Sr. Pauline, what is in brief the story and the mission of your Congregation?
The origins of our Congregation go back to 1839. Four Sisters – trained in nursing and religious life in Munich for 2 years – began their work in what was then the citizens’ hospital. They made their first vows on May 19, 1840. Since then, the Sisters of Charity have lived and worked in Innsbruck as a Congregation – until 1949 under episcopal law, since 1949 under papal law.
In 1847 the community acquired a site near the chain bridge (Kettenbrücke) in Innsbruck and built the mother house, in which the Sisters have been living since 1862. From 1881-1883 the Motherhouse church was built.
At the beginning of 1900 the Order reached its greatest expansion with 1,227 sisters in 136 branches.
The new border with Italy on the Brenner Pass after the First World War meant that previous branches in South Tyrol became separate provinces in now Italy.
In 1971 the Vincentian Federation (of all communities of Sisters of Charity founded in Strasbourg) was created and our Congregation became part of this Federation.
In 1982 four Sisters of Charity began missionary work in Tanzania. Two years later the first sisters from Tanzania were recorded into the community. In the general chapter of 2012 it was decided to raise the region Mitundu-Tanzania to a province.
Since the General Chapter 2018, the 3 European Provinces have been directly subordinated to the General Government.
We live our mission as a merciful sisters in the midst of the world. We are close to people and open to everything that moves them (in accord with our way of life).
Love of the Lord and the call to the service of mercy have brought us together. This spiritual basis of our common life is an essential part of our way of life.
Let’s go to the origins: what is the link between with Saint Vincent de Paul? What is your spirituality?
“Mercy is the innermost secret of God”, as Vincent once put it. And so we see it as our mission to act mercifully wherever we are.
We may be using different terms for mercy today. Wherever we succeed in meeting our fellow human beings in our everyday life in an appreciative, solidary and empathetic manner, there we realize something of our basic mission.
What are the missionary activities to which you dedicate yourself ?
Our mission projects focus on the key areas of Poverty and Health care as well as Education.
For both areas there are increasingly stricter legal regulations with often short transition periods, which constantly present our Sisters with ever new challenges.
In the province Mitundu-Tanzania there are currently 134 sisters living in 8 places that are far apart. Among other things, there is a health center, 2 dispensaries/maternity clinics, nursery schools, one elementary and one secondary school, each with a hostel.
Charity in our day has been upset by the arrival of COVID-19: how did you respond as a religious congregation to the pandemic?
All of our communities (in Innsbruck, Meran, Treviso and Tanzania) were affected by COVID.
In retrospect, especially our Sister communities in Europe (with a high median age) are grateful that they survived the corona pandemic. The time of many restrictions was managed well through the great discipline of the Sisters and staff.
Communication with the sisters in Italy and Tanzania took place over many months via video conference. With the province of Mitundu-Tanzania, this implied an important step forward for the future.
What are the challenges of charity for the future?
Under the motto “With confidence on the way into the future” we, in the general leadership of our community, are working out a new structure for the future, which is to be decided in the general chapter in 2024.
In our “will” it is to regulate:
– that all sisters in Europe remain well cared for until the end of their lives.
– that all works are handed over to good hands (e.g. a foundation) with the aim of ensuring that the Vincentian charism lives on in them.
– that the current province of Mitundu-Tanzania can exist independently as a future congregation and can continue the missionary mandate in the spirit of the Vincentian charism, independently of donations, thanks to the facilities that have been set up.