Testimony

Sister Madeleine Fetter gives this testimony of her life as a Sister of Divine Providence during an FETTER, MadeleineOpen House at the motherhouse, St. Jean de Bassel, France.

According to my mother, my call to religious life goes back to my youth; I know she prayed a lot for it. My parents, who were farmers, worked hard and developed a family spirit. I still have a strong attachment to the rural area.

At the age of 12 I left home for school at St. Jean de Bassel where I completed my studies and my formation to become a religious and a teaching sister. Why did I choose the Sisters of St. Jean de Bassel? In my village there were 2 Sister teachers and one Sister nurse. They had a great influence on me. They welcomed me in their community during my summer vacation during my studies and afterward.

By my choice of religious life in the Congregation of Sisters of Divine Providence, I live my consecrated life according to the charism of Providence that our founder, Jean Martin left us. That means according to the spirit of poverty, simplicity, abandonment to Providence and apostolic charity. Sent to various places of ministry, and in community with other Sisters, I try always to discover and to believe in God’s project of love for each person.

I must mention the international aspect of my life in the Congregation. My stay in Rome, 1980-81 and the month spent with our Sisters in the USA in 1989 were rich and unforgettable experiences.

During my teaching years, I tried to carry out the mission of education according to the spirit of Jean-Martin Moyë who was attentive to those who lived in poverty, especially the young girls of the countryside. Attention to those who suffer from poverty and to the slower learners always was a part of me.

Pastoral work allowed me to have contact with other children and youth in sacramental preparation and to meet the mother catechists whom I always encouraged to take their place in the Church. My commitments in the choir, liturgy teams, the workshops I attended and the work on teams contributed to opening my heart, not only to the local Church but to the universal Church.

Now in retirement I consecrate more time to prayer and to spiritual reading and to daily encounters where I spend time listening and giving moral and spiritual support and render small services to the elderly residents of the apartment complex where I live. Many grannies ask me to pray for their family and health concerns.

Several parish activities give me the opportunity to share with lay persons in liturgy and scripture study groups, for example.

Another area of interest for me is families who are seeking asylum. Each Monday I volunteer for 2 hours teaching French. I meet women of various ages, origins and cultures. Sometimes I visit the family, play with the children, help with homework and the paperwork that needs to be done before and after obtaining a residency permit. These contacts enrich me and keep me from aging too quickly!

What can I say of 50 years of consecrated life in the «family» of Sisters of Providence? The Lord has been there; he is always there. Sisters and friends are there and together we continue on. I am sure that God Father and Providence will never fail me.

I give thanks to God!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA missionary in Ecuador for 31 years, Sister Inès Wenner is full of gratitude. Here is the testimony she gave for her 60th jubilee of religious life as a Sister of Divine Providence.

I want to share with you some things for which I give thanks.

I was born on Easter Sunday and my mother often said to me «Bishn e Glekskind», which means «You are a child born to be happy”. I can honestly say that in spite of the war, the displacement and the difficulties of life, I have always been happy.

When I was 15, my teacher offered a retreat for the whole class during Christmas vacaion. The priest presented the three states of life: marriage, the single state and religious life. My heart pounded and I felt sure that religious life was for me. I kept this a secret until the day when I discovered that one of my classmates had the same desire. We talked about it. She convinced me that I should talk to my parents, which I did that very evening. My Dad said, “If you get your diploma you can go”. My Mom cried. For me it was in the bag. I was going to get my diploma and I would go. On September 20, 1951, I entered the convent of St. Jean de Bassel, France as an aspirant. I was 15 and a half and joy filled my heart.

I followed the  normal pattern: aspirancy, postulancy, novitiate and profession and I began a teaching career at the boarding school in Fénétrange. After 14 years there I was sent to Strasbourg-Neudorf for 3 years and then to the motherhouse at St. Jean de Bassel for 8 years. For all these years at the service of children and in hospitality ministry I give thanks to God.

Then a letter from the general superior informed us that the congregation was going to open a mission in Latin America, Ecuador, to be precise. This letter said that the Bishop of Riobamba was welcoming missionaries who wanted to work with the Indians in the villages situated at an altitude of 9,000 feet. He said the climate was changeable, the 4 seasons in one day and the nights were always cold. He also said that there were potatoes, onions, bananas, coffee and many other things. I said to myself, “If I go, I won’t die of hunger or of heat” and I put my name in and my superiors accepted me. In 1982, I was sent with two other Sisters to the Diocese of Riobamba. It was a real adventure. I would leave on Monday morning with other missionaries for a week or more in a village that had requested a mission. We left with our backpack containing the bare minimum and our sleeping bag. We traveled on foot or on horseback since the villages where the Indians lived were accessible only by trails. The welcome was always very warm. Once we arrived they told us which family we would sleep with: than we visited all the families and invited them to come to a meeting in the everning. There was no electricity, and in Ecuador night falls daily at 6 in the evening. Candles provide light.

I discovered real poverty and simplicity. The Indians houses, called chozas,  are dug out of the earth and are covered with a thatched roof. Why dug out of the earth? Because they consider the Earth as their mother, the Pacha Mama and they want to live in their mother’s womb. For the same reason, they walk barefoot so they can be in contact with their mother and receive energy from the earth. In the chozas, there is no table no chairs, you have to sit on the ground. In the middle of the room is the cooking spot: 3 large stones. On the stones is a big aluminum pat. In the pot there are aluminum plates, spoons and a wooden ladle. There’s nothing else in these chozas, all is simple and poor. No knickknacks to dust. I give thanks to God because the Indians taught me that you can be happy with very little.

The Indians are very religious that is to say, they have a sense of the sacred. They always say a prayer of blessing over their food, it’s natural for them. They thank Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) who gives them food to eat. They eat in silence as if to appreciate what they have received. That struck me very much at the beginning. In their conversation they often say “If God wills it, or as God wills”. They aren’t afraid of earthquakes or volcanoes. I saw that they were more abandoned to Providence than I am. And I’m a Sister of Divine Providence.

Their sense of community is remarkable. Every year they choose someone as leader of the village. That way everyone has a turn and learns that it is not an easy task. To settle problems in the village they convoke each family to a meeting and each gives its opinion. These meetings can take hours., sometimes all night because they don’t end the meeting until there is agreement by all. I learned that this is true community living. I give thanks to God for it.

I spent 31 years in Ecuador and in 2013 I returned to France for medical reasons with the intention of returning. My health problems were not resolved so I decided to stay in France. Ecuador is in my heart and in my daily prayers. During my years there I saw many beautiful things. The people taught me much more that I brought them. I thank God for having been able to experience all of that.