The Beginning: 1838-1964

In 1838, the City administration of Cologne for the poor asked the convent of the Cellitinnen zur hl. Maria in Kupfergasse and the convent of the Cellitinnen zur hl. Elisabeth in Antonsgasse, both of which were living according to the rule of St. Augustine and taking care of the sick in the city of Cologne, to provide sisters for the 'Bürger' hospital of the city. With their plan to appoint the Cellitinnen as nurses, the administration for the poor hoped to improve the situation in the 'Bürger' hospital.

In addition to nursing, the sisters took on house-keeping obligations.

In addition to nursing, the sisters took on house-keeping obligations.

The sisters were not particularly enthusiastic because taking on nursing tasks in a town poor house meant placing themselves under the jurisdiction and administration of a public office and possibly being exposed to state repression.

It was not until the Feast of St. Elisabeth on 19th November 1838, when the church authority sent a letter expressing their wish, that the communities involved stated their readiness to provide sisters for this task. It was in particular young enthusiastic sisters who were willing to enter the venture of a completely new way of nursing.

Order life with restrictions

On 28th November 1838, four sisters from both convents began their work. The sisters in the 'Bürger' hospital now no longer belonged to one of the two mother convents and were named 'Filialklostergemeinschaft'. The foundation for a new religious community in Cologne had been laid without the sisters themselves knowing it.

The life and work of the sisters in the 'Bürger' hospital was extremely restricted and controlled by the administration of the city for the poor. Their legal position was uncertain, and neither their financial situation nor any financial guarantee for sickness and old age were secured. The administration for the poor also decided on admission and dismissal of members and limited their numbers. This did not change until a statute and instructions in 1840 which provided the sisters with more security. As a result of this, the community could become stronger. At the same time the Archbishop allowed them to decide themselves on the admission of candidates - an important step towards independence.

The cholera epidemic in 1849 subjected the sisters to their first serious medical trial. In addition to these medical worries, the community was continually exposed to the dominating influence of and to repression by the Cologne City Government for the poor. These were directed at the independence of the community. These harassing rules and prohibitions meant that religious life was severely interrupted and limited.

Changes for the good

In 1870 the situation changed for the good. Cardinal Melchers issued new constitutions which were based on the statutes of the Cellitinnen and on the Rule of St. Augustine. At the same time, the administration of the city government for the poor recognised that they had no qualified substitute to replace the sisters' professional nursing in the hospital. This meant that, under pressure from the doctors and general public, a new agreement with the congregation was made granting extensive rights. This agreement meant that for the first time, there was no longer talk of the "Filialklostergemeinschaft" but of the "Genossenschaft der Barmherzigen Schwestern nach der Regel des hl. Augustinus".

Time Line


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