Sister M. Florence Harder

Born 1987, trained as a professional photographer, entered the Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary in 2011, currently active in working with  the Schoenstatt Girls and Young Women (MJF) in Switzerland

What experiences have formed you as a woman?

Above all, many encounters with impressive women. In my youth, these were the older leaders of the MJF (Schoenstatt Girls and Young Women) who, with a certain natural ease and genuine determination, were guided by values that also inspired me. This left a deep impression on me.

Today, it is above all some co-sisters through whom I can sense who and how Mary is. I know that the novitiate and the lifestyle of our community in general have left a special mark on me; the inner richness of our family. Nowhere else have I heard such great and beautiful words about the nature of woman as I do from our founder, Father Joseph Kentenich.

Where have you experienced God in your life?

There are the outstanding moments of the experience of God; I am thinking especially of two experiences that I had in our community. These are moments from which I always draw new strength and find answers to many questions.

But what I want to mention here is something that I only slowly became aware of in retrospect: It is the reality of the Covenant of Love. Although I had been in the Schoenstatt Youth for a long time, I did not seal the Covenant of Love until I was 21. It was on October 18, 2008, and outwardly everything was very inconspicuous; inwardly as well. We sometimes think that we have to “feel” or “sense” a lot. None of this was the case. And yet something decisively new began with this day. As if by magic, my life took a new direction from then on. The joy of faith grew, along with the desire for deeper relationships and a more fulfilling and meaningful purpose in life, until one day I asked myself whether God might want me to become a Sister of Mary. Searching inwardly, I flew to Milwaukee for a time abroad, where I not only got to know the Sisters of Mary better, but also our father and founder.

In the encounter with Father Kentenich I met God. And I am always fascinated anew when I study his life: there always remains something mysteriously inexplicable, through which the longing for God grows and at the same time the joy of being able to walk in his footsteps.

What do you see as the challenge for women today?

This year a conference for young women and mothers took place in Quarten with the theme “Being present in the moment”. A great longing is concentrated in this topic. This is what we want and it is an essential part of being a woman. Father Kentenich speaks in this context of the ideal of woman: to be “All soul, all purity, all surrender”.

To be soulful has something to do with inner harmony and contentment, with a certain balance and relaxation, in order to be able to be there for others. The manifold demands that women have to face today, the pressure to perform and an overabundance of information in our digital world; all this does not really foster the quality of being soulful. There is a danger that we function like machines, but this is totally contrary to our womanhood. This is a real challenge, but one for which Schoenstatt has an answer; I am thinking of the spirituality of childlikeness, or the Covenant of Love with Mary: She is a counterbalance and always shows us anew the true beauty of being a woman. She is the woman of inner greatness and inner richness, the woman who is completely present, who lives in the moment and preserves everything in her heart.

In my opinion, this is exactly what our time needs: people, women, who live from within and have a great inner richness. Women who know for whom they are “everything”, to whom they belong – and in this regard, the abiding support in God is of essential importance.

What do you want to change in this world through your life?

I have placed my entire life on one card: Schoenstatt. I want to live so that a new holy springtime will dawn from the Schoenstatt Shrine, especially through “new women”. As I have experienced it in my own life, I want to show through my life who and how Mary is – by no means a dusty statue, but rather a woman for our time who embodies our deepest longing and who can and wants to help us in the Covenant of Love to realize this beautiful ideal of woman.