Cellites according to the rule of St. Augustine
On November 19, 1838, four sisters and a novice from the Cellitinnenkloster in Kupfergasse and two sisters from the Cellitinnenkloster in Antonsgasse accepted the offer from the City of Cologne and took over the Bürgerhospital. They moved into the building on November 28th of that year. In 1839 they had eleven sisters. Even if they were initially referred to as a branch monastery of the sisters in Antonsgasse, they formed an independent community from the start, which the city of Cologne also gave its own statutes in 1840. Here you can already see how strong their dependency was on the city's poor administration, which itself decided to accept new members into the community. Around 1840 the Bürgerhospital had around 280 places for the disabled and around 150 for the sick, but only 13 nurses. When the new Bürgerhospital was completed and the sisters had moved, their number was increased to 24 by the poor commission, although not every sister was granted a separate room. Since the number of interested women began to increase, but the positions were all filled, the superior asked for the number of members to be increased to 30 sisters, which was rejected outright by the poor administration.
Due to the union plans with the sisters of the other houses, on February 6, 1862, twelve sisters took perpetual vows and four novices took full vows for five years, four sisters refused to take the vows and the seven postulants were to take the triple vows in the future. But in the same year the unification plans failed. In March 1865, the sisters bought a house in Niederündorf, on the right bank of the Rhine, to set up the novitiate there.
Since they had the corporate rights, the superior and another sister acted as buyers, but this led to disputes. After 20 years there were new elections in which Superior General Dominica Barth was replaced by Sister Crescentia Schmitz. But instead of calm, this only brought greater unrest and divisions into the community. As in the other Cellite monasteries, the issue was the introduction of poverty, the group around the Superior General was willing, but the opposing group had more capable members. Maintaining the health service became more and more difficult for the 23 professed, five novices and seven postulants, especially since six sisters were no longer able to work. Since the spring of 1867 , the Neuss Augustinians sent up to 10 novices to the Cologne Citizens' Hospital. In the unification plans, 14 Cologne sisters readily agreed to join the Neuss congregation, which only Neuss would accept as the general motherhouse and novitiate. After the archbishop was told from there on February 15 of the following year that the Bürgerhospital would be taken over as a branch after the merger, they backed down again in April and cited a shortage of young people as the reason.
The situation became more and more complicated when the poor administration no longer accepted the presence of the Neuss sisters and Sister Dominica Barth was in a completely unclear position in Zündorf. Finally, the poor administration gave in, but specified such conditions for further merger negotiations that they refused any further negotiations in Neuss. The main wish of the General Superior was now to create an independent motherhouse with a novitiate for the reform-willing sisters, while she wanted to leave the rest of them in the Bürgerhospital as a branch. In future they were excluded from all activities of the congregation and could only observe them from a distance.
In October 1869 they bought the Mommerslocher Hof on Severinstrasse for 14,500 thaler, which they moved into on January 15, 1870 and which had already registered 22 admissions by December. But soon there was another setback when, on October 23, 1875, in the aftermath of the Kulturkampf , the young community was only allowed to accept new members with the consent of the government in each individual case. But since they did not want to submit to state control and continue to accept new members, novices were no longer dressed and secretly placed their vows in the hands of the confessor.
On September 2, 1882, the ban was generally lifted again, but the sisters emerged stronger from this time, as they had been able to secretly accept no fewer than 42 female aspirants. On October 14th of the same year the first branch outside Cologne, namely in St. Vith / Belgium, was founded by three sisters. Many more branch monasteries were to follow, so that the community expanded to 47 monasteries by 1945.
After the Archbishop of Cologne Felix von Hartmann moved the headquarters of the Superior General from the Cologne Bürgerhospital to the mother house in 1917, the community became a legal corporation in 1920, while all property was previously in the hands of a few sisters. This also happened in 1923 in the monastery at St. Vith, but here under Belgian law in order to prevent expropriation. But the community, which in 1933 alone had 1,079 sisters in the Archdiocese of Cologne , was to face tough years. Just two years later, in 1935, a foreign exchange process was prepared for the Superior General, who had repeatedly given the Belgian sisters large sums of money. The Archbishop of Cologne, Karl Joseph Schulte , gave a particularly sad testimony in this context, when on June 16 of that year he publicly condemned the behavior of the Superior General, as well as the Provincial Secretary of the Vincentine Sisters , who was also in custody . He stated that the sisters acted against his warning but later internally withdrew his public statement. Mother Neophyta stayed in the Berlin-Moabit prison until March 1936 and was then taken to the Jauer prison in Silesia. She stayed there until her pardon on March 16, 1938. As early as September 18, 1935, Sister Fidelis was appointed, without prior election, by the Archbishop, who held a papal power of attorney, as the successor to the Superior General who resigned in May.
At the same time, the city of Cologne began to put the community under pressure by calling for a change in the General Council, as they would otherwise want to terminate all 578 sisters in the town houses. The reason for this was that some sisters allegedly treated National Socialist patients worse. However, the National Socialists could not name names. The incident was resolved by installing new superiors in all town houses, who were supposed to track down the sisters considered harmful by the town. These should then be moved to other houses until further notice, but this never happened. In October 1944 the last seven sisters left the completely bombed-out Bürgerhospital, the house in which the young Congregation for Cellites was once built.
When the Second World War was over, over 200 sisters returned from the military hospitals and all efforts were directed towards the restoration of the destroyed or damaged branches. The generalate evacuated to Heisterbach in 1943 was also able to return to Cologne in 1951. However, as the number of sisters rapidly declined in the following years, some branches had to be gradually abandoned. It is of interest that only a few sisters came from Cologne itself or from another large city; the congregation recruited the majority of their offspring from the rural areas of the Rhineland, the Eifel and Westphalia.
In 1953 there were 900 sisters living in the Diocese of Cologne alone, but in 1966 their number fell to 779 in Germany. At the suggestion of the Archbishop of Changanacherry, the congregation decided to focus on India and in 1964 accepted the first 16 Indian candidates into their novitiate in Heisterbach. The aim was to found a new company in their home country, which was also launched in 1967.
Already in 1981 the houses that were built in India were raised to an independent region within the congregation, which since 1987 is no longer led by German, but by Indian sisters. In 1974 the entire congregation counted 690 professed sisters in 25 branches, located in Germany, Belgium and India, so in 1992 they also expanded to the Philippines and divided the community into an Indian, which in 2000 had 135 professed sisters in 14 branches, and a German Province, with 175 professed sisters in ten convents. On November 19th of that year, the German province transferred the responsibility for its four hospitals, six old people's homes and a kindergarten to the "Stiftung der Cellitinnen", on whose board of trustees and supervisory board the cooperative is represented.
In 2011 the order was elevated by the congregation of the order to the congregation of papal law . In April 2014 the 29th General Chapter took place in Cologne, where Sr. Prema Packumala from India was elected as the new General Superior. She succeeds Sr. Celine Kizhakeveliyil, who was the first Indian General Superior to lead the order for six years. At the end of April 2014 the women's order had 234 members, 63 of them in the province of Germany and 171 in the province of India.