June 2007: SISTER INES SCHLATHÖLTER
“I never thought of religious life or being Franciscan when I was growing up,” Sister Ines Schlathölter admitted. But somewhere along her journey, God opened her mind to the possibility. “At one point it was clear that I needed to follow this feeling and I knew that I would not find happiness unless I explored what I was experiencing,” she said. She realized that God was calling her to religious life and she entered the Congregation of the Hospital Sisters on October 1, 1971 in Münster, Germany.
A native of Olfen, Germany, Mary Agnes Schlathölter was born on March 25, 1950. A few years later the family moved to Lünen, Germany and Mary had the responsibility of helping her mother raise the other children and care for the house. As a child, Mary enjoyed soccer, volleyball, and tennis while being interested in geography and the world beyond her homeland. She later became interested in politics, the writings of Mark Twain, and western movies. It was also at this time that she became somewhat disinterested in her faith but still felt a calling to do missionary work. She looked for countries where there was a need for this type of service.
The nursing profession
When she was 18 years old she began studying nursing and then met the Hospital Sisters through one of their hospitals in Germany. “I liked how alive the Sisters were,” she said “but I absolutely did not want to be a Sister.” After the nursing exam, she and a classmate traveled to South Africa for missionary work with the Dominican Sisters. From that experience she began to look to where God was in her life. “I felt a strong call for mission work and on the flight back to Germany I remembered the Hospital Sisters and realized that there was indeed a Franciscan spirit in me,” she added.
She has served the Community as a surgical nurse, surgery manager, a nursing instructor, and director of nursing...opportunities to minister to the needs of patients and coworkers. “I was grateful to my parents who taught me to show respect, dignity, and compassion to everyone,” Sister Ines said. “It is a valuable lesson that continues to be with me.”
Life-giving is most important
Life for Sister Ines is an adventure and she is aware to be sure to make decisions that will give life. Her definition is simple: "life-giving is a feeling of deep inner peace where things just feel right – a place where as a human being your relationship with God and others is true with the understanding that God always provides." With this as her foundation, in 1996 she followed her calling to transfer membership from the German Province to the American Province of the Hospital Sisters. “This was a big decision for me but I knew that it was an opportunity for me to grow and be vibrant.” Although it was difficult to leave her family, Sisters, and country, she journeyed to America to expand her religious life and ministry of service. Interestingly, she learned English from watching the television news and taking basic courses.
Her spirit of internationality and enthusiasm for being with people has taken her around the world. She has been involved with the development of the International Guidelines for Formation (the process of developing spirituality in religious life) and also served as the Minister of Temporary Professed Sisters after prior service as the Pre-Novitiate and Novitiate Minister at the Motherhouse. “I’m fascinated with this formation ministry because it calls me to be transformed while mentoring these young Sisters,” Sister Ines said. “I want to pass that excitement on to other women,” she added. “When I work with our new Sisters I tell them to look at things that will give them more life and encourage them to do what is right at the moment,” she explained. “I advise them to follow what they feel because they will change if something touches them very deeply,” she said. In her work in Formation she has traveled to India, Haiti, Poland, Germany, and Tanzania.
Currently, she continues to be interested in politics along with international news. “It is important to be aware of issues, especially in how we as religious women are called,” she said.
Throughout her life she has realized the importance of listening to God and recognizing the plan that He has for our lives. It is a message that she hopes will speak to people as they face challenges in their lives. “With God on your side you have the courage to face any storm. Remember that if you fall, you will land on your feet and God will give you strength to stand up again.”