December 14, 2023

Highly Unusual – But Happy

Christine Cüppers

It Brought Out the Best in Me

Faith has “brought out the best in me.” That is one reason Sister M. Theresita Rutzmoser is grateful from the bottom of her heart. For the past year, the Schoenstatt Sister of Mary has been taking a double course of study at the Episcopal Vicariate General in the Diocese of Trier.

Sister M. Theresita Rutzmoser became acquainted with the Schoenstatt Movement at a young age in her home near Munich. “At the age of nine, I was already active in the Schoenstatt Youth, participating in camps and later I was a group leader. I realized that faith enriches your life and your personality,” the 35-year-old explained in an interview with “Paulinus,” the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Trier.

Having grown up in a “good Catholic family,” acquaintances often described her career as “classical.” For her, however, her path in life was by no means predetermined. “Yes, of course, that was to be expected,” she says she heard many times when she, who has been a member of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary for twelve years, made her “eternal promise” four years ago. “Unlike in religious orders, there are no vows in our secular institute. We bind ourselves to the community through a contract,” explains Sister M. Theresita.

A formative time in Chile

Her time with the Schoenstatt Sisters in Chile was particularly formative. “I was there with a friend for seven and a half months after graduating from high school. It felt like we had to do domestic work all the time, and yet we were the happiest people in the world,” she recalls with a laugh.

An impressive and infectious inner joy emanated from the sisters, and the two young women from Germany experienced human warmth and a deep feeling of acceptance. “This positive experience paved the way for me to be open to the experience of God. In order to recognize the love of God, you need human love,” says Rutzmoser. After returning from Chile, she thought intensively about her future path in life. “I wanted to meet the man of my dreams and start a family,” says the young woman, who is particularly striking because of her bright eyes. Because she was interested in people, she studied psychology, a subject that fascinated her and also suited her. “Towards the end of my studies, however, the question ‘Is that it now?’ became more and more pressing.” At the same time, she felt an inner restlessness. “There was the thought: God wants me to become a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary,” said Sister M. Theresita, looking back. And she still knows very well how difficult it was for her to come to terms with the personal question of the future, what an inner struggle she had. When she joined the community of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary, she moved from Bavaria to Vallendar in the Diocese of Trier, the place of origin of the Schoenstatt Movement—the place where the Original Shrine is located.

“The biggest step was leaving my parents” 

said Sister M. Theresita, looking back. The youngest of four siblings, she admits that her family was also emotionally challenged at this point. But when, during visits to the Rhine, her parents in particular realized “that I was happy and in the right place, they rested assured.” Initially, she worked in housekeeping “just to get started.” She was soon assigned to youth work. And then Sister M. Theresita was faced with the question of what field of work she wanted in the future. “Because not everyone immediately shouts ‘Here’ when it comes to numbers, but I have a passion for it, we came up with business administration,” knowledge that is particularly needed in a religious community in the face of the challenges of our time. When looking for a suitable place to study, the diocese’s four-year double study program in business administration came to mind. So, in August 2022, Sister M. Theresita made her way to Trier and began her course of studies.

Reflecting on the Gospel as the core

The first year, she explains, was a practical year. It was spent together with vocational school students and students training to be administrative assistants. They were introduced to various areas of the Episcopal Vicariate General, including three months in the Communications Department. “It was very exciting because I was able to work on the new website. I never thought that I would enjoy working on the Internet.” In October, Sister M. Theresita began her second year, which focuses on university studies. However, there are always practical phases in the Vicariate General, at the Caritas Association, and at the episcopal vineyards.

“Because of my age alone, I’m highly unusual among the students and in the internships,” says the 35-year-old.  From time to time, people even felt a little provoked by the Sister of Mary, although she usually does not wear the dark blue uniform dress of her community. Some people would tell her that they “used to be altar boys” or “used to be a believer.” People she spoke to were often simply surprised to meet someone “who believes in God, is Catholic, and is also happy”.

She will attain her bachelor’s degree in 2026. Until then, Sister M. Theresita will live in Trier. After that, according to the plan, she will serve the community with her knowledge and contribute to the community’s steps into the future. Overall, she would like “us as a Church, as believers, to become more essential, to focus more on the Gospel as our core.” Although there are many things in the Church that annoy her, she is happy and grateful to have made the “hardest and best decision” and to have put her life at the service of the Good News as a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary.

With kind permission from: “Paulinus,” No. 49, December 3, 2023, p. 11

Foto by Christine Cüppers