March 16, 2023

Serving Life in the City Center – Part 2

Sister M. Monja Schnider
Zurich, Switzerland

A Heart,
That Listens –

 – Part 2 –


I am employed as a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary by the Catholic Church in Zurich, to do pastoral care in two flagship orthopedic clinics.

As if Jesus or the Blessed Mother came in person

The dress of a religious sister has the effect of wakening trust in many people. My Reformed colleague even said to me once, “For some of the people it’s like Jesus or Mary is coming in person when you come.” I often experience God’s guidance in a very intensive way during my work every day in the clinic. It touches me when I enter a patient’s room unexpectedly and it becomes clear that I came at just the right time; or patients will say, “God sent her!” I’m thinking of a patient who was there because of knee surgery. When I stepped into her room, she began to cry—it was unbelievable to her that I was visiting her that day because it was the death day of her husband and that was so difficult for her at the time. She asked if it would be possible to receive Holy Communion, and I was able to bring our Eucharistic Lord to her in the afternoon. We included all of her intentions and her deceased husband in the prayers accompanying this ministry of the Eucharist.

Encounters when traveling in the city

All that a Sister of Mary encounters when she is out and about in the city!  A woman from Brazil approached me at the bus stop one day and on another day a man from India. They wanted to know where I was from and to which community I belong. When I am commuting, I am often asked, “Is there a monastery here?” “No, I work here in the city and I live in an apartment just around the corner.” If there is a little more time, they also learn that I live and work in Zurich as an “extern Schoenstatt Sister of Mary,” but that I regularly spend a few days with my community in our center on Lake Walen. The people find that nice and also astonishing that something like this exists. When I introduced myself to a lady who lives in the same apartment building she said, “It’s nice that someone like you is living in our house now!”

Once when was I walking across the intersection at Bellevue Square, someone on a sporty bicycle rode past me and called out across the intersection, “Gruess Gott” which translates into English as “Hello, Sister.” At the main train station, a young man called out to me, “Are you a Jesus freak, too?” “Yes, of course,” I replied as I walked by. He responded, “That’s nice, that makes two of us!”

“Tell me, what’s your life like?”

Once when I was getting on the back of the bus a young man (about 20 years old) approached me, “Hey, why don’t you come here and preach to me!” I greeted him in a friendly manner and then sat down some distance away from him in the front of the bus. I didn’t feel like “preaching.” The young man came toward the front of the bus, sat down across from me and asked: “Tell me, what’s your life like? What do you do?”  He didn’t want a “sermon,” after all. He wanted to know about my life and the testimony I give. There was only a little bit of time until the next bus stop – at the end he said, “And that’s all?!”  “Yes, that’s all,” I said, “But I try to do that as best I can and to be there for others!” Living everyday sanctity is easy, and so one could also come to the same conclusion as the young man: “And that’s all?!”  He surely expected a different answer and was really surprised that we live a “normal life,” but in union with God, shaped and motivated by following Christ.

Renewing the covenant of love in Spanish

Oh, if only I knew Spanish. Then I could interact with more people in the clinic and also while traveling. Many migrants and Spanish speaking people live in Zurich and participate in the Apostolate of the Pilgrim MTA (Mother Thrice Admirable of Schoenstatt). Occasionally, I participate in Holy Mass at the Spanish Mission followed by the renewal of the covenant of love with the MTA. The men and women of the Spanish speaking Pilgrim MTA circles have great trust in our dear MTA. The covenant of love and the community of their Pilgrim MTA circle provide support for them and give them strength in their situation, which often is not easy.

“Meeting the Poorest Most Warmly”

Teklit Tekeste, a refugee from Egypt, regularly stands in front of the supermarket where I buy my groceries and he sells magazines. Half of the money paid for the magazine goes to the one selling the magazine. I meet Teklit almost every day when I get off the bus, and I buy the magazine from him once a month. Otherwise, we just talk for a few minutes.

One bitterly cold day in December Teklit wore light sneakers and complained about his feet. Oh, my, I thought. He has a wife and two children. He can’t get sick. So that he could buy a pair of warm shoes, I put some of my personal money into a Christmas card that I gave to him. Three days later he yelled across the street to me, “THANK YOU!” and he pointed to his new warm shoes. Meanwhile we have become good “friends.”

As a Sister of Mary I am a sign of God’s presence

Through my work and life as an extern Schoenstatt Sister of Mary I have been newly and deeply blessed in my vocation. In my religious “dress of Mary” I remind many people that God is present in the world. I experience God’s guidance and providence very intensely every day anew. I am always learning better to listen with my heart to what the other person is saying, is suffering, and how God is gifting me through the stories and wisdom of other people. Every day I ask myself: “With what message will the angel of the Lord meet me?” I wonder what today will bring. Of one thing I can be certain; it is that

“The Lord is with me, and the power of the Most High” will “fill” the people I am privileged to meet.