Sr. Léopoldine – Maria Josépha Brandis
(1815 – 1900)
« If the good Lord wants it, I want it, too! »
At the time of her death, Most Honored Mother Kieffer wrote : « I knew Sister Brandis since the « reunion »… I was not at all surprised by the miraculous blessings that accompanied, step by step, her long and saintly activity… »
On November 2, 1882, Maria Josépha Brandis, Sœur Léopoldine, became the first Visitatrix of the Daughters of Charity in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She herself narrated with simplicity the beginnings of the Province to Sister Leblanc, Secretary in the Mother House. Below are some excerpts of this long letter : (Annals of 1883/1884) :
« … I found in your request the heart of our venerable superiors whose kindness makes us always better appreciate our happy “re-union” with the true family of Saint Vincent. … (p.189)… After more than two years [of formation at the Sisters of Charity in Munich], my companions and I had the good fortune to pronounce the holy vows … From the month of April  the Bishop reminded us of Gratz. …God wanted that our first steps… be marked by suffering because on the very day of our departure one of our dear companions fell seriously ill and we had to leave her in Munich where she died a few days later (p. 191)
“It was indeed by Providence that the day chosen for our installation was April 24, anniversary of the birth of St. Vincent (p.192). … Despite these happy beginnings … many difficulties arose to remind us that the work of God must be based on suffering and contradiction… At the same time, the demands of the service of the sick were growing; … But the increasing difficulties and fatigue only served to deepen the love of vocation of our Sisters (page 193). … they led a pious and simple life and rejoiced to be able to practice holy poverty well. Their generosity pleased God and attracted many aspirants. …
“Counting on the help of God, we had not ceased … to seek the true traces of St. Vincent [our primitive rules]. … (194). Because of the Superior General’s serious illness, Sr. Vincent, our superior at Gratz, was requested to go to Munich as soon as possible. … that brought our Bishop to confide to me the management of the little family [September 25, 1843]. From then on, …we remained entirely free – with the permission of Monsignor – to follow the gentle appeal that brought us to the primitive institutions (195). … this change was also the occasion for a renewal in fervor … (196).
“In 1846, typhoid fever was rampant throughout the region … I was affected by the epidemic so badly that the last sacraments had to be administered to me; the Sisters were stricken, one after the other, we all seemed to be on the edge of the tomb and our community near ruin, not until we were saved by our trust in Mary to whom we prayed to show herself to be the true mother of our little company (p.197).
“… the revolutionary troubles of 1848 broke out … one evening, … the insurgents gathered under our windows … But the Lord, in His mercy, watched over His poor servants. ….
“The war in Hungary, cholera and, typhoid fever increased our labors and trials (199). God was pleased to restore our losses by sending us postulants who were not frightened by work, poverty, sickness or death … and Mother Mazin answered my request: “Our arms and our hearts are open to you, my dear Sisters! “(P.200). … On October 24, 1850 [memorable date until today] I left Gratz with a good priest and a companion … On the evening of November 2, we arrived in Paris where a most warm reception awaited us (p. 201). … after an intense period of study, learning, … of almost 9 months, … we left the Mother House on June 24, 1851 (p.202). … When our Most Honored Father M. Etienne outdid his kindness by visiting us [in Austria] in August 1853, we numbered one hundred, and besides the Main House, we had six establishments. … Thanks to the protection of St. Vincent, this new and humble part of his family grew further, and now [in 1882] it counts a thousand Sisters divided into eighty-four houses, plus ninety sisters in the Seminary. ….
“That, my dearest Sister, is the simple story of what God has designed to do … We pray unceasingly and wholeheartedly in union with you …
Beginning 1860/1870, Mother Brandis gathers young, pious women who are skilled in the service of persons who are sick especially those in their homes; she gives them a simple rule of life and, as model, Mary visiting Elizabeth. This association expands and its members are called « nurse girls » and much later « Sisters of Mary of the Miraculous Medal » (today, a separate Congregation).
Political unrest, the demands of Sisters concerning the service of those who are poor, the travels and visits, the responsibility of maintaining the Vincentian spirit, and the enormous correspondence to be made weakened her health but strengthened her faith in Divine Providence and in the protection of the only Mother of the Company; it also intensified her firmness in obedience and deepened her maternal concern for her Sisters and for those who are poor.
In 1870, she wrote to one of her companions of 25 years of vocation: “… Rejoice and be grateful to God! But do not think of dying before being a saint; it is my greatest wish for you, my dear Sister, that you live long, a saint among us! “
She often said and wrote: “God willing, I want it too!” Or again: “O Lord, you know all that will happen to me today, I offer it to you in advance and I praise you for all the pains and joy! About a year before her death, in November 1898, she wrote: “We want to renew this desire [to live perfectly according to the holy will of God] to the last moment of our life … to praise and glorify God eternally”.
Sr. Christa Bauer
Province of Graz-Central Europe