February 3, 1900, Maria Helena (Virgo) Stollenwerk, co-foundress of the Missionary Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit, is remembered as the day of her death, her birth to eternal life, in the Convent of Notre Dame, in Steyl. Describing the virtues of Maria Helena, Anselm Grün writes: “The spiritual path of Maria Helena Stollenwerk was not an easy path to God, but a wavy path, a path in darkness, a snowy footprint, an impassable path, with twists and turns.” There is no doubt that Helena had to fight hard to achieve the path to God. It was a long walk that took her through disappointments and darkness, through temptations and crises. In these situations, it was difficult to know what God really wanted of her. In this long path of struggle with God and because of God’s fidelity, she managed to remain faithful to her vocation and to herself. Her faithfulness was the expression of her relationship with God. A simple spark can bring fire of blessings to those who keep their memory alive. As members of the Arnoldina family, we honor her total self-giving to God; we honor her openness and docility to the voice of God that guided her in every stage of her life. A way to keep alive the memory of Mother María Helena (María Virgo), we wish to remember the last days of her life, in the words narrated by Sr. Assumpta Volpert, SSpS, in “Mutter Maria Stollenwerk, Mutter Josepha” 1920, P. 215:
Even when her state of health was deteriorating more and more, she maintained a firm attitude of trust showing her support and interest in the missions: “I maintain the most active interest in everything that concerns the Missionary Sisters, both those who are in the missions as well as those in the Mother House. You can count on my prayers, day and night … I will be like Moses, lifting my heart and hands to heaven for all their intentions.” (August 22, 1899)
Tuesday, January 30, 1900: on this day the novice Maria Virgo obtained permission to make vows as a Sister of Perpetual Adoration.
Wednesday, January 31, 1900: On the morning of this day, Sr. Maria Virgo signed the vow formula with a trembling hand and without interruption. Around noon Father Wegener, assistant to the founder, arrived to preside over the vow ceremony. The older Sisters were present. First, the hymn “Come Creator Spirit” was prayed, then Fr. Wegener gave a lighted candle to Sr. Maria Virgo which she held herself, although it was difficult for her. One of the Sisters read the first part of the vow formula. The vow itself was pronounced by Sr. María Virgo, and then the other prayers were said by Mother María Michaele. Later, Sister María Virgo received the cross that the Sisters receive at their first vows and she pressed it to her breast with much love. After a few more prayers, Fr. Wegener congratulated her and gave her the priestly blessing. Sr. Maria Virgo was congratulated by the Sisters present and then she rested for a few hours.
In the afternoon all the Sisters of Adoration approached her and sang a song in honor of the Holy Spirit.“Nothing on earth gives me as much pleasure as you”, was her reply. Sr Maria Virgo addressed the sisters for the last time. Sisterly love was her favorite subject. Although outwardly she was the youngest sister in vows, she was actually the true mother and the cornerstone of the entire Congregation. Therefore, her last words were like her spiritual testament.
Friday, February 2, 1900: “At nightfall, she began her last agony. Around 9:30 p.m. she said: “Jesus, I die for you.” These were her last words”.
Saturday, February 3, 1900: “The next day, she was lying in bed. She received the blessing with the Blessed Sacrament, but she was unconscious. In the afternoon, around 2:30 p.m., she died”.
Her death was a great loss for the Congregation, as it was for Arnold Janssen. He sent a telegram from San Gabriel, near Vienna, Austria, saying: “This causes me great regret. I had high regard and appreciation for her. The Lord God had called her to assist me as a co-founder of the congregation of the Missionary Servants of the Holy Spirit. She fulfilled her mission very faithfully and many times edified me with her virtue and piety. She represents the two branches of the Congregation to which she belonged: The Missionaries and the Cloistered Sisters. What a wonderful example of humility she gave to all when she resigned as superior general to become a simple novice in the cloister. May she always be honored by the Sisters and, for her position, she receives a special distinction. May her memory always be kept alive among the Sisters”.
In her obituary, we read: “It was edifying to observe the former superior among the young novices. She had a radiant personality that inspired others to follow her example. She was so obedient, humble and modest, loyal to the rules and diligent in her work, recollected and animated by her zeal for prayer that the mere look of her was a blessing for others”.
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