Mercy of God in Sister’s Life

By Elizabeth McFarlane
Sr Thomasine Treese. Photo: Elizabeth McFarlane.
Sister Thomasine at the Schoenstatt Shrine at Mulgoa where the annual Marian Pilgrimage will take place on Sunday 22 May. Photo: Elizabeth McFarlane.

Sister Thomasine at the Schoenstatt Shrine at Mulgoa where the annual Marian Pilgrimage will take place on Sunday 22 May. Photo: Elizabeth McFarlane.

Sr Thomasine Treese ISSM is the new Superior of the Australian-Philippine Province of the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.

Growing up near Koblenz, Germany during World War II, her parents had to “turn every penny around” after the family home was destroyed.

“We had no car and no house. We had nothing and after my younger brother was born, we had to start from the beginning,” she explained.

Despite financial struggles and the storms and hardships of life, her parents were devoutly religious, preparing the way for the decision of Sr Thomasine and her older sister to join the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.

Sr Thomasine holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Theology, a Licentiate in Canon Law and a Certificate of Accreditation as Postulator at the Congregation for the Cases of Saints in Rome.

Now based in Mulgoa, Sr Thomasine has travelled extensively, having served as missionary for several decades in the US and Europe.

She brings a global insight to her role as Superior, with 30 years’ work experience in the new evangelisation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (including eight years of work in their Archdiocesan Tribunal), 11 years working in the Vatican in the Secretariat of State, and as postulator for the cause of beatification of Schoenstatt Sister, Sr Emilie Engel ISSM.

Sr Thomasine explained that there are three major steps in a process of beatification. There is the opinion of the people about the quality of life of the Servant of God, the judgment of the Church and the action of God by granting a miracle.

Sr Thomasine collected the documents and testimonies needed to prove that Sr Emilie Engel lived all virtues in an authentic and exemplary way. She wrote a study, a ‘Positio’ on Sr Emilie Engel’s life, which was submitted to the Congregation of Saints in Rome for appraisal.

In May 2012, Pope Benedict XVI declared Sr Emilie Engel a Venerable Servant of God, signifying the fact that she has practiced all virtues to a heroic degree. A miracle upon Sr Emilie’s intercession is still necessary for her to be beatified.

“Contrary to the belief that you have to have a sensational life to be a saint, Sr Emilie Engel impressed people by that which she was,” Sr Thomasine said.

“It was how she dealt with the many trials of her life and how she could follow God’s guidance. She spoke her unconditional ‘Yes, Father’ to His wish and will, even when it meant sitting paralysed in a wheelchair. It was her radiance that drew people to her.

“Above all, Sr Emilie Engel said, ‘Yes, Father’ with a joyful attitude at all times.

“My life is also a ‘yes’ and every day I have to ask myself, ‘Do I live my day with God or do I want to do everything myself?’”

Sr Thomasine feels blessed to now be working in Australia and is driven by the inner strength of Sr Emilie Engel.

“It is wonderful to be able to look back on the many blessings of God in my life and I have learnt that as a leader, I must radiate God’s love,” she said.

Working towards the annual Marian Pilgrimage, which will take place on Sunday 22 May, the Sisters of Mary are also promoting the experience of a special indulgence in this Year of Mercy.

The Schoenstatt Shrine in Mulgoa is home to a Holy Door of Mercy, and soon it will be adorned with a burst of autumn amber colour.

Covered in vines, the small Shrine emulates the original Schoenstatt Shrine found in Vallendar, Germany, where the International Schoenstatt Movement originated.

Schoenstatt, meaning ‘beautiful place’, is a place to unite pilgrims with the vine and the vinedresser, revealing also through the external sign of the Holy Door, the role of Mary as handmaiden and doorway, bringing Christ into the world and thus, the mercies of God.

“Just as Sr Emilie Engel summarised her life’s experience shortly before her death, ‘Throughout eternity, I want to sing a hymn of praise to the merciful love of the Father and the Mother.’

“Praise God for the mercies we have received, and as we have received the mercies of God, we ought to be merciful to others,” Sr Thomasine said.

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