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.  


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