By Sister Judith Best, Central Pacific Province
Remembering the fall of the Berlin Wall over 30 years ago stirred some vivid memories in me.
While touring Europe with my mother in 1970, we visited my congregation's general headquarters in Rome. When I told our General Superior that the tour would visit Cologne, she encouraged me to consider a visit to our sisters in Berlin.
As a 30-year-old School Sister of Notre Dame, I had little experience of the protocol expected when visiting our sisters around the world, so I simply booked a flight on a Pan Am flying to Berlin from Cologne. As we took off the pilot announced that we would be flying just 3,000 feet above the ground since we were flying into communist Germany, and had to be seen by ground forces at all times.
Berlin was divided between East and West and was a small island of freedom in an area under communist control. I arrived with no community identification at the convent in Marienfelde. I did not speak German and said in my American English that I was a School Sister of Notre Dame from St. Louis, visiting in Rome, and that Mother Georgianne Segner suggested I visit them.
The "portress" was surprised by such a visitor, totally unexpected, and so asked me to sit in a "parlor." I waited for a time before two sisters came in and greeted me somewhat coldly. Then they proceeded to ask me about the history of our congregation. As I responded correctly their demeanor softened and eventually they welcomed me to stay with them for the weekend.