Sr. Margareta Directs Us on a New Path
The Accounts of Sr. Nepomucena Ziggal and Sr. Gertrude Neuwirth
The beginning of the new school year arrived, but the problem of getting more Sisters from Algersdorf was yet unresolved. We began teaching, trusting that Divine Providence would not abandon us. We kept before us only this task: to do all we could on our part to continue our charitable work.
I must add that Sr. Margareta told us that the president of the Association, Countess Brandys, had suggested that the sisters should take control of all the educational activity here, freely choosing their assistants according to the needs of this place, and laboring independently for the children of this country.
Countess Brandys probably said something like this18
The growth of your activity in Maribor and your diligence and spirit of sacrifice demonstrate that still more could be done here for the youth of Maribor. However, your dependence upon the superiors at Algersdorf, rather than bringing growth to your work in the near future, seems to be causing its regression - or even worse - its undoing.
I explained this problem to a Jesuit priest who is acquainted with similar situations and has expertise in Church law regarding them. He said, “Taking care of neglected children is in itself a special mission, a work for the salvation of souls. In accord with the bishop on whose jurisdiction they depend, the sisters could decide to leave their Institute and, according to current Church law, found a new religious Community in another diocese, always with the permission of the ecclesiastical authorities of that place. Because we are speaking of a new independent ecclesiastical Institute, the approval of the civil authorities and the appointment of a juridical person to assume the responsibility for the guidance of the new Institute are also required.
The Bishop who approves the new religious Institute in his diocese must put an adequate person in charge, usually someone who is involved in the founding of the new Institute. Generally this person is nominated as the Superior.”
I advise you, Mother Superior, to personally consult with this same Jesuit, who is presently in Maribor, regarding all that I have said to you. In summary, I ask you, Sr. Margareta, for the love of these poor children who need to be educated by you sisters, to choose to leave Algersdorf and found in our diocese of Maribor a new religious community under your guidance.
Sr. Margareta was speechless and Countess Brandys continued,
I understand, Reverend Sr. Margareta, that you cannot respond immediately to what I have said. I know it needs much reflection. There will be many difficulties, just as we had when Bishop Slomsek instituted the Association. We didn’t know what to do or where to begin. We had doubts and wondered if we had done the right thing in accepting a work of this nature. We looked, however, at the goal - the salvation of these children.
I am convinced that, in the work you have been doing with the children of Maribor, you have this same goal. Therefore, reflect, consult with your collaborators and with others, and then decide for the foundation of a new Institute at Maribor and establish your new Community on the foundation of our Association.
Not only Sr. Margareta, but all of us reflected upon the proposal of Countess Brandys. Such a significant decision could not be made hastily. We also decided to be straightforward in speaking about all this with our Superior at Algersdorf, Sr. Katarina Luegger.19 If Algersdorf is unable to send more sisters to help here, we will reluctantly have to separate from that community and found a new autonomous Congregation in Maribor.
Sr. Margareta decided to go to Algersdorf one more time and ask for help. At least three sisters were necessary. She wished to have an open dialogue with the Superior and relate to her everything that preoccupied her at Maribor. This dialogue, however, was not possible, for Sr. Katarina did not give her the opportunity. She just shrugged her shoulders and went away.
After going to the chapel in Algersdorf, and blessing herself with holy water and making the sign of the cross, and then praying the rosary, Sr. Margareta set out for the return trip to Maribor. She prayed throughout the entire trip and found great peace.
Her choice became clear: separate from Algersdorf and found a new Congregation at Maribor; leave the diocese of Graz and cross over to the diocese of Maribor. It was not possible to leave Maribor and those neglected children, some of whom had been abandoned by their own parents and cast out onto the streets in the midst of bad company.
The religious education of the children was always foremost in Sr. Margareta’s heart. These children needed to hear about God and his goodness and love for them. The sisters could guide them with love and understanding and explain the fundamental principles of faith to them. They could direct the children and guide them along the path traced out for them by Jesus.
She and her sisters, present and future, would recount these things to the children. They would remember that Jesus loves them. The sisters would love and care for the children, sacrificing themselves for them. The sisters who would come later on would do the same, as long as it would be the will of God and of the Lady of the Rosary, whose feast was to occur in a few days. We will honor her feast with these children who already know how to recite the rosary; we will teach all the children who will come to us to honor the Madonna with the recitation of the rosary so that they will always place their trust in her. With time the Slovenian people may become Mary’s people as was the desire of Bishop Slomsek.
Sr. Margareta considered these things during her return trip to the sisters’ modest home. She decided that she would remain with these most neglected and poor children. She would do all she could so they would become honest adults, have happy futures and occupations they felt capable of doing: occupations for which they would be prepared by the School Sisters.
18. Translator’s note: Sr. Hedvika is here attempting to reconstruct a conversation using the memories related to her. This cannot, however, be taken as a direct quote. It is merely an attempt to present an example of how the conversation may have gone.
19. Trans. note: Sr. Katarina was the novice directress in Vocklabruck in 1860 when that community separated from the Graz Community.