At the heart of community life. With an ever present calling. To be close to the people and to be open to the needs of the time is the common thread running through the history of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of St Vincent de Paul in Untermarchtal. For almost 170 years the religious community, following the example of its founders, has been serving children and adolescents, the sick, old, poor, needy and those seeking help in Germany.

In the southern region of Germany, the Sisters, together with more than 6,000 employees, are engaged in a variety of social and charitable institutions in different locations. In addition, some Sisters are sent out on missions outside their own subsidiaries. One example is that of Sr. M. Birgit who works at the “Railway Mission” – a Christian charitable organisation that provides assistance to those seeking/needing help in over 100 railway stations across Germany. At Stuttgart’s main station, Sr. M. Birgit supports passengers when boarding, disembarking or changing and helps people in wheelchairs or with luggage trolleys.

However, every day she also meets people with acute needs and existential emergencies: some of them are hungry and thirsty, sick and weak, some are homeless, some are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Sr. M. Birgit tells us of one woman who she has known for some time now and whom she looks after. She lives in the train station, spends most of her time on the same platform and speaks to almost no-one – except for Sr. M. Birgit. For the problems of this woman and all the other homeless people who come to her, Sister M. Birgit has an open ear. If they want they seek solutions together and at the Railway Mission they can get something to eat and drink, clothes and toiletries.

In all the suffering and despair, Sr. M. Birgit continues to experience very touching moments and tells us of a man who lives on the streets. All his possessions fit in a suitcase. And yet, he donates €100 to a drop-in centre for prostitutes each year from the little money he earns by collecting bottles. From people like him, we can truly learn what it means to show mercy.