My name is Brother Franziskus. I’m 45 years of age. I joined the Neuss Congregation of Alexian Brothers at the age of 17. What deeply impressed me and drew me to the Alexians at the time (and still does) is the helpfulness, goodness and love of the Brothers toward the sick, the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized.
I can say with certainty that the good example set by the men I met in the Congregation of Alexian Brothers left no doubt in my mind that I wanted to go down this same path with them – or at least try to.
Admittedly, it wasn’t easy at the beginning, for a person like myself, who had never had any contact with mentally ill or disabled people. But the Brothers were patient with me and protected me, and gave me the opportunity to learn that I didn’t have to be perfect. My Brothers were always very understanding with me. They supported and tolerated me, and for me that was, and still is, such a gift.
After joining the Congregation of Alexian Brothers, I worked at various locked wards at a psychiatric hospital, and then got a business degree. After taking my vows, I became director of a nursing home in Siegburg, where I worked for eight years. I then returned to the Neuss Congregation of Alexian Brothers. There I founded a soup kitchen, where we Brothers provide food and clothing for homeless and disadvantaged people on a daily basis. During this period, I was also a member of the provincial council, and enrolled in college to study theology. In 2001 I became a deacon, and since then have been doing pastoral work in a large chaplain’s association. Through this work, I have met a great many people, whom I have had the privilege of accompanying “from cradle to grave.” This work fills me with tremendous joy, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do it.
I’ve been doing this work for nearly three decades. And as I sit here writing this, I see before my eyes the faces of many long-dead, as well as living, elderly Brothers. Most of them are/were not very talkative. But their worn looking hands, their pleasant faces, their benevolent faces, and certainly also their dysfunctional bones are a sign of God’s love and goodness – and for me are worth more than all of the books I’ve ever read. Many of these men achieved what they set out to do, while others are about to do so, because all of them have given their all for the good of others – with every fibre of their being. I hope to join their ranks, despite my faults and weaknesses, and I’m happy about this.