Blessed Mother Maria Theresa Scherer (1825-1888)
Foundress of Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross
A woman lived her present - which has passed to form a future which is now, and tomorrow…
Catherine Scherer was born at Meggen, Canton Luzern, Switzerland on 31st October 1825. Her parents were simple farmers. From early childhood Divine Providence prepared her for her future mission through joyful and painful events. Urged by Christ’s love to serve the young, the sick and the poor, she joined the Congregation of the Holy Cross at the age of 19 years. The young community had just been founded by Fr. Theodosius Florentini OFM Cap. and she was one of the first 5 members. In June 1845 she received the novices’ dress from the hands of the Founder himself and on 27th October of the same year she took her first vows as Sr. M. Theresa. Then she began her activity as a teacher. In 1852 the Founder called her to Chur where he entrusted her with the administration of his first hospital and with the direction of the novitiate of the Sisters of Mercy. In 1857 she was elected Mother General at Ingenbohl, the motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross. She was a woman of deep faith, tremendous courage, daring spirit and commitment. She led the congregation in the spirit of the gospel. She remained in office for 31 years until her death. Her motivating words are “Totally dedicated to the Crucified and therefore totally to the neighbor”. Her courage and deep trust in the Lord, in the times of turmoil and struggles were amazing. She walked her way of the cross with fortitude and trust in God. To her sisters she was a mother and guide, to the poor and afflicted a compassionate helper.
After the Founder’s sudden death it was she who saved the endangered Institute by her undaunted courage and prudent action. She died on 16th June 1888 at Ingenbohl, after a painful illness which she bore with great patience. She was beatified on 29th October 1995 by Pope John Paul II. Inspired by her saintly life, countless people ever since have called upon her with great trust and have experienced encouragement and help in answer to their prayers.
Blessed Ulrika Nisch of Hegne (1882 - 1993)
Sister Ulrika Nisch was born September 18, 1882 in the village of Mittelbiberach-Oberdorf, and was baptized the following day. She was an illegitimate child and, due to extreme poverty, her parents were unable to marry until the year following her birth. Her grandmother and her godmother cared for her until she was six years old. They gave her a deeply religious foundation along with much love and kindness. When she reached school age her parents took her into their home in Unterstadion. As the oldest child it was necessary for her to help support the family as soon as possible.
After completing her basic education, Francisca worked as a maid, first in Germany and then in Rorschach, Switzerland. The people were impressed with her deep spirituality wherever she worked. In Rorschach she became seriously ill and required hospitalization. The Holy Cross Sisters from Ingenbohl, who staffed the hospital, cared for her. Meeting them provided the final encouragement for her to become a religious. Francisca Nisch entered the convent, October 17, 1904 at Hegne, the German Provincial House of the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross. As a novice she received the name, Ulrika.
Following her First Profession, April 24, 1907, she was sent as an assistant cook to Buhl, and later to St. Vincent’s Home in Baden-Baden. Ulrika served as the second sister in the kitchen for nine years. During her short life she served in the spirit of the Holy Cross Sisters: Totally given to the Crucified, and therefore given to their neighbor, true witnesses of the love of Christ. This unassuming service remained a hallmark at every stage of her life. Christ completely filled her being. The more deeply she became united with Him, the more outgoing was her love. She expressed this when she wrote: I wish to have a love for everyone, a love that is all things to all people and influences all.
The Cross of Christ, the greatest love God has shown us, gave form to her life. Continuous headaches and, at the same time, severe spiritual suffering and a dark night of the soul, gave her an opportunity to share the Cross of Christ. Difficult physical work and a life of renunciation robbed Sister Ulrika of her strength. Seriously ill, she entered the Sisters’ Infirmary in Hegne, July 15, 1912. Her last days were filled with love and surrender to God and a great longing for heaven. No one was with her at the moment of death; she sent her nurse to fare for another sister. Sister Ulrika died May 8, 1913, at the age of thirty-one. Her life has been an incentive, as well as an encouragement, for many of the faithful to be followers of Christ.
The beatification process for Sister Ulrika was begun in 1951. On November 1, 1987, the Feast of All saints, Pope John Paul II declared Sister Ulrika blessed.
Blessed Zdenka Schelingova (1916- 1955)
Blessed Sister Zdenka (Cecilia) Schelingova of the Congregation of Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross was born on 24 December 1916 in Kriva, Orava, Slovakia. From 1922-1930 she did her basic schooling there. On 6 July 1931 she joined as a candidate, and on 28 January she entered the novitiate in Podunajke Biskupice. On this occasion Cecilia was given her religious name, Sister Zdenka. On 30 January 1937 she took her first vows, and on 28 January 1943 she made her final profession.
The young sister then worked at first as nurse in Humenne, then in the Government hospital at Bratislava as Lab technician and later as assistant in the X-Ray department, until her arrest on 29 February 1952.
In 1948 the Communists assumed political power in Czechoslovakia. With this, the Church found itself in an increasingly difficult situation. Sister Zdenka felt herself obligated to stand up for the cause of the Church. Twice she assisted in an undercover operation to liberate imprisoned Catholic priests whose life was in danger. The first attempt was successful, while the second was set up by the secret police of the State as a trap; those involved fell into it unsuspectingly.
Sr. Zdenka was arrested and jailed in the Palace of Justice at Bratislava, where she was interrogated and tortured. On 17 June 1952 she was sentenced for alleged high treason: 12 years imprisonment, and in addition 10 years loss of all her rights as a citizen.
During her detention pending trial in Bratislava, and later in the prisons of Rimavska, Sobota, Pardubice, Brno and Praha, she suffered severely and patiently. On 16 April 1955 she was released from prison, sick and broken. On 31 July 1955 she died in the hospital at Trnava in the 39th year of her life, in consequence of the maltreatment she suffered during her incarceration.
On 16 October 1979 her remains, together with those of ten more sisters, were exhumed and transferred to a community grave of the Holy Cross Sisters at Podunajke Biskupice.
On 14 September 2003 Pope John Paul II declared her “Blessed” during the solemn Beatification Rite in Bratislava.