A moving tribute…
SISTER GOTTFRIEDA KLAAS MSC RIP
MSC Sisters, Fathers, Brothers and Friends, especially those who have grown up in India or have lived there, will appreciate that the end of an era has been reached with the death on Monday night of Sister Gottfrieda Klaas msc.
Then, last night, amid the heavy personal distancing restrictions currently in force in India, her Requiem Mass was celebrated in the famous Infant Jesus Church at Vivekanagar, Bangalore, next door to which is the Convent (Sneha Bhavan – the House of Love) that was effectively founded by Sister Gottfrieda more than forty years ago in the middle of what was then a large conglomeration of slums. In the live-streamed Mass last night, a surprising number of concelebrants and mourners gathered to commend Sister Gottfrieda’s soul to God, to honour her mortal remains and above all, to celebrate and thank God for her very long life’s achievements.
At 94 years of age she had lived 67 years of religious life as a Missionary Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I first met Sister Gottfrieda in 1982 when I was asked by our Generalate to do a study of the advisability and utility (or otherwise) for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart – male branch – to have a foundation in India. Sneha Bhavan was my base for 3 months, while I travelled around India investigating the possibilities. Ultimately, in the process of our coming into being and establishing our Congregation on a firm foundation in India, Sister Gottfrieda was a very knowledgeable and efficacious support. On my many return visits to India during the last 15 years I have never failed to visit the MSC Sisters and have watched as the debilitating stroke Sister suffered more than 10 years ago, wore down her commanding presence. In spite of her waning faculties, Sister always seemed to manage for me an acknowledging smile and a struggle to communicate, remnant from many years of collaboration.
Sister Gottfrieda Klaas was born in 1926 at Wippingen in North-West Germany, close to its border with the Netherlands. She joined the Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus at Hiltrup, Germany, at 24 years of age. Her spiritual formation had begun in a traditionally Catholic family, in her hometown and parish; then in a Congregation that had been founded only 50 years previously. Soon after her First Profession in 1953, she left as a missionary to Australia, where she lived and worked for 26 years. Sister acquired an Australian passport while working here.
In 1979 the relatively new Indian district of the MSC Sisters was slowly developing and one of the German pioneers, Sister Jacintha, a very experienced nun, who was guiding the young Indian aspirants, fell ill. Sister Gottfrieda arrived in a hurry from Australia with the intention of bringing Sister Jacintha back here for further treatment. However, Sister Gottfrieda was unable to realise this plan because Sister Jacintha rapidly got worse and died. I was told that it was a nightmare for the young pioneer Sisters: they felt they were left like sheep without a shepherd. Sister Gottfrieda, dynamic as she was then, felt the need and the urgency to stay on with the young Sisters. She so decided forthwith and in fact remained in India for the next 40 years. She worked tirelessly to give her congregation a solid foundation there. She refused to take holidays back in Germany for fear that she might not be able to get back into India because of its strict visa regulations.
Sister Gottfrieda spent most of her religious life far away from her family and native land, ministering in foreign countries for a total of 66 years. Throughout her life as an MSC Sister, Sister Gottfrieda displayed great commitment, patience and a strong faith. And I have witnessed her strength and endurance in the face of great physical disability, before she finally went to God two days ago. I have also witnessed the extraordinary care and affection shown her over so many years, especially by Sister Alis, as well as by all the other Sisters in the Sneha Bhavan Community.
As an Australian MSC and perhaps in some way representing our Province, I would like to convey condolences to Sister Gottfrieda’s surviving family members in Germany, several of whom I met over the years, as well as to the MSC Sisters in India, in Germany and here in Australia.
Sister Gottfrieda Klaas was an iconic Missionary Sister of the Most Sacred Heart. May she rest in peace.
Father Malcolm Fyfe msc
Vicar General Diocese of Darwin
Sr Gottfrieda Klass MSC
13.9.26 - 27.4.2020
Today we were saddened to hear of the death of Sr Gottfrieda who shared our journey here in Australia for many years after migrating as a young woman religious from Germany. She worked in healthcare and in 1979 went to India to be with Sr Jacinta and to bring her back to her homeland for health care. However, this was not to be. She stayed with Jacinta until she was laid to rest in Bangalore and remained with the Sisters supporting the new Indian foundation which was but two years’ old. She died amidst her Sisters and is buried among the Indian people who became “her people.”
May Gottfrieda rest in peace and in the love of God, the source and inspiration of her life.
50th ANNIVERSARY EARTH DAY
We MSC Sisters are called to be aware of our choices, our habits and our way of life.
Let us leave a clean and fruitful land to future generations
- from JPIC, MSC Sisters Generalate Sutri April 2020 - No.12
In every word,
with every gesture,
by every art,
through every means
may you (we) be
a living gospel
for the life of the world.
– Jan Richardson, In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for reflection & Prayer.
Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!
In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic all churches have been and remain closed. But, the community of disciples are gathering in families and across networks in prayer, reflection and silence: a call to deeper faith, hope and love. Like the early Christians gathered in small and home groups to celebrate the Lord’s Supper so too we find new ways to ways to celebrate in this most unexpected of times.
Let us rejoice and give thanks!
Pope Francis’s homily focused on the Holy Women who prepared spices on Holy Saturday and the disciples whom the Lord sent to Galilee.
Holy Saturday, 11 April 2020
“After the Sabbath” (Mt 28:1), the women went to the tomb. This is how the Gospel of this holy Vigil began: with the Sabbath. It is the day of the Easter Triduum that we tend to neglect as we eagerly await the passage from Friday’s cross to Easter Sunday’s Alleluia. This year however, we are experiencing, more than ever, the great silence of Holy Saturday. We can imagine ourselves in the position of the women on that day. They, like us, had before their eyes the drama of suffering, of an unexpected tragedy that happened all too suddenly. They had seen death and it weighed on their hearts. Pain was mixed with fear: would they suffer the same fate as the Master? Then too there was fear about the future and all that would need to be rebuilt. A painful memory, a hope cut short. For them, as for us, it was the darkest hour.
Yet in this situation the women did not allow themselves to be paralyzed. They did not give in to the gloom of sorrow and regret, they did not morosely close in on themselves, or flee from reality. They were doing something simple yet extraordinary: preparing at home the spices to anoint the body of Jesus. They did not stop loving; in the darkness of their hearts, they lit a flame of mercy. Our Lady spent that Saturday, the day that would be dedicated to her, in prayer and hope. She responded to sorrow with trust in the Lord. Unbeknownst to these women, they were making preparations, in the darkness of that Sabbath, for “the dawn of the first day of the week”, the day that would change history. Jesus, like a seed buried in the ground, was about to make new life blossom in the world; and these women, by prayer and love, were helping to make that hope flower. How many people, in these sad days, have done and are still doing what those women did, sowing seeds of hope! With small gestures of care, affection and prayer.
At dawn the women went to the tomb. There the angel says to them: “Do not be afraid. He is not here; for he has risen” (vv. 5-6). They hear the words of life even as they stand before a tomb… And then they meet Jesus, the giver of all hope, who confirms the message and says: “Do not be afraid” (v. 10). Do not be afraid, do not yield to fear: This is the message of hope. It is addressed to us, today. These are the words that God repeats to us this very night.
Tonight we acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken away from us: the right to hope. It is a new and living hope that comes from God. It is not mere optimism; it is not a pat on the back or an empty word of encouragement. It is a gift from heaven, which we could not have earned on our own. Over these weeks, we have kept repeating, “All will be well”, clinging to the beauty of our humanity and allowing words of encouragement to rise up from our hearts. But as the days go by and fears grow, even the boldest hope can dissipate. Jesus’ hope is different. He plants in our hearts the conviction that God is able to make everything work unto good, because even from the grave he brings life.
The grave is the place where no one who enters ever leaves. But Jesus emerged for us; he rose for us, to bring life where there was death, to begin a new story in the very place where a stone had been placed. He, who rolled away the stone that sealed the entrance of the tomb, can also remove the stones in our hearts. So, let us not give in to resignation; let us not place a stone before hope. We can and must hope, because God is faithful. He did not abandon us; he visited us and entered into our situations of pain, anguish and death. His light dispelled the darkness of the tomb: today he wants that light to penetrate even to the darkest corners of our lives. Dear sister, dear brother, even if in your heart you have buried hope, do not give up: God is greater. Darkness and death do not have the last word. Be strong, for with God nothing is lost!
Courage. This is a word often spoken by Jesus in the Gospels. Only once do others say it, to encourage a person in need: “Courage; rise, [Jesus] is calling you!” (Mk 10:49). It is he, the Risen One, who raises us up from our neediness. If, on your journey, you feel weak and frail, or fall, do not be afraid, God holds out a helping hand and says to you: “Courage!”. You might say, as did Don Abbondio (in Manzoni’s novel), “Courage is not something you can give yourself” (I Promessi Sposi, XXV). True, you cannot give it to yourself, but you can receive it as a gift. All you have to do is open your heart in prayer and roll away, however slightly, that stone placed at the entrance to your heart so that Jesus’ light can enter. You only need to ask him: “Jesus, come to me amid my fears and tell me too: Courage!” With you, Lord, we will be tested but not shaken. And, whatever sadness may dwell in us, we will be strengthened in hope, since with you the cross leads to the resurrection, because you are with us in the darkness of our nights; you are certainty amid our uncertainties, the word that speaks in our silence, and nothing can ever rob us of the love you have for us.
This is the Easter message, a message of hope. It contains a second part, the sending forth. “Go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee” (Mt 28:10), Jesus says. “He is going before you to Galilee” (v. 7), the angel says. The Lord goes before us. It is encouraging to know that he walks ahead of us in life and in death; he goes before us to Galilee, that is, to the place which for him and his disciples evoked the idea of daily life, family and work. Jesus wants us to bring hope there, to our everyday life. For the disciples, Galilee was also the place of remembrance, for it was the place where they were first called. Returning to Galilee means remembering that we have been loved and called by God. We need to resume the journey, reminding ourselves that we are born and reborn thanks to an invitation given gratuitously to us out of love. This is always the point from which we can set out anew, especially in times of crisis and trial.
But there is more. Galilee was the farthest region from where they were: from Jerusalem. And not only geographically. Galilee was also the farthest place from the sacredness of the Holy City. It was an area where people of different religions lived: it was the “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt 4:15). Jesus sends them there and asks them to start again from there. What does this tell us? That the message of hope should not be confined to our sacred places, but should be brought to everyone. For everyone is in need of reassurance, and if we, who have touched “the Word of life” (1 Jn 1:1) do not give it, who will? How beautiful it is to be Christians who offer consolation, who bear the burdens of others and who offer encouragement: messengers of life in a time of death! In every Galilee, in every area of the human family to which we all belong and which is part of us – for we are all brothers and sisters – may we bring the song of life! Let us silence the cries of death, no more wars! May we stop the production and trade of weapons, since we need bread, not guns. Let the abortion and killing of innocent lives end. May the hearts of those who have enough be open to filling the empty hands of those who do not have the bare necessities.
Those women, in the end, “took hold” of Jesus’ feet (Mt 28:9); feet that had travelled so far to meet us, to the point of entering and emerging from the tomb. The women embraced the feet that had trampled death and opened the way of hope. Today, as pilgrims in search of hope, we cling to you, Risen Jesus. We turn our backs on death and open our hearts to you, for you are Life itself.
5 April 1925
Three MSC Sisters arrived in Vunapope (PNG) from Hiltrup, Germany, following World War 1.
6 April 1904
MSC Sisters mourn the death first Superior General, Sr Servatia Rath, Congregation of Sisters of Divine Providence.
MSC Sisters General Chapter
Sr Barbara Winkler, our General Superior, has advised that the 18th General Chapter to be held in Rome in June/July 2020 has been postponed until November 2020 due to the current worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.
Feast of the Annunciation: our Foundation Day.
This year we mark 120 years of MSC Sisters’ mission with the People of God throughout the world and, like Mary, give thanks. We remember those suffering at this time and pray for blessing and healing.
On 25th March 1900 Bishop Louis Couppe celebrated the first reception ceremony of our congregation with 11 postulants. This day, the feast of the Annunciation, became our Foundation Day as Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
On 25th March 1901, the First Profession ceremony of 10 MSC Sisters was celebrated in Hiltrup, Germany.
Also, on this day in 1977, MSC Sisters’ Indian Mission was founded.
And, on 12th March 1965 the first two German MSC Sisters left Hiltrup, Germany, to establish a foundation in Korea. Arriving on March 24th, the following day, March 25th, 1965, became to the Foundation Day of the Korean Mission of MSC Sisters.
A community in PNG celebrating 120 years.
Images from Sr Rosemary Lavarabin MSC via Facebook page - with thanks.
From Liturgy of the Feast:
RESPONSORIAL PSALM Ps. 40
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Owing to the Covid-19 virus pandemic the celebration of Jubilee of Religious Profession of Sr Anne Margaret Dalton (70 years) and Sr Erin Freney (50 years) scheduled for today has been postponed
In the context of the worldwide Covid-19 crisis we offer the following excerpt from Lynn Ungar’s prayer “Pandemic” as per March 22nd 2020 Day of Worldwide Solidarity and Prayer from UISG)
.……….. reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has become clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love –
for better or for worse,
in sickness and health,
so long as we all shall live.
March 17, 1935
A Third Reich injustice story:
Mother Electa, Superior General of the MSC Sisters, and the Procurator General, Sr M. Gerberga are arrested by the Gestapo in Hiltrup. They are falsely accused of trafficking foreign currencies by Joseph Goebbels, Minister of the Propaganda of the German Reich. Mother Electa will be released from prison one year later on 18th March, 1936.
March 20, 1886
Fr Hubert Linckens, MSC, who becomes historical founder of the MSC Sisters, is ordained at s’Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.
Feast of St Joseph
Today we honour St Joseph,
own within our Congregation and beyond as model and patron of those who love the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Scriptures and liturgy speak of Joseph as a wise and just man.
Chapter Members Gathering
Following on from our Province Chapter we gathered to finalize our Australian Province Chapter Statement:
As we MSC Sisters of the Australian Province, move into the future we believe what is emerging, as God’s desire for us at this time, is “to know Christ Jesus and the power of his resurrection” (Phil 3:10).. In this spirit we walk together in love, trust and hope to be the Good News.
Bushfires across Australia
As bushfires engulf our country we are mindful of all who are suffering great hardship at this time, those who have lost life, family, home and livelihood. Our hearts go out to all as well as those locally and internationally who have given of themselves to allieviate suffering and confront the ravaged land. We support all through our prayer, financial assistance and ministry expressed in so many different ways.
Our Lady Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia, pray for us all.