Maria Stein reflections: Precious Blood Sisters share memories of the Shrine

3-photos_maria-stein-reflectionsLeft, Sister Regina Albers with her parents, Henry and Marcella Albers, in 1948; contributed photo. Middle, Sister Martha Bertke at the 2011 Assembly; Sister Mary Lou Schmersal photo. Right, Sister Marita Beumer in Somerton, Arizona, 1981; contributed photo.

Sister Regina Albers —

My love for the Shrine goes to my childhood when my parents came often to pray during the hard times of the Depression. My very first memory as a four-year-old is hearing the rosary being said by the Sisters on the other side of the open window between the chapels, never dreaming I would someday be one of them.

Another happy memory is the many school picnics we had there. On my first school picnic when I was entering first grade, I got a blister on my heel from my shoe. I told Sister Angela Post. She took me to the nurse who put on a Band-Aid, then took me to one of the infirm Sisters. The Sister was happy to see me, and we talked a bit. She then gave me a few candy marshmallows. I treasured them until they were simply hard lumps.

The annual pilgrimage, which our family never missed, was also very special. Walking from St. John Church to the Shrine, praying the rosary in that long line of pilgrims were moments of grace I felt even as a child. These blessings continued in special ways when I came to work at the Shrine as curator of the relics and having charge of the museum and doing many tours. I have no doubt that all the saints on those altars will be waiting for me when I meet them someday.

Sister Martha Bertke —

Since I grew up on a farm just across the fields from the Shrine, a sight of the building and property were etched into my mind from early childhood days. Our family could see the Shrine from our kitchen window and whenever we were outside. Many times, when I helped my mother hang clothes on the line in our backyard, we looked to the Shrine to see how many cars and buses were there, so we would know if it was an ordinary day or if something special was going on that day.

For many years the Sisters prayed hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the “Sisters Chapel” (today known as the Adoration Chapel). At least two Sisters were in chapel at all times. Outside on the property, they had an “hour bell,” which rang 10 minutes before each hour, letting Sisters know that two more had to go to chapel to pray for an hour. At our farm, we could hear the hour bell ring. As children, oftentimes when we heard the bell ring we would say, “Oh, two more Sisters have to pray.” But it also served as a reminder to us to pray too. Each time I walk into the Adoration Chapel, in my head I can still hear the voices of a group of Sisters praying, who over the years spent many hours in prayer in that chapel.

I attended St. Johns Grade School in Maria Stein, which at that time was across the street from the parish church, and I was taught by Sisters. Each year for our annual school picnic, we walked to the Shrine. There we watched Sisters make hosts (altar breads), we tasted the host bread, saw the many statues made by Sisters, and learned about Christmas cribs made from coal clinkers. A visit to the Relic Chapel along with receiving a holy card that was pierced by a relic of the True Cross was included in the day. I still hold on dearly to some precious medals, holy cards, pamphlets and rosaries from those years.

Sister Marita Beumer —

I have several vivid and sacred memories of visiting Maria Stein as a child. It seems that for my mother, August 15 was a special day of pilgrimage. So, our family went the 25 miles to Maria Stein to pray with the Sisters in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The silence, the prayerful awe surrounded me with a “very special feeling” of being close to God in the recitation of the oral prayers as well as in the silent adoration. We usually made a visit to the Relic Chapel as well.

Also, as a child I remember going to visit my great, great aunt, Sister Bertranda Fecher, who was stationed at Maria Stein. I remember the quiet again, the dimly lit room and the conversations that my Mom had with Sister. Naturally, Sister always made a fuss over “the little ones” probably hoping with my Mom that someday one of the girls would be a Sister of the Precious Blood.

As I grew up I remember participating each year in the Pilgrimage for Peace, which was sponsored by the Knights of St. John. For my Mom, Dad and my siblings, walking from St. John Church to the Maria Stein Shrine grounds while praying the rosary was a sacred yearly ritual.

Also, I remember my Mom going to Maria Stein with the women of the St. Peter parish area for their regular Hours of Adoration. This was very special for her, and she looked forward to these hours. I think that through her perseverance, I also felt an appreciation of the devotion of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

3-photos_maria-stein-reflections_2Left, Sister Ann Barbara Hoying (7 or 8 years old) at home; middle, Sister Carolyn Hoying in her youth; contributed photos. Right, Sister Noreen Jutte works in the archives department; Michelle Bodine photo

Sister Barbara Ann (M. Emma) Hoying —

I liked my teachers all through grade and high school — all Sisters of the Precious Blood. I admired my aunt, Sister M. Justiniana — superintendent for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The influence of the Sisters of the Precious Blood was a strong and positive impact on my life.

Sister Carolyn (M. Agnese) Hoying —

My memories of the Maria Stein Shrine while growing up are many. I love the Shrine. It is a place of quiet, prayerful peace just six miles from where I was born. As a family we would go for visits on Sunday afternoon during Lent. We would make visits in the Relic Chapel and peek through the window to see if our teachers, Sisters Leanarda and Firmina, were in the main chapel. We really did not have a great view, but we were sure we heard their voices.

Years later when on vacation, I would go for the hour of adoration Tuesday afternoon from 2 to 3 with my mother, Agnes, and neighbor, Verona Schmeising. The hour of adoration became a high point of my vacations, listening to the now laity praying the prayers we Sisters used to pray during our hour of adoration. It reminded me of all those special night hours of adoration we had prayed over the years as candidates and novices.

I was profoundly influenced by the Sisters praying and my mother’s deep faith and the gift of prayer we joined in on as kids at Maria Stein. It was a part of our way of life growing up. The Shrine has the aroma of sweetness, an inclusivity about it that all are welcome to come pray and seek solace, peace, healing, reconciliation and for hope renewed. I know that I am on holy ground every time I enter the Maria Stein Shrine.

Sister Noreen Jutte —

I grew up in St. Peter’s Parish, Fort Recovery, which was about a 20-minute drive from Maria Stein Convent. When I reflect on my experiences as a child and think about Maria Stein, my first memory goes back to the Pilgrimages of walking every year from St. John’s Parish Church to the Maria Stein Convent. While we walked, we prayed the rosary led by Father Harold Diller, who was in an open car with a megaphone. When we arrived at the Convent, there was Benediction and special prayers. I remember seeing the Sisters in the big Chapel. I was in awe at all my “not everyday” experiences.

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