July 2009: FOUNDATION DAY AND PILGRIMAGE
Annually since July 2, 1654, thousands of people have journeyed to Telgte, Germany, in a pilgrimage in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The object of reflection is the pieta (a subject in Christian art depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the crucified body of Jesus, most often found in sculpture) in Our Lady of Grace Chapel, Telgte. Bishop Christoph Bernard von Galen gave approval for the Franciscan Friars to lead pilgrims from Muenster and Warendorf to Telgte, Germany, in 1654 and selected July 2 because of its liturgical significance of the Feast of the Visitation – when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth.
Pieta of Telgte history
A legend asserts that a boy saw a vision of Mary in the linden tree at the entrance to Telgte and heard her say “Bring my image to the people”. He carved the statue of poplar wood around 1370, and it was paid for by a man from Luebeck, Ludeke Dynninck. Before Our Lady of Grace Chapel was built by Bishop Bernhard von Galen in the 1650s, the pieta was displayed in St. Clement’s church cemetery. (In 1991, when the pieta was scheduled to be refurbished, it was examined by a CT scan and it was discovered that relics from Jerusalem had been placed, date unknown, in the heads of Mary and Jesus.)
Telgte is famous for this annual Pilgrimage, the second largest pilgrimage in Germany, and the village welcomes thousands of pilgrims throughout the summer. Records indicate that approximately 40,000 pilgrims visit Telgte annually, and more than 8,000 people participate in the Telgte pilgrimage.
Foundation Day – Hospital Sisters of St. Francis
Many pilgrims to Our Lady of Grace Chapel may not realize that it was in this Chapel on July 2, 1844, that Father Christopher Bernsmeyer, pastor of nearby St. Clement Church, officially welcomed young women as Sisters to the Third Order, which constituted the founding of the Community of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis….165 years ago. What a beautiful testatment that on July 2, 1844, while thousands of pilgrims were in Telgte, this solemn moment of the founding of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis occurred before the Pieta of Telgte.
The Hospital Sisters of St. Francis have a strong devotion to Our Sorrowful Mother that originates from the foundation on July 2, 1844. For example, 100 years later, a shrine to Our Sorrowful Mother was designed in our St. Francis of Assisi Church, Springfield, and on July 2, 1994, a replica of the Pieta of Telgte was displayed on the Motherhouse grounds here in Springfield. The pieta is a gift from the Generalate on the 150th anniversary of the founding of the International Congregation.
Your invitation to become a pilgrim
We invite you to be united with us during July in some form of pilgrimage. Together, may our prayers to Our Sorrowful Mother be united as a Franciscan family.
Prayer before the Pieta of Telgte (official prayer for the 2009 Telgte Pilgrimage)
Holy Mother of the Lord,
For centuries people have come to Telgte
to express their concerns,
their requests and their gratitude.
In this pilgrimage year,
we want to meet you on the paths
of our everyday lives and to learn from you.
We want to learn how to find God in our lives.
You take all our sorrows upon yourself
and place them before the Lord, your Son.
Help us to wait patiently and humbly,
as you have been in the hour of affliction.
Bless us! Show us Jesus,
the blessed fruit of your womb.
Pray for us sinners, now
and at the hour of our death.