SR. MECHTILDE (1894 – 1956)
Sr.Mechtilde hailed from Mangalore. Soon after her profession she was appointed a teacher in St.Teresa’s High School. In addition she was an assistant boarding mistress under the supervision of Mother Margaret Mary. Sr. Mechtilde was particular about her task of supervising the children and was very thorough in her work. Later she was appointed Superior of the convent for several years. Later she took over as Novice Mistress from Sr. Francis. In those early days the mistresses had no special training in Theology. Those who were known for their own meticulous observance of the Rule and for their exemplary life were chosen for the important task of training the postulants and novices. Sr. Mechtilde had proved herself fit for the task and she held it for twelve years.
There were no specialists to teach the candidates theology, spiritual life etc. Sr. Mechtilde had to look after the entire training. Besides instruction, there was manual labour, many vocal prayers and spiritual reading. There was also needle work and sewing of our religious garments. Sr. Mechtilde was an expert in all these and she took care to instruct us. Those with talent soon became experts too. She supervised us scrupulously. Despite all this, we had fun and found ways of escaping her eagle eye. When caught she would say, “Little Flower only brought me here, sisters. She is the mistress, not I.”
Sister was very vigilant about the health of the candidates and would take them to the hospital herself. She would also see that the sick person got all that she needed She cut out all the clothing herself and we had to do the stitching Everyone had to tack, machine then rip out the tacking and mark the garment. Woe be to those who by-passed any stage!
Everyone got scolded or punished for mistakes, but when someone got an extra dose, that evening she would surely be called quietly to her room and Sister would give her a share of her supper, while she herself took only a cup of milk. This could heal all wounds.
As I look back over my own turbulent novice days, I realise that Sister was basically a simple, sincere person. She did what she thought was her duty and behind that she was a kind and loving person. I don’t think any of her novices ever felt any hard feeling towards her.
Even when I was a novice we were aware that Sr. Mechtilde has hernia and needed to wear a corset .In spite of that she used to be very active, running up and down the stairs and going marketing or to the hospital. An operation was inevitable. Soon after she handed over her job to Sr. Carmen, the next novice mistress, she fell ill and was hospitalised. She underwent the operation, but with her frail condition and diabetes, she was not able to come through successfully. I recall sitting with her on the day I was to leave for Delhi. She was in much pain and though normally shy, she asked me to rub her back. Then when it was time for me to leave, she blest me and asked me to pray for her. In those days it took three days to reach Delhi. I prayed for Sister the whole time. When I reached there was a letter already on my table telling me that Sr. Mechtilde had passed away on the 16th July. What a lovely day to die!