Alms gathering for the children

Sr. Nepomucena Ziggal, having been born in a city, admired the beautiful countryside of her first superior, Sr. Margareta.  Sr. Nepomucena used to recount how she always wanted to go away from the city to the country.  She was happy when Sr. Margareta took her with her to go begging for the needs of the orphanage during summer vacation.  They used to go from village to village and from house to house.  Whatever they received they would leave with one of the farmers who later brought everything to Maribor in his cart.

Sr. Nepomucena said that at the entrance to every village they recited the rosary for the villagers. They stopped to pray before a crucifix, before one of the numerous wayside shrines to Mary found along the way, or before the image of the patron saint of each village.  

Sr. Nepomucena noted how many signs of God’s presence were in the villages, on the hillsides and in the vineyards - white chapels with small bells that rang out three times a day. The sound of the bells invited the people to pray the Angelus, or to ask the Lord to keep them from every evil when the dangers of fire, lightening, hail, etc. threatened.

Grazing grounds extended over the plains; there were fields and orchards, flowers and birds of all kinds, which Sr. Margareta recognized by their songs. Until that time Sr. Nepomucena had only seen them in schoolbooks.

Around the houses, hens, ducklings, and turkeys scratched about...  Everything was singing, each in its own way, and the sounds mingled with the voices of the children at play. In the enclosures horses and colts were grazing; there were cows, calves, little pigs, and sheep that provided enough wool for winter clothing for the children and adults. There were so many beautiful things for the eyes and ears of a city person!

Sr. Nepomucena spoke of the great respect the people had for the sisters.  Some of them had never seen sisters before. Sometimes the children who were with their mothers would kneel down before the sisters, and joining their little hands would begin to pray.  Sr. Margareta would make the sign of the cross over them and then give them holy  pictures.

In the process of begging, Sr. Nepomucena said there was an unwritten rule that the sisters would announce themselves to the pastor of the village parish and inquire about a suitable place for lodging. The people welcomed them with joy and served them food. After having rested the night, they participated at the morning Mass, said their prescribed prayers, and then, refreshed spiritually and physically, proceeded to other villages.

During these trips the sisters prayed much, both out loud and in silence, together and alone. Sr. Margareta was very faithful in this and also very creative. She prayed and greeted the holy images in the villages in a personal way.  These shrines were not left undecorated with special care with paper flowers and with flowers from the fields.  

One time, Sr. Nepomucena recounts, they prayed the mysteries of the rosary on their knees in front of a large crucifix in a village. The crucifix was so artistically sculpted by a self-taught local artist that Sr. Nepomucena says it almost cried out in sorrow: “Behold the One who has been rejected by the world, abandoned by His heavenly Father, and left to die upon a cross for our sins.”

Sr. Margareta would converse with the people in their native tongue, but Sr. Nepomucena says that in the beginning she didn’t understand a single word of their language.

Sr. Brigita Neuwirth recalls also as a young girl:

How nice it was to hear Mother Margareta speak with us in our own language and dialect when we young girls would come to bring something to the sisters for the children.

This is the way it was while begging, as the sisters walked from farmer to farmer, day after day, from village to village - not so much on busy streets, but on the outskirts of the fields and plains, covered with clover, forget-me-nots, buttercups, and daisies.

In this beautiful part of Steirmark, Bishop Slomsek, Mother Margareta, and many other sisters labored. In many other countries our sisters have worked for the cultural development of the people among whom they lived, worked and educated for the Church.