Dominican Life - New Perspective in Kist
The Dominican Sisters are on a journey with people, each of them in their own way. In January 2023, they took a step together on a new path true to the motto of the Dominican Order "To Praise, To Bless, To Preach".
On 9 January 2023, the Dominican Sisters left their convent of St. Joseph and moved together to the Senior Citizens' Residence in Kist. Many of the sisters were firmly rooted in the parish in Neustadt. We asked how the sisters are doing on their new path.
"Oakford in Germany" is the name of the process for shaping religious life in a new environment
Oakford in Germany", as the Dominican Sisters have titled the process by which the Sisters are shaping their religious life in a new environment, was accompanied by a Dominican Sister from Bethany who approached the mammoth project together with the Congregational leadership, the Sisters, the staff and co-workers in Neustadt.
"We are lucky to be here in the countryside and there is a lot of space and nature around us."
"For me, the move was not the end of the world," says Sr Marie-Luise. We had two months to prepare and pack our things." The sisters were able to inspect their rooms in the Senior Citizens' Residence in advance. "When I first saw my room, I thought to myself, this fits," Sr Marie-Luise says. "We are lucky to be here in the countryside and there is a lot of space and nature around us."
"I already feel a bit like I'm in a hotel here," she says. "We are looked after very well. But we also help each other, we've always kept it that way and it's quite normal for us." In the morning, the sisters now pray on their own and at their own rhythm. For the Evening Prayer – Vespers - , they all meet in their prayer room. For this purpose, they have been able to design one of the rooms at the Senior Citizens' Residence. They celebrate their services there. Once a week, vicar Frank Elsesser, who knows the sisters from Neustadt when he was the chaplain there, comes. to celebrate Holy Mass.
Church services in the senior citizens' residence and in St. Bartholomew's Parish Church in Kist
The sisters can also attend services in the St. Bartholomew's Parish Church in Kist. Those who are able walk there, others are taken there by car.
"We are spiritually well provided for here. It is different from Neustadt but it is good here," says Sr Marie-Luise. She especially looks forward - like all the sisters in Kist - to the visits of former co-workers, friends and acquaintances who come to Kist for birthdays and anniversaries, but also check on "their sisters" in between.
"Today, the local people carry on the religious life."
For Sr Marie-Christopher, the move to the Senior Citizens' Residence in Kist was almost a move home. She grew up in the Sanderau, a district of Würzburg. Therefore, her new domicile in Kist is not far from the places of her childhood and youth. "So now life has come full circle for me," she says.
Through floor-to-ceiling windows, she now looks out over fields and part of the Guttenberg Forest, which borders Kist. This reminds her of times in her childhood when she would go out with friends in this very forest and play "cops and robbers", a fond memory for her.
"I was on the road a lot in my religious life and so learned to let go. That's why the move from Neustadt to Kist was not quite so difficult for me," she says. "We used to have many sisters who joined our Congregation, but the theology of a “missionary” has changed. Today, the local people take responsibility for the faith and the life of the Church."
The community as a whole has found a home in the Kist retirement home
For a long time, the Congregation had not been attracting young people "and the sisters were getting older and more frail," Sr Marie-Christopher knows. The convent in Neustadt had become too big for us to manage on our own. "We had to act," she says. The Congregation has also had to close other facilities in recent years.
The sisters had not thought that the move to the Senior Citizens' Residence in Kist would happen so quickly, but they could understand and support the decision. They are also happy that the community as a whole has found a home in Kist.
"We are beginning to put down new roots here."
For the sisters it is a "being on the way", something they live as Dominicans. They are on the way with those who are searching, they stand up for those who are suffering, they praise God with those who believe. They are open to the world, committed to justice and peace: They are on the way with the people.
Of course, a move is a break and, especially in old age, some sisters do not find it easy. But they are all firmly convinced: "We are beginning to put down new roots here," says Sr Marie-Christopher.
Staff are attentive, helpful and considerate
Our recently deceased Sr. Liboria found the move to Kist very difficult. "I haven't finished with Neustadt yet, unfortunately, for me it doesn't happen that quickly," she said in a conversation in March of this year. At that time, she could not simply brush away the feeling that she had not yet really arrived in Kist. "I still get terribly homesick in between," she admitted. But that is also quite normal.
Along with Sr. Theresita and Sr. Hilke, Sr. Liboria was one of the sisters who lived and worked in Neustadt the longest. "Neustadt has become my home," she said, which is why the move was very difficult for her. "I get a lot of attention from the staff and employees here. They are very attentive, helpful and considerate. The Lord has a lot of patience with me," she said, and she was sure that she, too, will find new home in Kist.
Sisters take care of each other and help within their means
Sr. Angelica moved from Flörsheim to Kist in February, after Sr. Lucina had already moved in with the sisters on 9 January, following a sudden hospitalisation and subsequent successful rehabilitation. Both Sisters lived in Flörsheim and were involved in the parish there, and for both it is also new to live in community in Kist with the Sisters who came from Neustadt.
The community of sisters in Kist is mixed. Some need more care, while others are still fit all-round. "We are a mixed group," says Sr Angelica, and that is exactly how they contribute to the community. The sisters look after each other, support each other and help out as much as they can.
Sr. Angelica continues to play the organ - to the delight of the sisters and the residents
Contacts with other residents of the Residence have also been established and are being deepened. "Moving here was the best solution for our Congregation," Sr Angelica sums up. She continues to play the organ, though no longer in the parish, to the delight of the sisters and the residents of the retirement home.
"After the move in January, I still had to struggle with homesickness for a week and to settle into the system of the house here. Now I'm doing well," says Sr Theresita. For her, the end in Neustadt was also a new beginning in Kist, which she was happy to accept. "Our sisters have left their mark in Neustadt, we were rooted there, but it depends on all of us how we accept the new beginning and get involved here."
All the sisters are housed on one floor in the Senior Citizens' Residence
There is a bus stop near the Senior Citizens' Residence, from where it is easy to travel to Würzburg and to make doctor's appointments there independently. You can also stroll through the city and meet up with acquaintances. All the sisters in the Residence are on one floor and don't have to look for each other when they want to meet. "We couldn't have done it better," Sr Theresita sums up her impressions. She continues to perform the sacristan's service for the community in her reliable manner.
Sr Irma also feels at home in Kist. Of course, she misses the convent in Neustadt. Transplantation is not that easy, especially at a certain age. But Sr Irma is a cheerful person, she makes contacts quickly and the experience she gained during her time in the convent in working with the elderly is of great benefit to her now.
Sr Hilke continues as Prioress of the community
Sr Melanie was also homesick for Neustadt in the beginning. But in the meantime, the 88-year-old feels very well cared for in the Senior Citizens’ Residence. "They take very good care of us here, that gives me security," she says.
Sr Hilke lived in Neustadt for 55 years. "My first transfer is now to Kist," she says and laughs. She is glad that the community stays together. "It gives me support and strength in looking forward."
Sr Hilke also continues to exercise the office of Prioress for the community of 16 sisters. She is supported by Irene Schneider, who is there for the sisters in Kist as coordinator and pastoral worker - be it for concerns of the community, for personal questions and as a contact person to the house and to the outside.
Irene Schneider is there for the sisters in Kist as coordinator and pastoral care worker
Irene Schneider has been associated with the Dominican Sisters of Neustadt for many years and now brings her varied professional experience as a theologian in pastoral care and in the personal accompaniment of people to the sisters. "It is a beautiful and varied task to support and accompany the sisters in this phase of their lives, as well as to be on the way with them and also to learn from them," she says.
There is a sense of freedom, hope, trust and joy among the sisters, a realisation that as Oakford Dominicans they are alive and part of the larger Dominican family.
"When we come together, we help each other to grow in faith and love. We grow when we encourage each other and our fellow human beings."
Text Martina Schneider
Photos Martina Schneider and Irene Schneider