She looked like the energetic mothers in the family series, when the TV picture was still black and white. Accurately ondulated dark hair, lightened with age by a faint silver sheen. Alert, good eyes under unobtrusive glasses. Always a friendly smile that could also radiate. Black dress, a simple small cross on a thin chain - an ageless, unobtrusive appearance that liked to stay in the background, but was tremendously active.
Josephina Theresia Linssen, born in 1927 in Oud-Valkenburg, the Netherlands, died in 1994 as Mother Marie Therese in Mechernich (Eifel): She represented her ideas of a renewed, welcoming church, governed by boundless love rather than laws, with gentle tenacity. There was no trace of the charming belligerence that drives media-savvy feminist theologians today. She simply felt motivated by the Holy Spirit, "who is the encouragement for our indifference. He wants life in the church." Instead of relying on a "frozen truth," she said, we should rely on the power of a love without fear of contact and decide for Christ in a completely new, very simple and very radical way.
"The church of love and compassion has become invisible. The triumph of power drove the lived Christianity into the background. Instead of love, a coldness has become visible that has obscured any orientation toward the kingdom of God. The confusion in the church is so great that there is a lack of credibility in it. The evidence is so obvious that we Christians should really be ashamed to remain silent any longer."
Mother Marie Therese
She had begun her professional life as the director of a vocational school. Because she was firmly convinced of her vocation, Mother Marie Therese, as she called herself, later founded several spiritual communities and highly effective social welfare organizations in the Eifel region, among others for the severely ill, AIDS patients and the dying. She saw her dreams of a church of "lived love" realized in the Second Vatican Council - admittedly only as a program. In reality, the church still lacked trust in God, warmth, a sense of belonging and compassion.
Therefore, "in order to make the Church credible," Marie Therese founded a new type of "order" in Mechernich in 1984, the "Communio in Christo," open to all denominations, religions and world views, clearly oriented to the basic ideas of the Council, cultivating an intensive prayer life and striving for personal encounters with seekers and those in need. Suspicious fellow citizens made life difficult for the unbiased founder of the order - there was even an assassination attempt - but the ecclesiastical authorities also saw in the project a self-empowerment and refused to recognize the "Communio in Christo".
From the point of view of canon law, the vibrant community did not actually exist for many years. But while the "Communio" had long since taken root in Poland, Belarus, Great Britain, Papua New Guinea, Cameroon, Tanzania, Brazil and India, the hardened fronts loosened. In a conciliatory decree in 2010, Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff of Aachen attested to the worldwide working association's loyalty to the church, its high spiritual standards and its commitment to the "reform of the church in love.
"Discussions no longer help. An extraordinary charism (...) shows itself in the fullness of love with which it is endowed. It speaks to the people (...). Even for our time so torn, it has entered through the door of the Church, has unexpectedly taken its place and speaks to the hierarchy, even and especially when one does not want to hear it."
Mother Marie Therese
In October 2018, official ecclesiastical recognition finally came, 33 years after its founding: Mussinghoff's successor Helmut Dieser transferred the community to a new legal status under the new name "Ordo Communionis in Christo" as an "association of believers" - as it is defined in current canon law. Thus the "Communio" is a complete ecclesiastical legal entity, but not to be confused with religious orders in the classical sense: Parts of the International Kolping Society, for example, are recognized as "consociatio".
Superior General Karl-Heinz Haus explains it like this: "Communio in Christo" understands itself as a "way for all", priests, sisters and lay people, also members of other institutes, who work together in a new togetherness and for each other in Mechernich and Blankenheim as well as worldwide, celebrate the Eucharist, pray and work in the care facilities. In other words, a new and certainly promising form of spiritual life.
A detailed description of the life of Mother Marie Therese, also written by Christian Feldmann, a successful biographer of great Christians and pious lateral thinkers who has been translated into 17 languages, is available under the title "Die Liebe und sonst nichts - Lasst den Geist doch wehen!" from Echter Verlag in Würzburg under the ISBN number 978-3-429-04383-4 (https://shop.echter.de).
A self-testimony of the founder
Here you will find a text on the origin of Communio in Christo in German from the book by Mother Marie Therese entitled: "Who am I that you ask me - A charism speaks", Aschaffenburg 1987, p. 15 ff].