Are you a person who’d like to help people in need, out of Christian brotherly love? Are you seeking an alternative to today’s achievement-oriented society, where the profit motive grows stronger each day, and where there is less and less time for quiet reflection? Do you dream of having time for spirituality, sacred texts, and your beliefs, so that you can share them with others and live them out intensively? Then the Congregation of Alexian Brothers may well be the right community for you. As a Catholic Order serving the vulnerable, we tend to the elderly, ill, handicapped, underprivileged and excluded at our own facilities, as well as outside an institutional context.
This website tells you how you can shape your path into our order. You will also find the following here: food for thought; answers to key questions about entering our Order; a wealth of useful information about our Order, possible work activities, and community life. If you’d like further information or would like to speak with us personally, simply e-mail or contact us directly. We look forward to hearing from you.
Vows of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers
Vows of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers
Vows of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers
The Congregation of Alexian Brothers is a lay, apostolic Catholic Order. Unlike contemplative Orders, doing the “practical work of the Gospel” lies at the heart of our activities. The help we provide for the sick, elderly, handicapped, and mentally ill constitutes the core of our social commitment. You can support us in our various areas of activity, some of which require training.
This brotherly love arises from our Christianity. All of our actions are based on a profound faith. The belief that every human being is a child of God distinguishes our approach from that of mere humanism. By celebrating Mass daily, by reading the Scriptures, and through individual and community prayer, we find our way to God. Striking a balance between life in a religious community on one hand and our social commitment on the other is central to the Congregation of Alexian Brothers.
The Congregation of Alexian Brothers, which is named after St. Alexius, goes back to the Beguines, which was a 12th century apostolic community of Brothers. The first congregations were founded in around 800 in Flanders and The Netherlands, followed by new congregations in Cologne, Aachen, Neuss and Tier. In the 19th century, Congregations of Alexian Brothers were founded worldwide. Today, we have around 70 congregations in seven countries, namely the US, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Hungary and the Philippines. Around 20 Alexian Brothers live in Germany. The Mother House of our Order is located in Aachen, and the provincial Order administration is located in Münster.
My name is Brother Joseph. I was born in 1974 in Kerala, India, where in 1994 I joined the Congregation of Alexian Brothers, after having initially wanted to become a Catholic priest. I relocated to Germany in 2006 and currently live with the Congregation of Alexian Brothers in Münster, Germany. Having studied theology and history in an Indian university, I obtained my nursing license by passing the certification exam at Herz-Jesu-Krankenhaus hospital in Münster-Hiltrup. So now I’d like to tell you about how the typical day of an Alexian Brother unfolds.
5:30 a.m.: Time to wake up
The night comes to an end via an electronic beep. I reach out for my cell phone, which I keep next to my bed, switch off the alarm, and yawn. I don’t at all mind waking up so early: it’s part of my daily routine. Today I’m working the late shift at the hospital. When I work the early shift, I set the alarm for 5 a.m. I sit down on the edge of my bed and look inward.
All is still quiet on the second floor, where each of us has his own room. The rooms average around 16 square meters in size, and have their own bathroom. My glance falls on the painting of the Roman skyline on the wall opposite me. Along with the wooden cross above my bed and a handful of photographs, this painting is the only decoration on the walls of my room. I also have a desk, a bookshelf, a bed and a bedside table. We Alexian Brothers keep possessions to an absolute minimum.
The sun has already risen. I go over to the window and open it. I feel the gentle morning air on my face. I hear birds chirping. It smells like summer outside. July 11, 2014 is going to be a good day.
Shortly before 6 a.m. I go downstairs to the chapel on the ground floor. Here, we Brothers gather each day for morning prayers, which last around half an hour and comprise around 15 minute each of lauds (morning prayers) and meditation. We do not engage in any singing: the mood is solemn and tranquil. For each of us, morning prayers have been part of our daily routine since joining the Congregation of Alexian Brothers.
When the prayers are over, Brother Damian heads off to work at Alexianer-Krankenhaus hospital, where his shift is from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The other Brothers repair to the dining room a few doors down, for breakfast.
Our Congregation comprises eight Brothers living at Alexianerkloster Münster. Five of us work at Alexian hospital facilities, which are only a few minutes away from here. The other three Brothers are pensioners who no longer work on a regular basis, but who do volunteer work, their health allowing. Brother Michael is one of these individuals. As an early riser, for years now he’s been in charge of preparing the breakfast buffet – before morning prayers of course. Thus breakfast is ready when we emerge from the chapel.
It consists of the usual items. I help myself to a roll, curd cheese, honey and a cup of tea, and sit down at one of the three dining room tables. Needless to say, we’ve all noticed the bouquet of flowers on the middle table. Today is Brother Benedikt’s name day. My name day is March 19th. My birth name is Joseph. Other Brothers took their Alexian names at the end of their Postulancy. I’m happy for Brother Benedikt and enjoy looking at the flowers. It’s a joyful breakfast on a beautiful summer morning.
When I work the late shift, I’m free in the morning. As breakfast doesn’t end at a fixed time, I spend some time with Brother Bernhard and Brother Bonifatius. The other Brothers have already left the dining room. At some point I decide to leave the dining room and enjoy the lovely weather by going for a bike ride. We get around via a few bikes and cars, which we can borrow.
I come back to the house at 9:30 and go to my room. I switch on my laptop and go online. I first go to Spiegel Online and then to the Münstersche Zeitung (local newspaper) website. Then I tune in to Radio Vatican and watch a few Kaya Yanar videos on YouTube (he’s a famous German comedian). I’m a big comedy fan. Not my only “guilty pleasure,” I admit. Despite my being from India, I adore German pop singers, my favourite female vocalist being Helene Fischer; but I also love listening to Andrea Berg. But today I’m not really in the mood for music, so I call my family in Kerala, in southern India. My sister picks up the phone. We speak for a few minutes, but then it’s time to get ready for noon prayers.
12:15 p.m.: Noon prayers and lunch
Our noon prayers are also held in the chapel. Afterwards, we eat together in the dining room. For this meal Brother Michael can sit back and relax, since our lunches are delivered to us by the hospital’s catering service. Today we’re having roast beef, red cabbage, and potatoes.
The late shift begins at 1:30 p.m. for me and the other Brothers who still work. I’m a nurse at Damian-Klink, which is a hospital for elderly patients suffering from depression or dementia. Each member of our Alexian Congregation has a different job, depending on his training. For example, Brother Michael is a prison chaplain, whereas Brother Raphael works at a workshop for the disabled, and Brother Benedikt is in charge of pastoral activities and religious services in our Congregation and for the hospital.
As work is only a short distance away, I walk there. Sometimes I go by bike instead. Either way, it only takes me a few minutes to get there. But as I’m always early, I can take my time.
I enter the ward with a smile on my face. I’m glad to see my coworkers. There’s a good atmosphere on the ward, and there are no hierarchical differences between us nurses. Nor is there any visual difference, i.e. while I’m on the ward I wear a nurse’s uniform, rather than a vestment. Sometimes people ask me about life in my Order, and I’m of course more than happy to answer their questions.
I also have a good relationship with the doctors – and of course with the patients too. Because after all, I made a conscious decision, out of Christian brotherly love, to become a nurse. For me, nursing is not just a vocation, but also a calling, to help my fellow human beings. It’s particularly important to me to have time for my patients and their needs; because after all, I don’t work at a car wash.
Even in cases where my shift ends at 9:15 p.m., I can still attend 6:30 p.m. Mass, which is held in our hospital chapel. Patients are also welcome to celebrate Mass here with our Alexian Brothers. Mass is held at our own hospital chapel on Tuesdays, Sundays and holidays. But I can’t attend in cases where we’re understaffed for the late shift.
Following 6:30 p.m. Mass, the Brothers who work the early shift have dinner. After dinner on Sundays and holidays we gather in the common room (which has a fireplace). We refer to this daily respite as recreation. We drink beer or wine, and there’s also chocolate and peanuts. We of course also have a TV, which we switch on at 8 p.m. sharp to watch the evening news. We also enjoy watching a popular German cop show called Tatort, or watch international sports events such as soccer, when a German team is playing. Apart from that we spend the time talking, or – depending on our mood – finish out the day in our rooms. At 7:30 p.m. we gather in the chapel for evening prayers.
Because my day at the hospital was stressful, I fall into bed tired but happy. My glance again falls on the painting of the Roman skyline. Just before falling asleep, I think about how I’d like to visit the Eternal City next year.
Do you wonder what prompts men to join the Congregation of Alexian Brothers? Here, Alexian Brothers speak about how they came to join the Order, about their decision to enter the Novitiate and to remain with the Alexians – and about their life in the Congregation of Alexian Brothers.
To read the interview, click on the arrow.
Interview with Alexian Brother Dominikus Seeberg, 41, about his decision to enter the Novitiate and become a member of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers.
Interview with Brother Franziskus, 45, about his beginnings in the Congregation of Alexian Brothers, the various kinds of work he has done, and about life in the Congregation.
Interview with Brother Kamilus about how he came to join the Congregation of Alexian Brothers, and his life as an Alexian Brother.
An interview with Brother Nikolaus about how he came to join the Congregation of Alexian Brothers
Interview with Alexian Brother Raphael, 70, concerning his 50 years as a member of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers.
In this section, you’ll find FAQs about the Congregation of Alexian Brothers (general matters, health insurance and pensions, leisure time, community life, and work activities). For further information, feel free to pay us a visit, or e-mail us at dominikus(at)alexianerbrueder-neuss.de We’ll get back to you ASAP.
Antonius the Great (251–356 A.D.) is considered to be the founder of Christian communities. Inspired by the life of Jesus, Antonius decided to live a monastic life in the Egyptian desert. Many people followed his example. Later on, monks formed communities (also known as congregations), and this gave rise to the first monasteries. Western European religious communities date back to Benedict of Nursia, the founder of the Benedictine Order. Religious orders devoted not to contemplation but to pastoral work for the ill and disadvantaged were first founded during the Middle Ages, and some still exist today – including the Congregation of Alexian Brothers. Our Congregation dates back to the Beguine movement in the 13th century.
Because we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who showed us how to live, and how to find eternal life. As baptized Christians, we feel called upon to model our lives on the life of Jesus, by making God and our fellow human beings central to our lives. This is why prayer and being of service to the ill and disadvantaged are so important to us. And this is also why we neither found families nor acquire personal possessions, and live in obedience to the community.
We publicly take a vow of poverty and chastity, because we want to model our lives on the life of Jesus in our community. Thus our vows are a sign of devotion and love. They also enable us to focus on the essentials, and obviate the need for us to constantly reflect on our way of life. The vows entail renouncing much that is important to and that seems normal to many people. But they also create a space in which we can devote ourselves in a special way to God, our fellow human beings, and ourselves.
Not in the least. Like everyone else, we need to deal with everyday problems. But our way of life differs from that of many people. We’ve found that the awareness of the presence of God, the stillness in our community, serving others and serving the community in concert with each other are fulfilling, give us strength, are satisfying, and give life meaning.
In some religious communities, people spend most of their time in silence. It’s also quiet in our community, although we have no specific rule of silence. In our media-besotted era, stillness does you good. In other words, it’s not only members of our community who seek stillness, but oftentimes our guests as well. Stillness and silence are by no means an expression of disdain for communication; nor are they self-serving. The main purpose of stillness and silence is to be able to listen – to God and others. We are better able to hear the spirit of God in stillness. This is not always possible in the hurly-burly of everyday life. Our silence is also a sign of our respect for the privacy of others. Our own spontaneous ideas, thoughts and moods shouldn’t immediately become the centrer of attention. It’s sometimes better to choose our words carefully.
No. However, a person’s age has an effect on them, and community life takes a lot out of you – but it also gives a lot back. With this in mind, experience has shown that it’s more difficult for people over the age of 50 to join the community.
If your wife is alive, you cannot join the community, since the obligation to a wife and children takes precedence. Moreover, in Catholicism divorce is prohibited; nor can a marriage be dissolved by joining a religious community. You can, however, join the Congregation of Alexian Brothers if your wife dies (or has died) and your children have come of age.
Small pets are allowed, but as a rule dogs and cats are not. In order for you to bring a pet with you to the community, all of the Brothers would need to grant their consent and accept the pet; otherwise we would be unable to do right by it.
You need to be a baptized and devout Catholic who loves God and enjoys praying. You also need to be 18 year of age or older and single, and have the ability to stand on your own two feet. You need to have a high school diploma, and be of sound mind and body, so that you can fulfill the calling of our community. If you are not a Catholic and wish to join the Congregation of Alexian Brothers, you would need to convert to Catholicism before joining.
Yes. There are various congregations of Alexian Brothers in Germany and abroad. This allows us to relocate for personal or work related reasons.
We gather five times daily for prayers, and also eat breakfast and dinner together. At other times, each Brother goes to work. On Sunday nights or on holidays, we drink a beer or a glass of wine together and socialize with each other. Each Brother has time off, according to their work schedule. To learn more, go to the “A typical day” rubric.
You would be free to spend your free time (outside of prayer times and working hours) as you see fit – for example, to run errands. That said, in the interest of facilitating the extreme lifestyle change entailed by community life, and promoting a spiritual life, it would be important for us not to lose you to the hurly-burly of urban life, discos, partying and the like. We model ourselves on Jesus, who conversed and celebrated with people, and who laughed and cried with them; but he did not lose himself in the secular hubbub of the affluent upper classes of his time.
We gather five times day for prayer, the first time being at 6 a.m. We gather for the Liturgy of the Hours (Breviary) four times daily, at which time we recite the psalms and listen to a reading from the Bible. Once a day we celebrate Mass, which is the centrepiece of the day and of community life.
If you hurt or insult someone, you should apologize to them; but you should also forgive a person who wrongs you. Apart from this, you need not justify your presence in a Congregation of Alexian Brothers.
During the first two and half years in the community (i.e. during your Postulancy and Novitiate), you are free to leave the community at any time, or can be asked to leave the community. After this period, you take your vows, usually for a one year period, during which you are not permitted to leave. When this year is up, you and the community reflect on whether you should join the community and can continue on your path. This same process occurs each year for the next four years. After five years, an Alexian Brother makes his eternal vows, and binds himself for life to the Congregation of Alexian Brothers.
You should be serious about your vow to emulate the life of Jesus in accordance with the evangelical counsels, through poverty, obedience and chastity, in order to reach the kingdom of heaven. If you are extremely unhappy ? or if, owing to a mental disorder, you come into constant conflict with the other Brothers ? you can ask the Pope to revoke your vows and can then leave the community.
You can join, stay with us, or visit us at any time.
You will be given your Alexian name after completing your Postulancy (i.e. after six months), during the official induction ceremony into the Noviate. You are free to choose your own name, but are also allowed to keep your legal name.
You can talk to an Alexian Brother at any time and ask any member of the community for help. However, many Brothers also have a spiritual counsellor who does not live in their own community.
If you are having a problem, you can discuss it with the provincial head of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers. If you encounter difficulties, the other Brothers or your superior will discuss the matter with you, with a third person present.
Yes, and you would be required to follow his directives in all matters pertaining to community life. And you would also of course have superiors at your job, depending on where you work.
Of course. You are allowed to bring your own furnishings, but there is no real need to do so.
Yes, if you wish to.
This would be discussed with the provincial head the Congregation of Alexian Brothers. Your personal preferences would also be taken into account. We divide household tasks among ourselves.
Various meetings are held annually, where Congregation of Alexian Brothers from Germany and abroad gather. Stays abroad are also possible, from time to time.
You can inform an authorized Brother, so that he can address the issue. Or you can talk to the Brother in question about his action, in a spirit of brotherly love. Denouncing or snitching on other Brothers is frowned upon in Alexian communities.
We have official community garb for the summer, winter and for work. However, we are permitted to wear normal street clothing such as jeans, shirts and sweaters. Wearing the official community garb is mandatory during Mass, and on special occasions, as a sign of oneness and devotion.
Yes. Like most other people, we, too, use modern technology.
Yes. You would be allowed to decide, according to your interests, which kind of job you’d like to have, e.g. nursing, building trades, pastoral care, household work, management tasks, or social work. However, you need training for many of these areas. But we also provide services where help is needed.
Not necessarily, as this would depend on the kind of work you would be doing.
You would be permitted to change jobs at any time, and support us in another area.
Yes. Good on the job training, or training in a college setting, is important to us. You could do your training at an Alexian facility, or at any other accredited training institution.
Yes. However, your job would need to benefit the sick, poor or underprivileged.
All Alexian facilities in Germany are owned by the Stiftung der Alexianerbrüder (Alexian Brothers Foundation), which operates various hospitals, facilities for the disabled, and nursing homes. We currently have around 12,500 employees. You can apply as an ordinary healthcare worker (gewöhnlicher Mitarbeiter im Gesundheitswesen). If you would like to spend time in a setting that will help you find your way in your personal or work life, or if you’re considering the possibility of pursuing a career in a field involving a Christian charity, our Alexian Year program might be a possibility. During this year, you would live with us and take part in the daily routine of the community. You would also work in one of our areas of activity. Hence the Alexian Year is a way of testing the waters of life in a religious community.
We get 28 days of vacation per year, as well as eight days for religious exercises (days devoted to contemplation). The community foots the bill for both.
We have one day a week off, which means that we’re allowed to do whatever we want on that day, either alone or with others. You would also be allowed to see people on other days, provided that doing so does not interfere with your work or the daily routine in the community, including prayer times. You would also be allowed to invite friends and family members to stay at the community for a few days at a time.
If visits aren’t feasible, you can maintain contact with friends and family by phone or e-mail.
You would have your own room, to which you can retire at any time.
As an Alexian Brother, you would not have your own car. However, each Congregation of Alexian Brothers has one or more cars, depending on the size of the congregation. The cars are shared, in that each person indicates in a calendar the date or dates upon which he wishes to use a community vehicle.
Yes. As we are involved in both church and work activities, we participate in many outside events and work at many different workplaces. Holiday travel destinations should be consonant with the simple lifestyle of a member of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers. You would also be allowed to visit Alexian Brothers abroad.
In keeping with the teachings of the Gospels, our salaries go into a common fund. Each Brother receives, from this fund, the money he needs for items such as clothing, toilet articles, books, PC accessories, vacations and so on. Each Brother receives €70 per month for his own personal needs.
Yes, provided that they are in keeping with community life.
Yes, you will still have health insurance if you join the Congregation of Alexian Brothers. As a rule, all members of the Congregation are insured by the Barmer Ersatzkasse insurance company.
Members of the Congregation of Alexian Brothers normally work on an on-call basis, which entails a special kind of work contract. For each member of the Congregation, we set up a pension fund comprising the minimum statutory pension, and also take out additional private pension insurance. Retirement age is governed by law. Currently, pension payments begin at age 65 or 67. But all Alexian Brothers do volunteer work after reaching retirement age, their health permitting. In our community, there’s no such thing as “retiring with a pension” per se, since life in our community is a way of life, not a job.
Yes, we set aside provisions for nursing care for each member of the Congregation, via private-sector insurance – in addition to government pension insurance.
Absolutely. Like everyone else, we see a doctor if we’re ill, and where warranted receive a doctor’s certificate for our respective employers. We also receive medications or other medical supplies, via a prescription, or pay for them from community funds.
Yes. However, upon taking the vow of poverty, with the goal of modelling your life ever more closely on the life of Jesus and not making acquisitiveness the main goal of your life, you would appoint an individual of your choosing to manage your assets and would not be allowed to use them. If you receive an inheritance, you would be allowed to accept it. But while you remain a member of the community, you would also appoint a trustee to manage your inheritance. You would name the heirs to these assets in your will. But under certain circumstances, you would be allowed to give your assets away before your death.
In our community, you will have many opportunities to participate and to support the Congregation of Alexian Brothers. Regardless of whether you’re working in a healthcare or administrative job, your activity or activities will be fully aligned with your own preferences and talents – even though basic knowledge of the hospital sector is mandatory for all Alexian Brothers. Formal training is required for some of the jobs that are available in our community.
We provide care worldwide in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, facilities for the disabled, and homes for AIDS patients. We also operate workshops for the disabled.
Are you considering the possibility of joining the Congregation of Alexian Brothers or participating in the Alexian Year program? And are you wondering if this is right for you? The answer might well be “yes,” if the statements listed below apply to you. Apart from the objective criteria, which we’d be more than happy to discuss with you in case of doubt, we above all place importance on your inner/spiritual life and your relationship to God. Hence the checklist below can of course not be a substitute for our getting to know each other, and is merely intended as preliminary orientation.
|I’m a male, aged 18 or older.|
|I am (or will be) a Catholic at the time I join the community|
|I have a relationship to God, feel connected to Christ, and enjoy praying.|
|I’m in good physical and mental health, and can submit documents proving this fact.|
|I have a high school diploma. If I don’t, there are reasons for this that I can explain during an interview.|
|I’m single, widowed or divorced.|
|I have no children, or if I do, I am not legally required to support them or care for them in any way.|
|My private life is orderly. I am currently subject to no social obligations. I am also not in debt and am not paying off a surety bond.|
|I would like to be of assistance to elderly, ill, disabled and other disadvantaged individuals – a desire that is rooted in my Christian faith and my love of Christ.|
|My dedication to others stems from my Christian brotherly love.|
|I’m aware of the fact that life with the Congregation of Alexian Brothers would take a lot out of me, but would also give me a lot back. But I am nonetheless an emphatic person who’s also a team player and who has good communication and conflict resolution skills.|
|It would be no problem for me to embody the evangelical counsels through poverty, obedience and chastity, in order to reach the kingdom of heaven – even though I do not yet fully understand their deeper meaning.|
Phone: +49 (0)2501 / 966 20 400
Fax: +49 (0)2501 / 966 20 444
Managing director: Provinzial Br. Dominikus Seeberg CFA
Register court: Amtsgericht Münster (Local Court)
Registration number: VR 5328
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Dr. Heiko Haaz, externer Datenschutzbeauftragter, Nützenberger Straße 119, 42115 Wuppertal
Tel: +49 202 26574-0
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