February 14, 2024

Experience Dignity
– Part 2 –

Sr. M. Florence Harder,
Quarten, Switzerland

Interview with

Sister Rita-Maria Alessi    

– Part 2 –



Sister Rita-Maria Alessi has been part of the community of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary for 54 years. For 45 years she has lived and worked in the St. Josef residential home in Weesen, a home for adult women with physical or mental disabilities that has belonged to the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary since 1946.
Even today, the 79-year-old still works as a volunteer in the dormitory; she offers a gymnastics lesson every week.

Sister M. Florence Harder asked the following questions:

Which situation was the most challenging for you?

Once we had to emergency evacuate the entire house because the mountain above the home began to slide. It was evening, the residents were already in bed and we were supposed to leave the house within 15 minutes. That was impossible – but we made it in time and then lived in the youth center in Quarten for nine days – improvised, without any facilities.

And what was your most beautiful experience?

It’s hard to believe, but my most beautiful experience is a “fruit” of this evacuation, because after this adventure we came up with the idea of ​​setting up a camp with the residents. The effort for the first week of vacation in Sachseln was enormous, but it was more than worth it! The residents were really balanced and happy – and the experience deepened the family-like atmosphere among each other. Since then there has been such a camp every two years.

There were certainly difficult situations within individual residential groups, right?

It was particularly challenging when a resident died in a residential group. This farewell was associated with a learning and maturing process for everyone. If someone is suddenly missing from the group home, the small family has to find itself again.

What gave you strength in those moments?

Celebrating Holy Mass. I took the residents’ concerns with me to Holy Mass every day. I gained a lot of strength from this half hour: new patience, new understanding. In connection with the Savior, I was given a different perspective on various situations. In general, I was able to experience that God always gives me what I need. I was never alone.

That is the one source of strength. Our community is another. We sisters have lived here in the house from the beginning. In contrast to the other employees, we have no distance from home after work. It is all the more important that we have a good balance within the community. And we had that! During our free periods we sang, played and laughed a lot. I’ve always loved playing. That was (and still is!) my natural balance. I also enjoy the way we organize holidays.

Do you also celebrate parties together in the dormitory? Like Christmas for example?

In the nine days before Christmas, we sisters maintain the custom of looking for a hostel. Some residents are happy to take part in this offer. Finding a hostel not only creates a beautiful Advent atmosphere, but also helps you mentally prepare for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve itself there are celebrations in the individual departments. It is precisely on such days that home can be experienced – and it creates joy when everyone is beautifully dressed, the table is beautifully set, when you can sing together, a story is read aloud and everyone receives a gift.

What would you definitely do again if you were 20 again?

I would definitely become a Sister of Mary again!


Because I love the Blessed Mother. And because I like being there for others.

And as a Sister of Mary, I can do this wonderfully:

Be there for others. Serve others.


Part – 1 – here

Fotos: Sr. M. Florence Harder, Quarten, Schweiz