Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Foundation of Lauterach near Bregenz (Austria)

“Our foundation,” Reverend Mother Marie-Rose of the Child Jesus wrote to us on 3rd May 1906, “is under the patronage of Saint Joseph. Of all our houses, this is the only one that bears this blessed name.”

“For several years, our Monastery in Vienna desired to make a foundation, and Salzburg was proposed. The Cardinal Archbishop, Mons Haller, offered the Sisters a little church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, but the buildings were not suitable, and we had to refuse them. In the meantime, the Cardinal died. The Sisters designated for the new foundation left Vienna on 19th April 1900. A remarkable thing – from this time on, it was always a Wednesday or the 19th March or the 19th of another month that Saint Joseph granted our convent some particular grace.

“However, the new foundation was not to be made without difficulties of every kind. Our poverty was great, and to crown it all, there was no chapel where we could put the Blessed Sacrament, because of the small number of the Sisters. From 19th April to the feast of the Most Holy Redeemer, we had to go to Mass with the Reverend Fathers Missionary at Liefering, a quarter of an hour away from the convent, and receive the sacrament of penance in the town. Not possessing Our Lord amongst us was a subject of inexpressible grief to us. Finally Mons Kaltner, the Vicar General of Salzburg (today the Bishop) put himself to every possible trouble to obtain for us the grace of having the Sanctissimum in our little house. Several Sisters from Vienna arrived the night preceding the third Sunday of July. It was another Christmas night for us. We worked almost all night to prepare our little chapel, where Jesus, our love and our all, was to descend for the first time. Mons Kaltner blessed the chapel, and before giving us Holy Communion, he gave us a short sermon full of unction and piety. It was a day of graces and also a day of indescribable joy, although we had not yet been permitted to wear the habit of our Order, and all we had were just black vestments and black veils.

* * * * *

“We had to remain like this until the nomination of the new Archbishop, Mons Katschthaler, to the seat of Salzburg. Finally this great grace reached us at the very moment we were to begin our first retreat. An hour beforehand, the hand that had blessed our chapel also blessed our enclosure. What a joy it was for us then, on Christmas night, to renew our holy vows! In our little chapel, a true Bethlehem because of its poverty, a solemn Te Deum burst out in thanksgiving, for the first retreat preached in the little Monastery of Saint Joseph! What a joy it was also for Rev. Father Dilgskron, our confessor in Vienna, who had preached our holy exercises!

“”The cross,” I told him, “is not lacking in this foundation, but divine Providence is watching over its children. When we were at the point of having to leave everything because of our poverty, an unexpected help came to save us, and to great cares, great joy succeeded.

“However, a more serious reason than the lack of resources finally decided us to look elsewhere. The lack of spiritual help was all to evident, and so we prayed to find a new refuge which could provide us with what Saint Jeanne Francoise de Chantal sought before everything else for her foundations – the assurance of spiritual help. After many prayers, vigils and fasts, we learnt that a boarding house formerly run by the Dominican Sisters was vacant at Lauterach. It was the Reverend Father Rector of Dornbirn (Vorarlberg) who gave us this good news. On 19th April 1904, some of the Sisters went there with the counsellor of His Eminence the Cardinal of Salzburg, and at the first Vespers of the feast of the patronage of Saint Joseph, the contract for the purchase of the Dominican convent was signed, on the condition that our Superiors in Vienna gave their consent. On 2nd August, the feast of our Father, Saint Alphonsus, the daughters of this great Saint took possession of the Monastery of the daughters of Saint Dominic, and on 19th November, I arrived at Lauterach with the first group of my dear Sisters to remain there permanently.

“We now had a beautiful little church, some cells, and a cemetery at the bottom of the garden. The Redemptorist Fathers are our confessors. Our Chaplain, an excellent priest, helps us with everything by his advice and his talents. Having been on mission in Africa for the space of a dozen years, there is hardly any subject he does not know something about.

* * * * *

“A few words now about our three dear deceased Sisters.

“Sister Marie-Celestine came from Vienna with Sister Marie-Francoise and Sister Marie-Michel on the vigil of the feast of the Most holy Redeemer, to make up the number of Sisters required by the Archbishop of Salzburg, and to thus ensure us the happiness of possessing the Blessed Sacrament.

“She was a very fervent Sister who observed the Rule to the letter, but her health had been weakened long ago. We noticed one day that her spirit had weakened in its turn. She was suffering a great deal, and she was an enigma for us. Sometimes she felt so feeble that she would go and ask the Superior for some dispensation or some relief. A quarter of an hour afterwards, she wanted to know nothing about it and tried to observe the Rule in all its rigour. She continued thus until 24th October 1902. On that day she made her monthly retreat. On Saturday, the 25th, she could not get out of bed, and as the doctor told me that she could die any day quite unexpectedly, I told her all this. “That’s nothing,” she replied, “We all have to die.” On Sunday, the 26th, I was next to her right up to the moment of Holy Communion, and when I left her, she told me urgently: “My Reverend Mother, I thank you for everything you have done for me.” I did not for a moment think that she would die so soon, and I then went to see our good Sister Marie-Gerard, who had been ill for months and was suffering horribly. At 9 o’clock, I was called in all haste. Sister Marie-Celestine had just died! She had been struck by apoplexy in her heart and brain. On her death-bed, she still had the smiling face she had during her life. She was only thirty two years of age. We remember her as a good and charitable Sister, ardent for her perfection and zealous for observance. She had recommended her death to the Good Thief. – It was a very hard thing for us to leave her body in Salzburg. We have erected a modest monument to her in our little cemetery, and also to our dear Sister Marie-Francoise.

“This Sister died in our Monastery of Vienna on 13th February 1906. She was very young too. She was our companion at Salzburg for more than three years, and edified us greatly by her virtue, her spirit of prayer and her filial obedience. A stomach complaint was what had her recalled to Vienna. They soon discovered that it was a cancer. She suffered a great deal and had to undergo several operations. The doctors were edified by her patience. She suffered like this for more than two years, but we always saw her happy and resigned to the holy will of God and very attached to the Rule. She always had the desire to see her God, and she applied herself greatly to the interior life. And her death was that of a saint.

“Some words too about our dear Sister Marie-Alphonse, who died at the age of twenty six. The poor child had lost her parents, and for fifteen years she was left alone with her little sister. The blow was a terrible one. But divine Providence watched over this pure soul and brought her to our foundation. The weakness of our good Sister’s health soon became evident, and with it her unalterable patience. She had a placid soul of an angelic purity, and indeed she was not made for this world. The cough that wasted her away soon brought her to an extremity, but she was quite happy to die. After having received Extreme Unction, she radiated joy at the thought of going to see Jesus and Mary in heaven, and when I spoke to her about it, she laughed with all her heart, and was not able to contain the happiness that flooded her. Her long sufferings had altered her features, but after her death they took on a quite heavenly serenity.

“In the boarding house, we always called her an angel of peace. Now she rests in our little cemetery as the first Redemptoristine there and is the standard bearer for the Convent of Saint Joseph at Lauterach. An angel of peace and purity during her life, she will always be so in our memories.”

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

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