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aachen pilgrim 02The entire group with Sr. Katharina Maria and with Sr. Licia in front of the statue of Mother Frances, Saint Paul Church

"The central image of a poor person breaking bread,” Roberta, a novice, tells us, “is, for me, an invitation to seek Jesus in the weakest, most abandoned and marginalized people. I feel it as a daily, beautiful way to see His face in a brother, a sister or even in me: we who are so poor-- but made worthy to be a temple of His Spirit."

From 6 to 10 June, an international group of young Franciscan Sisters of the Poor made a pilgrimage to Aachen Germany, the birthplace of Blessed Frances Schervier. For the Sisters and novices who had never before visited the sites of the founder, it was a journey into the heart of the charism.

aachen pilgrim 05In prayer in front of the tomb of Mother Frances"It was very nice for me to visit the city of Aachen with the places, the streets, the churches that marked the life and experience of Mother Frances," Sr. Cinzia said. "In particular, it was moving to see the house of the first Community, Porta San Giacomo, which represents the beginning of the common life and of the ministries. It was like arriving to a place known for a long time and always desired. "

The group included Sisters from Brazil, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Italy. We were joyfully welcomed by the Sisters of Aachen, who took us first to visit the tomb of Mother Frances.

The visit to the sisters in Linderplatz, an ancient military hospital and former Dominican monastery that was given to the Congregation in 1884, ranked among the most significant moments of the trip. One wing of the building is now used as a retirement home for older Sisters who, while they might have lost their short-term memory, clearly remember their past.

aachen pilgrim 12 Visit to the Recluses at Haus Alverno, KommernThey lived through World War II, among hospitals, soldiers and wounded and have vivid memories of it – as did the Congregation, a history which many of the Sisters in Germany have personally experienced and endured. "I was fascinated by the Sisters of Lindenplatz, by their kindness and joy despite their fragility and illness," Cinzia recalled. "They are an example of perseverance, and I feel grateful for the way they lived and passed on the charism. My being a SFP is also the result of their life given and of their perseverance. "
"It was great to meet these Sisters, until then unknown, fragile in health and age, with whom it was difficult to communicate," Roberta went on. "I was, nevertheless, very grateful for the lives they have given, and I felt a sense of belonging that made me aachen pilgrim 01Sr. Katharina Maria and Sr. Maria Coletta giving the rosariesfeel part of a promise, a project that goes beyond the times, the distances and the ‘dimension.’ I saw in those women role models and travel companions for whom to pray." The experience of meeting the Recluses also had a special place in our trip to Aachen. The Recluses are important for the Congregation: Sisters who have always had the role of watching over the other sisters' activities through prayer. Today only three of them are left. They live in an extremely comfortable and cozy house immersed by the garden. They are discreet, and at the same time, very attentive.

"What remarkable experience," says Roberta, "It was the gift of a rosary: a wreath made from the seeds of the Sisters who lived before us and ‘passed the baton,’ on to us. They delivered a precious treasure: the past prayer history, the foundations of who we are today, and the prayer that today we are called to continue to take root in relationship with God."

The three novices from Senegal found the churches of Saint Nicolas, St. Paul, St. Jacques and the family house of Mother Frances to be the most touching places. It gave them the grace to walk in the footsteps of the founder and meditate on the culminating moments of her life. "Seeing these churches helped us understand the story of Emperor aachen pilgrim 10Prayers in the chapel of the Mother HouseCharlemagne, who he was and the power he wielded," the young women explained, "We went back to Africa with a guarded treasure in our hearts, filled with joy for being a part of one family, and for having strengthened our ties with the Sisters in Germany."

“I left with a stronger sense of belonging to the family of Mother Frances," Roberta added, "grateful for how much life has been gifted. I feel supported by the smiling faces that I met, by Mother Frances who became more concrete to me, and closer to a God who never ceases to 'invent' ways to reveal himself."

"Meeting the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis gave me an awareness of belonging to a larger family," Cinzia continued, "I got to know the other Sisters with whom sharing a common trunk, we are walking parallel paths toward God.”


aachen pilgrim 06Morning prayer in front of the tomb of Mother Frances  aachen pilgrim 11Sr. Thalyta, Sr. Dolores and Sr. Pélagie

aachen pilgrim 03Visit to Saint Nicolas Church  aachen pilgrim 04With Sr. Maria Claudia and Sr. Susanne in the Mother House garden

aachen pilgrim 13Visit to Monschau  aachen pilgrim 07 In front of the entrance of Mother Frances birthplace

aachen pilgrim 08Final party  aachen pilgrim 09With the sisters in the House Mother’s garden

By Eva Donelli

Published: October 7, 2016