Educational holiday for two novices

Thursday, November 19th

On the feast of St. Elisabeth the two novices Alejandra and Victoria arrived in Linz. They left Cracow in the morning by plane and took the ICE train which goes directly from Vienna Airport to Linz. It was a wonderful feeling to meet the two young women at the train! Almost a miracle became true! After Barbara an I (Andreas) had been several times in El Berba and saw where Victoria was living, now she stepped down to our home town together with her novice friend Alejandra! We were happy!

In the train station we first had a short visit to the Caritas Centre for Migrants. Since September many migrants especially from Afghanistan and Syria pass by Linz. The one who ask for Asylum in Linz, mostly the ones from Afghanistan don’t get any accommodation by the government anymore. The two large camps close to Vienna and in Upper Austria are overcrowded and the government seems in no hurry to find any solutions. As long as they are not registered at any official address they don’t get their Migrant ID, nor place in a german course, nor starts the official process of acknowledgment their status as refugees. So the Caritas works hard to find every evening private places to stay over night for about 100 migrants. Many Migrants, living already in Linz since some time, help as volunteer translators between the Caritas volunteers and the Migrants. Quickly Victoria got into an conversation with one of the Arab speaking translators. The help of so many people bringing food, clothes and many other useful things needed is incredible! Beside private persons, also parishes and the Muslim Community opened their houses and homes to avoid, that the migrants have to sleep in the open air! We see many men, but also women, children and whole families looking for a better life in Austria.

With two heavy suitcase trolling behind us we went to the Kolping restaurant for a first Austrian lunch together. Kolping an social organisation founded by Fr. Adolf Kolping in the middle of the 19th century for young people in apprenticeship. So in this house you find apartments for young and also old aged people, you can stay in the Hotel and eat in the public cafeteria. Alejandra tried the typical Austrian dish with mushroom sauce and dumpling out of breadcrumbs (Semmelknödel).

The afternoon and evening we stayed at home to relax, chat and reorganise the luggage. There was a lot to talk about their experiences in Cracow and from earlier times. Guatemala, Egypt and Austria, three countries – three realities of life, so different – so much to share!

Friday November 20th

The next morning we left early to go to the Ignatius House the home of Fr. Werner Hebeisen. Werner was in Ein Karem last August and gave a music workshop to the other novices who had their pastoral experience in Jerusalem. So Alejandra and Victoria got the chance to meet Werner now and have some introduction in music. Being convinced that they cant sing, Werner slowly proofed the opposite with lots of patience. So at the end they sang an english song, and to traditional Austrian songs including a “Jodler”. In the theatre hall of the Jesuits community he has stored his almost 30 instruments which you can see on his website It was a joy for them to try instruments they never had seen before, like Kora from Westafrica or an Alphorn from Switzerland. The huge Ignatius Church with its Baroque style was impressive.

At lunch with the Jesuits we got “Kaesknoepfle” – “Kaesspaetzle”, a traditional dish from the most western province of Austria, where the cook comes from. Missing the english word, the Internet will quickly bring you a lot of pictures for this special dish with lots of cheese and onions on top.

Then we walked out into the rain, which we got after a long dry summer season. Slowly the cold and wet of the winter is showing up. We searched for some christmas presents as Juliana asked the tow young women. Something nice from Austria to find, was the task! In a Souvenir shop on the main square they found what they liked. – Be surprised!

We then climbed up the hill to the castle of Linz to have a view over the city and on the bronze model of the city just before the large fire in 1800. There we could see how the town has grown and changed. The number of churches was remarkable! And we remembered landmarks which we saw afterwards on our promenade through the town. Even over and medieval bridge which was only found recently during the building of a parking centre. In the neo-gothic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception we saw some glasstoned windows about the Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land at the beginning of the 20th century. We could identify some places we know in Israel and Palestine. What a surprise in Linz! In the right-front aisle we found the stele to commemorate Franz Jaegerstaetter who was beatified in 2006 as Martyr of the Nazi Regime because of his consciousness objection. After the visit of Auschwitz we could learn that there also have been christian people who denied to serve in the brutal and unjust system and paid with there life for their believe. Since 2013 you also find a photo of Franziska Jaegerstaetter his widow who died a few days after her 100. birthday, after a lifelong love to her husband.

We also saw the new Synagogue of Linz, built in the seventies of the last century after it was burned during the “Reichsprogromnacht”. The new Beit Knesset is built on the foundation of the old one, just beside the Catholic University and Priest seminar. Opposite the synagogue you find the High school where also Adolf Hitler went too. So as a young boy he passed by the synagogue many times and surely saw Jews in his daily life.
Cold and wet we drooped into a Cafe with lots of Austrian Pastry. Especially the original Linzer Torte (Linz Cake) we enjoyed beside the warming up with a hot chocolate.

In the evening we all together with Werner and Barbara went to the Concert Hall of Linz named after the famous composer Anton Bruckner who lived and played the organ in Linz. According to the month of November the concert was called “Totentanz” (“Dance of the dead”). We a little were afraid it could become depressive. But no idea! High emotional and technical brilliant music moved, nourished and enjoyed our spirit! There was even a connexion to Poland with the commemorate music for the massacre of Katyn.

  • Robert Schumann: Ouvertuere to „Manfred – dramatic poem by Lord Byron with Musik op. 115“
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: Choral „O Mensch, bewein dein Suende groß“
  • Franz Liszt: „Totentanz“ – Paraphrase about „Dies Irae“ for piano und Orchestra
  • Andrzej Panufnik: „Katýn Epitaph“
  • Richard Strauss: „Tod und Verklaerung“ (“Death and Clarifying”) – Symphonic Poetry op. 24

The rest of the evening we spent in an alternative Cafe sharing our lives and having fun.

Saturday November 21th

Saturday morning lots of time was needed to fix the two notebooks, improving the skills using the iPad and doing some shopping.

For lunch we again had guests. Fr. Hebeisen came again for some music introduction and also my father came to meet the novices. He had translated a text written by Victoria for the website, as he already did with many other texts from the Novices. So they enjoyed to improve the text and clarify some questions occurred during translation.

In the afternoon we started a special expedition! The two wanted to see where Sr. Juliana comes from and grew up! In Holzackern a small neighbourhood outside the village Meggenhofen we met her elder sister Pauline and her nephew Juergen. Juergen is now living in the house where Juliana spent her childhood. There she learned her love for the countryside, for animals and growing gardens. Both coming from villages, Alejandra and Victoria now could better feel how much Juliana had loved El Berba and liked to live there! Also in Holzackern we found chicken and rabbits running around. Pauline and Juergen were happy to show Alejandra und Victoria around and give them a feeling how it was when Juliana lived here.

Later on we visited a family whom we are friend of since years! Martin and Johanna had been very much engaged in One world topics, running a fairtrade shop since many years. Martin also had helped us to get the financing for the car in Berba from MIVA. From Martin we heard about the children of polish forced slave-workers who had been in Upper Austria during the “Third Reich”. These women were not allowed to get in relation to local man and even more were forbidden to become pregnant. So the children where brought to several orphanages where they were treated badly. By less food and cold housing many became sick and died. Their fate was unknown for decades until Martin started research about this victims and slowly also found survivors whom he could visit in Poland. Johanna, Martins wife works in the “Lebenshilfe” a workshop for people with special needs. There they produce woven carpets out of used material in a very old traditional way. Alejandra told us about the women in her country weaving the tissues for their clothes. So she was interested in the method of weaving Johanna could show her on a carpet lying on their floor.

Sunday November 22th

After a long evening at home working a lot on their computer we had to get up early to go to our Parish church, called “Peace Church” – “Christ the King”. As it is our Patrozinium we always have a christmas market already on this Sunday. Since some years Barbara and I are selling goods from Palestine in the name of Pax Christi, whom we are member of. Mostly carved goods out of Olive wood produced by the Christian families in Bethlehem, Olive Oil and some products of the L’Arche workshop “Ma’an lil-Hayat” – “Together for Life” in Bethlehem. We where happy to have Alejandra and Victoria with us to share experiences with the people of the parish and help us selling the products.

We together distributed a small candle with a prayer text as “Peace Candle FOR Bethlehem”. As in Austria there is this large tradition of a “Peace-light from Bethlehem” with Pax Christi we thought a Prayer FOR Bethlehem could help to raise the Austrian people’s consciousness for the needs of the people in Bethlehem.
The mass was special as the young boys and girls becoming members of the “Jungschar” (Catholic children’s movement) and altar-boys and altar-girls where received during this mass. Every new child came with a crown, as following Jesus as our king, every child is living the dignity of a king. It was a joyful mass with lots of singing and participation of different responsible persons, most of them quite young. We just felt sorry for the two novices, as everything was in German and beside the music and the atmosphere they could not understand a word. Only at the end we could sing together the african song “We are marching in the light of the Lord!”
Two Muslim Migrants of Afghanistan, whom we had hosted for a night, also came to the market as they were interested to get into more contact with Austrian people and experience Austrian life and tradition. So we have been a mixed group from different countries, cultural background and religion sitting together in the community hall of our parish, some enjoying bavarian “Weisswurst” and “Weizenbeer”, others eating the delicious cakes. Interesting and challenging!

Back home full of experiences and a joyful heart, we had to look forward to say good bye! It have been three wonderful days of living together as family with lots of interest in each others life! “I now can understand much more what you are doing and feeling, after I saw how you life and heard your story!” – a sentence we several times told each other in our conversations! Thank you for this wonderful time which made a dream come true!
The direct train was going to bring Alejandra and Victoria back to the airport from where they took the late flight to Ben Gurion airport. Thanks god both arrived well and safe very early on Monday morning in Ein Karem, where the Novitiate community waited for them at the gate with much love!


Article in the Catholic Newspaper of Linz: 

  When an Egyptian woman „jodels“! (664.4 KiB, 241 hits)
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