Growth of the Community: 1870 – 1964

With the foundation of their own mother house, the congregation could finally enter into an equal-rank partnership with the city. On 15th October 1869 the sisters were able to purchase the house Severinstraße 53 in Cologne, and they moved in on 15th January 1870. At the same time a nursing home was founded which soon became a hospital once a surgical ward was opened. This expanded to neighbouring plots of land in the following years. In 1887 the "Severinsklöösterchen", as it was called by the public, already had 120 beds for men and women.

1869 Their (first) own mother house in Severinstraße

1869 Their (first) own mother house in Severinstraße

Expansion and Heyday

But it was not only the hospital that expanded. The community too had been able to enjoy increasing demand since the mother house had been founded. From 1875 to 1883, more than 42 aspirants joined the congregation. However, as a result of the "Kulturkampf", the number of admissions of aspirants was limited by the state. As soon as these limitations were lifted, the number of new aspirants increased again, with 245 joining between the years 1890 to 1899. This influx mirrored the attraction of the congregation to socially committed young women who wanted to find a Christian answer to the needs of the time caused through industrialisation and urbanisation.

Operating theatre, about 1914

Operating theatre, about 1914

Taking over the Katharinen Hospital in Frechen in 1882, the extension of the congregation's nursing activities outside the boundaries of the city of Cologne was started. It was in particular in rural areas that the sisters met a need because the medical nursing care there was completely inadequate.

The extremely high number of new sisters the congregation could welcome over 50 years, between 1880 and 1930 (more than 1100 admissions), made it possible to take over a variety of different apostolates. After a period of time, the traditional community nursing activities expanded to hospital management and to most social welfare activities. Between 1882 and 1945, the sisters founded or took over a total of 47 different institutions and communities.

In addition to the emphasis on nursing, the congregation started to get increasingly involved in social welfare activities at the beginning of the 20th century. This included managing social welfare homes for young mothers in need, providing training for women and being active in the social hot spots of Cologne.

Leitung von 'Kinderverwahranstalten' Leitung von 'Kinderverwahranstalten'

Management of "children's homes"

Sisters during the war

The First World War brought with it an increased need for nursing for the numerous injured soldiers. Two military hospital trains were taken over by the Cellitinnen sisters, allowing them to nurse the wounded.

In her diary Sister Callista Thiele reports of her 12th trip (1914) of her stay in the devastated hinterland at the front:

"With me in the operating theatre were three wounded French and three wounded from Bavaria. When we took in French people at the smallest station, the women were standing right up to the wagons. Once they saw that we were treating the French people well and dressing their wounds with fresh bandages, they brought flowers and expressed their heart-felt thanks."
Versorgung von Verwundeten im 1. Weltkrieg. Versorgung von Verwundeten im 1. Weltkrieg.

Taking care of injured during First World War

In the years of hunger up to 1919, the Cologne sisters took care of about 50 children daily at their own cost and distributed food to destitute families.

Encouraged by the Archdiocese of Cologne, the congregation bought the secularized Kloster Heisterbach in 1918. This brought with it several problems resulting from an ambiguous legal position and the economic crisis arising from the general financial situation. Maintenance of the Heisterbach ruins and the poor condition of the buildings added to the pressures. Today the General Administration is situated in Heisterbach.

In order to keep up with the requirements of modern medical provisions, an alternative to the Cologne "Klöösterchen" was built in 1929 with the construction of a hospital "St. Augustine Hospital", Jakobstraße.

Shock from National Socialism

With the beginning of national socialism a difficult time started for the sisters and their work. According to the will of the new dictator, the congregation should - like other social welfare communities - be pushed out of their field of work. They aimed to allow the so-called "Brown Sisters" of the national socialist welfare (Volkswohlfahrt) to take over all nursing operations. In 1944, the last seven sisters left the completely bombed 'Bürger' hospital in which the young Cellitinnen congregation had once started. Both the 'Kindergarten' and the children day care centers were taken away from the congregation and handed over to the national socialist welfare organisation under the jurisdiction of the Cologne City Administration.

One of the blackest hours in the history of the Marienborn Psychiatrc Hopsital (Kloster Hoven) in Zülpich was during the SS's forced removal of mentally disabled residents to Hadamar. In spite of intense efforts, the hospital management was unable to prevent this. There were shaking scenes during the process, and it has been subsequently proved that many of those taken away were killed as part of the "euthanasia" movement.


Directly after the war, work concentrated on reconstruction; starting with the completely destroyed St. Joseph Convent, St. Vith and the mother house in Severinsstraße.

Once again, at the end of the Second World War, there was a growth in the number of members, which had almost come to a halt during the period of national socialism. But this was only short-lasting. From the middle of the sixties onwards, there were hardly any new vocational callings. Since then there have only been sporadic entries, not to mention the many sisters leaving the congregation right up until the early seventies. This has meant that slowly but surely some of the convents and institutions had to be closed down.


1874 Hospital of the Augustinians "Severinsklösterchen"

Foundation of Institutions and Convents (Branches)

(some of the important houses)

1882: Katharinen-Hospital, Frechen
St. Josef-Kloster St. Vith, Belgium

1883: Convent Maria Hilf Bornheim,
renamed in 1988 to Home for the Aged Maria Hilf

1888: Hospital Marienborn, Convent Hoven

1894: Herz-Jesu Convent Königsdorf,
renamed in 1982 to Centre for the Elderly St. Augustinus

1905: St. Agatha Hospital Cologne Niehl

1909: St. Antonius Hospital Cologne Bayenthal

1917: Herz-Jesu Convent Nettersheim,
renamed in 1978 to House Tannenblick

1918: Kloster Heisterbach, Königswinter

Time Line


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