initiated by our far-sighted Prioress, M. Isentrud Lehner.  Our first candidates were sent to Nairobi for formation.  By the concerted efforts of Prioress M. Pia Portmann and the help of Filipino missionaries, in the year 2000 Peramiho Priory developed its own formation program.  To this day, there is a steady increase of new members into the community. As of 1 January 2015 the community numbers 45 final professed sisters, 10 junior professed sisters, 7 novices, 12 postulants and 2 aspirants.

With the renewed hope and vigor of new members, ministries could be strengthened and new ministries established.  At this time the sisters are engaged in the following ministries.

·   Peramiho Girls Secondary and High School, six levels
·   Dressmaking and electrical vocational schools (owned by the monks)
·   St. Joseph Mission Hospital and Nursing School (owned by the monks)
·   St. Martin’s Hostel for girls attending government schools.
·   Non-Institutional ministries, bible groups, Small Christian Communities, social-pastoral teaching
·   St. Anna’s Health Center, Outpatient Department, and Orphanage
·   St. Raphael’s Vocational Training School for sewing and cooking
·   Leprosarium (resident) & Outreach Care for lepers
·   Orphan Assistance – secondary school orphans
·   Good Shepherd Orphanage and Kindergarten


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Feast of St. Scholastica


                                  St. Scholastica
                Virgin and Religious Founder
                Twin Sister of St. Benedict
               Feast Day: February 10th
Scholastica, was dedicated from her infancy to our Lord. Once a year she came to visit her brother. The man of God went to her not far from the gate of his monastery, at a place that belonged to the Abbey. It was there he would entertain her. Once upon a time she came to visit according to her custom, and her venerable brother with his monks went there to meet her.
They spent the whole day in the praises of God and spiritual talk, and when it was almost night, they dined together. As they were yet sitting at the table, talking of devout matters, it began to get dark. The holy Nun, his sister, entreated him to stay there all night that they might spend it in discoursing of the joys of heaven. By no persuasion, however, would he agree to that, saying that he might not by any means stay all night outside of his Abbey.
At that time, the sky was so clear that no cloud was to be seen. The Nun, hearing this denial of her brother, joined her hands together, laid them on the table, bowed her head on her hands, and prayed to almighty God. 
Lifting her head from the table, there fell suddenly such a tempest of lightning and thundering, and such abundance of rain, that neither venerable Benedict, nor his monks that were with him, could put their heads out of doors. The holy Nun, having rested her head on her hands, poured forth such a flood of tears on the table, that she transformed the clear air to a watery sky. 
After the end of her devotions, that storm of rain followed; her prayer and the rain so met together, that as she lifted up her head from the table, the thunder began.  So it was that in one and the very same instant that she lifted up her head, she brought down the rain.
The man of God, seeing that he could not, in the midst of such thunder and lightning and great abundance of rain return to his Abbey, began to be heavy and to complain to his sister, saying: "God forgive you, what have you done?" She answered him, "I desired you to stay, and you would not hear me; I have desired it of our good Lord, and he has granted my petition. Therefore if you can now depart, in God's name return to your monastery, and leave me here alone."    
Departure Delayed
But the good father, not being able to leave, tarried there against his will where before he would not have stayed willingly. By that means, they watched all night and with spiritual and heavenly talk mutually comforted one another. 
Therefore, by this we see, as I said before, that he would have had one thing, but he could not effect it.  For if we know the venerable man's mind, there is no question but that he would have had the same fair weather to have continued as it was when he left his monastery.  He found, however, that a miracle prevented his desire. A miracle that, by the power of almighty God, a woman's prayers had wrought.
Is it not a thing to be marveled at, that a woman, who for a long time had not seen her brother, might do more in that instance than he could? She realized, according to the saying of St. John, "God is charity" [1 John 4:8]. Therefore, as is right, she who loved more, did more.
The next day the venerable woman returned to her nunnery, and the man of God to his abbey. Three days later, standing in his cell, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he beheld the soul of his sister (which was departed from her body) ascend into heaven in the likeness of a dove
Rejoicing much to see her great glory, with hymns and praise he gave thanks to almighty God, and imparted the news of her death to his monks.  He sent them presently to bring her corpse to his Abbey, to have it buried in that grave which he had provided for himself. By this means it fell out that, as their souls were always one in God while they lived, so their bodies continued together after their death.



Monday, February 9, 2015

Abby in the Abbey: Lenten Preparations

Today is just a beautiful day and Sr. K and I had a long walk this morning to celebrate!  I am sooo happy that we are having a bit of warmth right now, I love laying in a spot in the sun and soaking it in!  So, is everyone preparing for Lent?  It is only 1 ½ weeks away and I can see that the Sisters are getting ready. Sr. K said that there is a great website out there that everyone can sign up for and it is totally free!  I love “free” don’t you?  It is called “Best Lent Ever” and I recommend that everyone try it out.  You get a daily e-mail with something to inspire you for your Lenten journey. 

As for me, I know for sure I won’t be fasting, but I’m going to try and be welcoming and nice to people I don’t particularly care for.  It is strange because when I first see someone coming in the door I immediately know they are strange to me and I don’t always react in a good way.  The Sisters scold me but I just can’t seem to help it.  The funny thing is, after the person is here a while and I know them a bit, I just stop barking and reacting and they become my friends!  Do you ever have that experience?  I think Sr. K calls it “judging” and says she has trouble with that too.  We both are going to try during Lent to avoid “judging”. That is one thing that I can do for sure that will make a difference both to me and to the people I meet. 

Have you ever heard of “new evangelization”?  There is a lot of talk among the Sisters about that right now.  If you haven’t read any of Pope Francis’ talks they told me they are very good.  Also, the Sisters are celebrating what they call “The year of consecrated life”.  That means that they are trying to tell people who they are, what they do and how they try to help people (and dogs too!  I think Sr. K even tries to help cats!) I find them to be kind of mean, hissing things but I suppose they are fine too because God made us all! 

Until next time I hope everyone keeps well and stays happy. 
Love, Abby

Friday, February 6, 2015

130th Jubilee of the Congregation and the Year of Consecrated Life: Tutzing Priory

In 2015, we look back upon 130 years of our history, with more than 1300 women living as Missionary Benedictine Sisters. Over the coming months of the Year of Consecrated Life we will bring to you the histories of our Priories and Sisters across the World. 


Our history began in 1885 at Reichenbach, where Fr. Andreas Amrhein had started Benedictine life with a few young men as “Benediktus-Missions-Verein” in 1884.  They hoped to work as missionaries in Africa. Their motive was carrying the Good News to people who had not yet heard of Christ.  Since he was convinced that the cooperation of women, that is sisters, would be needed, he presented his idea during the “Katholikentag” at Muenster, where he succeeded in inspiring four young women to join him. 
 Two years later the small community moved from Reichenbach to St. Ottilien, from where, already in 1887, the first brothers and sisters were sent out.  In spite of great difficulties at home and discouraging news of fatal illnesses and attacks in their first “mission land” in East Africa, both communities grew rapidly, and lack of space made another move necessary for the sisters. 

Their positive development is largely due to their first prioress general, Mother Birgitta Korff (1895-1920).  In spite of her youth, she showed great leadership talent, joined to loving concern for the well-being of each sister.  Tutzing on Lake Starnberg was the choice for the new convent, and in 1904 the sisters transferred to the newly-constructed motherhouse.  At this time the community numbered 119 members.

From the very beginning in Tutzing, the sisters served in the education of children and youth in kindergarten and various types of schools.  Care for the sick and elderly also was given by Tutzing Priory. 

In addition to the motherhouse, further communities and services were added, such as the large farm in Kerschlach, which for decades supplied food for the sisters, then Wessobrunn, the ancient Benedictine monastery, which received sisters in need of rest and later was for a long time a recovery home for children. 

Further foundations were made in Olpe (youth center), in Switzerland, our founder’s native country (Duedingen, then Fribourg and now Ettiswil, an old folks’ home), in Weiterdingen (recovery home for mothers), and shortly after World War II Bernried, a monastery near Tutzing, which is today a spiritual center for adults and also houses the novitiate.

The most difficult for our priory were the years from 1933 to 1945, when Germany was ruled  by the National Socialists.  At this time the work of the sisters was systematically curtailed, and in 1941 the motherhouse was finally confiscated.  Most of the sisters had to leave the motherhouse and were obligated to serve as nurses in Munich and St. Ottilien.

The motherhouse was also transformed into a military hospital.  During this time sisters only could make profession secretly at our Kerschlach farm. Immediately after the end of the war, in May of 1945, the motherhouse was returned to us. At the request of the parish, the military hospital was turned into a general hospital and until 2007 continued under the direction of the sisters. Some of the sisters still serve there fruitfully as doctors, nurses, and pastoral ministers.
Germany clearly is becoming a “mission land.”  When the separation between West and East ended in 1989, our priory soon was asked to make a new foundation in East Germany, where only 20% of the people are Christians.  In 1992 a small community was established in Dresden. The sisters rented a home in the city center and are contributing their services in various areas (parish, hospice for the sick, work with refugees).  Along with this new foundation, we have, because of aging communities and the small number of younger sisters, been obliged to discontinue services and close communities.
In spite of difficulties, our priory is open to the needs of the people, especially the poor of our day.  At this time, many refugees are coming to Germany from the crisis spots of the world.  In Tutzing we have set aside one building to accept women in need of a home.  This is our answer to the call of Pope Francis.