" I am come so that they may have life and have it to the full. " John 10:10

Former General Superiors

Former General Superiors, Sr. Benigna Cools and Sr. Hedwig Owsiak. <br />
General superiors our good shepherdess sisters Benigna Cools and Hedwig Owsiak.

Sunday, August 17, 2014 was the saddest day in the history of our Congregation,
as on that gloomy day we lost our two dearly beloved former General Superiors,
Sr. Benigna Cools and Sr. Hedwig Owsiak.

With their sudden demise, an era of the Ursuline Congregation has come to an end.
Both were richly endowed with deepspiritual insights,
qualities and potentials which enabled them to bring the Congregation to
a level parallel with the fast progressing world in every field,

At the same time they kept the charism and spirit of our Founders St.Angela and Fr. John Lambertz alive
and Sr. Benigna Cools was a principal of Ternat Belgium.

Young, beautiful and dance, when suddenly she found herself at the centre of the congregation
as she was elected General Superior at the General Chapter of 1968, at the age of 42.

She had two-fold responsibility – to govern the whole Congregation as well as being responsible
for the Belgian group of local communities.

These were times after the ecumenical council of II Vatican .
There was a movement in the Church for the renewal of religious life and to call to “go back to the roots”.

In the General Chapter of 1969 Interim Constitutions were introduced in order
to finalize the constitution from Rome, after more study and reflections, by the whole Congregation.

In this chapter, presidium was established as a new form to of General Government.
From 1969 to 1974, Sr. Benigna Cools who had been elected General Superior
in the General Chapter of 1968 presided over the presidium.

She was again chosen to be president of the presidium each successive year
from 1975 to 1977. From 1977 to 1978, Sr. Jean Redigan (USA)
as president of the Presidium ruled over the Congregation.

However in the General Chapter of 1978,
it was decided to have a General Government established with a central authority.

Accordingly Sr. Benigna Cools was elected General Superior and Sr. Dorothy Ekka (Indian)
and Sr. Hedwig Owsiak (USA) as General Assistants.
In this was an international spirit planted which became stronger and stronger,
as this first team, International General Government organized International Renewal program in Belgium,

International Formation team meeting in India, by which leadership was encouraged at grass-root level,
Sisters of different Provinces and District came to know each other,
multicultural richness was nurtured and unity in diversity was promoted.

To this team goes the credit to have pontifical status granted to our Congregation by the Holy see
on 18th October, 1982, and to have our General Constitutions and General Directives
“Fullness in the life of Christ”
approved by the Sacred congregation for Religious approved, on 15th September, 1983.

The Congregational Symbol UT UNUM SINT which became our sign of identity as
Ursulines of Tildonk is also the fruit of the initiative taken by Sr. Benigna Cools and the Team.

It was worn first time in our Congregation on September 15, 1984.
In 1984 General Chapter, Sr. Hedwig Owsiak was elected General Superior.

She governed the Congregation for two terms i.e. from 1984 – 1990 and from 1990 – 1996.

She was a visionary, avid reader, prolific writer and gifted with administrative skills.

It will not be an exaggeration to say that she was the most intellectual person in our Congregation.
She mastered also Flemish and French languages and could translate them into English and vice versa.

As Assistant General she accepted the mandate of putting in writing down the Constitutions in the final form.

Together with Sr. Mary De Pape (Canada), she brought out the beautiful and fine text of our constitutions
with reference to scriptures, life and writings of our Founders.

Indeed, Comparing it with Constitutions of other Congregations,
I bet, our Constitutions are the best and the most beautiful texts with their spiritual depth.

Thanks to the Spirit of God who drove, Sr. Hedwig and Sr. Mary,
the two spiritual women to pour out abundance of their gifts of language, experience,
knowledge and spiritual insight into it.

In her 1st term of offices General superior, Sr. Headwig realized what used to be the annual agenda
of every Extended Council – “Location of the Generalate”.

In 1978, the first team of International General Government lived in Tildonk,
sharing one wing with the norms of the mother House.

The Provincialate of Belgium Province also had been shifted from Haacht to Tildonk.

To save the confusion of the Belgian Province due to the proximity
of both Provincialate and Generalate in Tildonk, and also other valid reasons,
after exploring different places in Belgium and elsewhere, finally the former Jesuit Candidate House
in Brussels was found the most suitable location for the Generalate.
Brussels stood at the centre for the East, West, South and North.

On 24th May, 1987, Generalate was shifted from Tildonk Mother House
to Rue Musin 1, 1210 Brussels where it is now.

This was a great achievement of this group.

Another new direction taken by this term was –
Financial assessment of each Province or the Contribution to the Generalate.

For this a meeting of Provincial Treasurer was held in 1989 in Brussels,
and the outcome was that the contribution to the Generalate was given by each Province
not per capita, but according to its financial status.

Heddy, as she was affectionately called, visited every House of the Congregation during both terms of her office.
She had a tremendous sharp memory, after meeting a Sister once, she never forget her name.
Heddy was not only of a big stature, she also had a BIG HEART.

She was a great entertainer; it was a pleasure to be in her company.
She made everyone feel at home with her warm hospitality.

She was a great cook as well. She was humble and forgiving.
She nourished herself with reading and reflecting on the Scriptures, spiritual books,
as well as other books, magazines and news papers and kept up-to-date with every event happening
in the world, the Church and the Congregation.

God planned to call both these great leaders on the same day, as if he wanted them
to share each other’s company also in heaven, as they lived and worked together,
not only at the heart of the Congregation,
but also carrying the whole Congregation in their hearts.

We deeply feel the great loss as we experience in their physical absence,
but are consoled and strengthened by what they have left behind –

A rich heritage which we cherish, as a firm foundation on which we stand together as a congregation.

May they enjoy fullness of life and be our source of inspiration to walk in the path they have
paved for us to live our life of consecration and mission in fidelity to the Lord and His people.
Ranchi Province will always remain indebted to them
for all what they did for the Congregation and for Indian Province.

May they rest in peace.
“Communication strengthens the bonds among us.” (Gen. Chapter Direction Statement, 20]