After my profession on the 15th of August 1961 I was sent on my first mission to the Brigida Heim,a home for the elderly in Bocklemoend Cologne - a small community of five Sisters - Sr Willigis Superior, Sr Remigia, Sr Kleopha, Sr Beatilde, and Sr. Pascalina. We spent a wonderful time together just like the people there, happy Rhinelanders ! It was also the time of special prayers in preparation for the Canonization of our Founder Blessed Vincent Pallotti in Rome. Now, who was to go to this wonderful Celebration ? Obviously not everyone could take part so our superiors in Marienborn, our Motherhouse in Limburg/ der Lahn Germany decided to ask the sisters who wished to go. They were to hand in their names and these were collected and put in a box and a name would be drawn. This was the fairest way.
And as it was, my dear fellow sisters kept on teasing me by saying "You are far too young...for this. You are still green behind the ears" But, in spite of it all, I gave in my name and I added a sentence- I remember vividly the wording. I wrote: "Should I be so lucky as to be drawn I would gladly accept it." And Lord behold, the dice fell on Sr.M. Vitalis SAC, which was my religious name before I changed back to my baptismal name of Sr Annemarie later in South Africa.
My joy was great and that of my"OLDER" Sisters too. One day a parcel arrived addressed to Sr. Vitalis SAC and as it was the custom we opened our gifts in the community and as I started unwrapping realized there was more to it. Inside were a few apples, pears, some dried fruit, biscuits, sweets and a note, saying "For your journey"..Lovely it was not ! But it was a fun parcel, a sort-of April fool joke. And that made it such an affectionate act. Another beautiful thing, not so commonly done in those years,was that my superior, Sister Willigis (photo) handed me some pocket money and some extra coins for me to give to the beggars in the streets of Rome. I was so touched and you can also imagine how very happy I was !
We were quite a few sisters from Germany who travelled by train to the Holy City and a group of our American Pallottine Sisters joined us at the railway-station in Cologne, and we had a lovely and interesting time together on the train. They could not speak much German and we were challenged to understand their accents! It was a very cold winter in Rome January 1963 and I had to use some of my outer-garments on the top of my bedding to keep warm during the night !
The celebration of the Canonization of our Founder St Vincent Pallotti in St Peters was for me an unforgettable, wonderful spiritual event. (There was however a lot of pushing in the Basilica during the celebration and I was almost suffocated by the Roman Pallottine Sisters but I survived and am still alive 50 years later to tell you the little story).
Following the canonization of St. Vincent Pallotti on the 22nd January 1963
the Pallottine Sisters pray at his sarcophagus in the Church of San Salvatore in Onda
To have been there for all this-to be close to the Holy Father Pope John XXIII, the Atmosphere of the Holy City, to walk the streets where Vincent Pallotti lived, walked and ministered to the people, and to visit all the important and historical places was a great privilege and something I will always remember in gratitude and joy.
One more happy experience was that Sister Mechtilde took me to the Church of St Vitale-Vitalis my name patron to visit and pray. On our way back we had some fun, and shared lovely memories from our time in the postulate.
Sr. Mechtilde Pracht, SAC
Sr. Annemarie Niehsen, SAC (Sr. M. Vitalis)
On an outing to Nettuno January 1963
Back at home we continued to celebrate with my Sisters in Cologne. Once again I experienced a wonderful and blessed time in honour of St Vincent Pallotti and celebrated a beautiful High Mass with the Sisters and Residents and Personnel of the home. Now I am looking gratefully back on all the events and, trust and pray that OUR FOUNDER will continue with Mary Queen of the Apostles and all the Angels and Saints to intercede for us and all our undertakings will be blessed in the future.
Sr. Annemarie Niehsen, SA