Saint in the making: Sisters talk on foundress of their order

Staff Writer

Photo by Kathleen Loesel
Photo by Kathleen Loesel

Mary, Spouse of the Spirit household hosted a talk on the newly-Blessed Mother Maria Theresia Bonzel, the foundress of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration, on Feb. 9 in honor of her first feast day. Sister Benedicta Duna and Sister Ignatia Henneberry delivered the talk on their foundress.

“We are very proud of her and we are so grateful to be part of the community,” said Sr. Duna. “She is not relevant to us just as sisters, she is blessed and can now be welcomed by everyone in the church.”

Blessed Mother Bonzel was born in Olpe, Germany, on September 17, 1830 the feast day of Saint Francis’ stigmata.

When she was a young woman discerning her religious vocation, she had a dream of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Therese of Avila arguing at her bedside about “who is going to get her.” Saint Francis won. However, she had a very strong devotion to St. Therese for the remainder of her life.

Mother Bonzel had a “great love for the family” and made sure that her sisters could go home to the death bed of family members, a privilege for religious men and women that was very rare at the time.

Mother Bonzel struggled with her health, even as a young woman, before entering the convent. She had a heart condition at the age of 18, as well as arthritis in her knees and hands. She was set to join a convent, but fell ill the day she was supposed to leave. Once she got better, Mother Bonzel received permission from her bishop to start the order, beginning with nine women.

She loved St. Joseph and prayed to him often, insuring that her sisters had a strong devotion to him as well. She had a very high respect for priests and bishops, and took extra care of the sick and orphaned children.

She fed the poor and never turned away anyone who needed to eat, even if it meant she and her sisters would go hungry to help them.

Her motto was, “Place all, all in the providence of God: He will bring order. And all as God wishes. He leads, I follow.”

She died on February 6, 1905, after falling ill with bronchitis. Her last words were, “patience, patience. My dear Savior, come soon.”

Her legacy lives on with sisters in Germany, the United States of America, the Philippines and Brazil. Her body was exhumed three times, moving from the Sister’s motherhouse, to St. Martin’s parish in her hometown of Olpe, where she was baptized, received her first communion and made her final vows.

The room in which she is buried doubles as an adoration chapel where she can pray along with visitors in front of “her beloved Jesus” in the Eucharist, praying and asking for her intersession.

Sr. Benedicta and Sr. Ignatia closed by sharing a prayer that she prayed hourly: “Teach me, oh my Jesus, to think and judge mildly and charitably, to speak little and wisely, to act justly and prudently, in order that my life may be pleasing to you, and that I may reach perfection in holiness. Amen.”

“She was not about words of wisdom, she was not about herself,” said Sr. Benedicta. “It was about Jesus in everything she did. She saw herself as only as a vessel to be used in other’s growth to holiness.”

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