Sr. Maryann Bremke gave an address to the Sisters during the 175th anniversary celebration of the community. She reflects on our foundress, why we need her as a model today and how we can live out Precious Blood Spirituality. Below is an excerpt.
Biographical highlights attest to Maria Anna’s self-giving nature. When she was twelve Maria Anna willingly left the security of her home to assist the ailing Mrs. Nicholas Brunner. After seventeen years of impeccable service, Maria Anna fell in love and married John Brunner, the oldest son of her employer. The two became parents of six children. Sorrow wrenched their hearts when a daughter Anna Maria died before her second birthday. At
forty-nine, Maria Anna lost her husband in death. She had been his sole caregiver through six months of a debilitating illness. Widowed, she bore the responsibility for her five fatherless offspring ages four through eighteen. As single parent Maria Anna dutifully attended to the education of her three boys and two girls identifying their individual needs and giving them counsel. She was sixty-six years old before her youngest left home. It was then that Maria Anna put her affairs in order, sold her Beibelberg Estate, and went to live with Anna Maria Fluri her married daughter. Maria Anna could have slipped quietly into eternity from this vantage, but the Spirit had other plans for this valiant Swiss woman.
A restless spirit urged Maria Anna to go on a pilgrimage to Mary’s Shrine at Einsiedeln. Such devotional journeys periodically had nourished Maria Anna’s soul. This late-life pilgrimage to Einsiedeln led Maria Anna to Castle Loewenberg where she joined her priestly son, Father Francis DeSales Brunner, in an endeavor that eventually became the founding of an extended family—the Sisters of the Precious Blood. The last four years of her life were wrapped in the gentle leadership of those women who drew their strength not from the force of her commands, but from the authentic nature of her generous presence.
Reviewing Maria Anna Brunner’s life invites our reflection on the meaning of Precious Blood spirituality.
At its very essence Precious Blood spirituality is a consuming passion—a life force that encompasses our prayer and energizes our ministries. It is the fountain of life-giving water that spills into our relationship with God, with the marginalized, and with veritably all of creation.
Being grounded in Eucharistic adoration of the Precious Blood, sustains within us a power that sensitizes us to the least ones who shadow our ever-changing steps on our life journeys. We see Jesus in the myriad needy ones daily present among us, and this awareness makes real the sacrifice of the Lover who shed the last drop of his Precious Blood so that all may have life and have that life in abundance. Precious Blood spirituality generates the deepest yearning within our womanly beings to be bearers and givers of life.
Today, 175 years after Maria Anna graced this earth, we religious women who are her extended family, mirror the passion of this valiant woman. We live a Precious Blood spirituality that reflects, and makes present again, the multi-faceted giving of our nineteenth-century Foundress. She loved her God without reprieve because she loved God unconditionally in the people whose lives daily touched hers. We women who profess to be imbued with Maria Anna’s spirit express our spirituality in a mission statement that encapsulates the compelling force of our lives: “Urged by the redeeming love of God, and rooted in Eucharistic prayer, we Sisters of the Precious Blood proclaim God’s love by being a life-giving reconciling presence in our fractured world.” It is our passion to find in the Precious Blood of Jesus the deep well from which we daily draw the refreshing water of life to be personally sustained and then to share that life-giving water with the thirsty.
The poor still find their way to our Beibelberg homes and Loewenberg castles as they seek and find our modern convent doors. In our commitment to be a life-giving presence we reach out in creative responses. The monetary grants of the Maria Anna Brunner Fund offer substantial financial support to those who endeavor to improve the lives of the poor. As we strive to live a Eucharistic presence we find countless ways to impart life anew. Through our ministries we birth vibrant life in the abused woman and the frightened immigrant; we communicate life to the illiterate and homeless; we sustain life in those who hurt physically, emotionally or spiritually; we rejuvenate life in the downtrodden and companion fragile life lingering on eternity’s edge—all experience the surge of life that quietly inundates and soothes their affliction through our presence. Our Mother Earth breathes more relaxed, from our purposeful care and conscious preservation of her treasured resources. Where we see the world fractured through violence, hunger, hatred, greed, abuse of power, natural disaster and other devastating causes, we respond with a generous womanly instinct to nurture and to protect life. The redeeming love of Jesus pulses through the fiber of our beings as we keep our ever-prayerful vigils proclaiming that love in our fractured world.