A Life out of Love
Venerable Emilie Engel
Sister M. Emilie Engel was one of the first sisters in our community. In May 2012 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI proclaimed her “venerable,”declaring that she had lived a life of heroic virtue. It is our hope that she will soon become the first officially canonized saint of our community.
Born in 1893 in Husten, Germany, Emilie Engel was the fourth of twelve children in a large farming family. After finishing her training as a teacher she moved to the Ruhr area and there became acquainted with the manifold social problems and poverty of the miner families. Her greatest goal in these conditions was to love the poorest the most warmly and to lighten their difficult burdens.
In 1921, Emilie participated in the first convention for women in Schoenstatt, and this encounter with Schoenstatt changed her life forever. Father Kentenich became her spiritual director and only a few years later, in 1926, she was among the first few women to leave her profession and family behind in order to dedicate her life entirely to Schoenstatt. Already as a young sister, she offered her life to God so that the community would bring forth saints. God took her offer seriously!
Sister M. Emilie contracted a severe form of Tuberculosis which ended her active work in the service of the community. A long period of illness with painful operations and times of isolation followed. She accepted it all as part of her vocation. In 1946 Father Kentenich entrusted the leadership of one of the German provinces of the community to Sister M. Emilie. However, an advancing paralysis increasingly limited her activity. Despite intense pain she radiated joy, benevolence, and unshakable faith. On 20th November 1955, she died at the age of 62.
In Sister M. Emilie we encounter a woman who was truly transformed through the covenant of love and her contact with Schoenstatt. As a child and continuing into her adult years, she had a false concept of God as a stern judge which filled her soul with extraordinary anxiety and fear of offending him. Through Father Kentenich, she learned that God loves His child not because the child is good, but because He is good. “The more she experienced God as a father, the more an intimate and freeing love replaced fear of sin.” This resulted in Sister M. Emilie becoming a trusting, saintly sister who feared neither life nor death. Many who experienced her remember the radiant look in her eyes. A young woman who got to know her shortly before her death said:
“It seemed as if Sister Emilie made the whole room light up. The deep radiance of her soul was expressed in her features even though she herself almost disappeared behind her utter physical frailty.” Many other similar testimonies attest to the great holiness of this simple sister who serves as an inspiration and an example of lived everyday sanctity.