Act IV: Crises and Clerical Support

Dr. Schels Defends School Sisters of Notre Dame and Their General Superior

The continuing attempts at dialogue pursued by Mother Theresa and her sisters led to deeper anxiety. Amid this turmoil of spirit, Dr. Bernard Schels was a faithful friend and tireless advocate of the School Sisters of Notre Dame in Rome.

Outstretched hand

Letter #1250 from Mother Theresa to Dr. Schels relates the issues she is trying to negotiate with Archbishop von Reisach. Writing to Dr. Schels she said, "I often visualize the Blessed Virgin standing beneath the cross as I meditate on the words, 'she stood'." In letter #1364, Mother Theresa shares her feelings in negotiating with the clerical church, and her deep sorrow for her sisters.

After a fateful meeting with Archbishop von Reisach, April 21, 1852, Mother Theresa felt weak and broken. However, she continued to contact friends of the congregation asking them to speak on behalf of the threatened community. Dr. Schels contacted prelates in whose dioceses School Sisters of Notre Dame were serving. He asked them to write a testimony on behalf of the sisters’ work as they had experienced it in their respective schools. One example of testimony was written by Cardinal Diepenbrock on his deathbed.

Archbishop von Reisach was so angry with Mother Theresa that he placed her under “Interdict,” a juridical act that had serious consequences for the future growth of the congregation.

In times of crises, a dream can often give guidance and hope.


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