My name is Brother Nikolaus. I was 23 years of age when I joined our Congregation. And though I wasn’t very old, I could still look back on important experiences in my life. At the age of 14, I began working as a caregiver, and lived on my own in a nursing home that was owned by my employer at the time.
I came to the decision to join a religious community in a rather unusual fashion. While participating, with my coworkers at the nursing home, in so called orientation days, the leader of this group surprised me by asking me the following question, during a break: “Do you think a religious community might be something for you?” Where, I thought to myself, did he get this idea? Me, a member of a religious community? But I couldn’t get the idea out of my head – I have no idea why.
So on the spur of the moment I went to Mainz, where I obtained information from an office known as the Religious-Occupations Bureau. A short time later, I sought out the advice of the chaplain at our nursing home. His opinion was important to me, because we were friends. What he said was: “You belong here with us.” And so, I thought to myself, what now? I proceeded to destroy all of the written information I’d obtained, and kept working at the hospital. But I still couldn’t get rid of the idea of joining a religious community; but at the same time my will to work in such a community grew weaker.
I thought that a trip to Rome for an audience with the Pope, and reading a Vatican newspaper, might help me out. Then I saw an ad for the Congregation of Alexian Brothers, and contacted them. Over a five year period, I visited the Congregation in Aachen, worked alongside the Brothers there, spent a lot of time talking to them, and got to know the community. The decision was a lengthy process and I have never regretted it. There are of course highs and lows in our community, but that’s true of any way of life.