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An excursion to the Volkersberg in the Rhön Mountains

Group photo in the pilgrimage church

The Sisters at the May devotion

Relaxed get-together…

... and conversation over coffee and cake

In the circus tent, the sisters marvelled at the …

... acrobatics and art

Awe-struck faces

On Wednesday, 4 May 2022, the Neustadt Sisters visited the Volkersberg - "place of meeting and education" in the Rhön. For some of our Sisters this was also a visit to their former place of work.

The Volkersberg is idyllically situated in an open location in the middle of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Rhön. The pilgrimage church and the former Franciscan monastery form the cornerstone of the nationally renowned educational institution. As a youth education centre with a focus on experiential education, an adult education centre and a conference centre, the Volkersberg is an exceptional place with a guaranteed experience in the heart of Germany.

Some of our Sisters lived and worked at Volkersberg for many years. It was, therefore, a bit like home for them when they visited their former place of work. The invitation was extended on the occasion of a sad event, the funeral of Sr. Ehrengard Benken OP in March of this year. Sr Ehrengard, had been in charge of the housekeeping in the conference house and the youth training centre at Volkersberg for many years and had also trained many young people in home economics during this time.

Even the journey to the Rhön was an experience with all the colours of spring

Twelve sisters and four companions set off after lunch on 4 May. They travelled to the Rhön by bus from the Riedmann company in Hafenlohr. The journey itself was an experience for all, as it was not only a fast trip on the motorway, but over the countryside, and so the Sisters enjoyed the journey through spring-like landscapes to the full.

At Volkersberg, the deputy director Ralf Sauer and Klaus Hofmann, director of the conference centre and the youth training centre welcomed our Sisters. At 2:30 p.m., everyone celebrated May devotions together in the pilgrimage church.

After the May devotion, a relaxed get-together with former companions

Afterwards we met with the staff of the Volkersberg and some of the residents of the Volkers community for coffee and cake in the monastery tavern.

There was great joy of reunion as the Sisters saw and met many "old" acquaintances again. In no time at all, they were engrossed in conversation and happy about the exchange and the reunion. The staff had lovingly and festively laid the tables and baked delicious cakes.

Sr Melanie in particular was in her element. She had lived at Volkersberg from October 1982 and was - together with Sr Marie-Christopher - one of the last Sisters to return to Neustadt in 2013. 2013 marked the end of an era for the Dominican Sisters that had begun on 2 March 1921. When the orphanage of the School Sisters from Munich at Volkersberg was closed, Sr Lucy Bader acquired the house and the farm.

The sisters moved in on 1 April 1921. The reason was that the Dominican Sisters, who had been resident in Neustadt since 1909, could not expand there at that time. Space was needed and so they came to Volkersberg. They used the buildings as a house for candidates and postulants and only ran a novitiate house in Neustadt.

At the end there was a performance in the circus tent

The visit ended in the circus tent. There, our Sisters enjoyed a rehearsal by a fourth grade class, who demonstrated their artistic skills as part of the circus education project weeks for school classes. For one week, they were allowed to train in many circus techniques. They created their own show, which they will present to parents and friends in a gala at the end of the week. Of course, the creation of props and tickets is also part of the show.

At 4:45 pm, our Sisters made their way home, happy, but also tired. They had experienced an eventful day with many impressions.  To go out on an excursion and meet friends and acquaintances again was - after two years of Corona restrictions - very special.  It was a wonderful experience for the Sisters and the staff who had accompanied them.

Text Martina Schneider, photos Judith Rieger and Sr Marie-Luise Faupel OP