Today the largest group of SMB members lives and works in Switzerland. They are divided into four groups: Immensee, Fribourg (Torry), Lucerne (Romero House) and outposts.
The Motherhouse Immensee
About 50 priests and brother missionaries fulfil their missionary engagement in various living and working spheres. They work in administration, the library and sacristy and in many small services necessary for the living together of the community. From here priests undertake pastoral duties in various parishes. In this way they play their part in the missionary awareness of communities. In the third living phase there is time for hobbies which often came too short during demanding missionary engagement. Some discover artistic abilities such as painting and photography.
The infirm missionaries deserve special attention and receive professional nursing and care after many years of devoted work in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Their missionary vocation now has a special note. In their prayers they carry the work, cares and problems of their confreres working oversees. Age and illness set limits to these missionaries and they see themselves in the role of St Theresa of Lisieux. Her missionary apostolate lay in prayer and bearing her sufferings
Romero House Lucerne
The SMB is also present with a few missionaries in Romero House in Lucerne where the administration of the BMI (Bethlehem Mission Immensee) has been housed since 2013. The BMI is the independent institution that grew out of the Mission Society and is conducted by lay people who continue to work in many countries in the spirit of the Society.
After the first General Chapter in 1934, the Bethlehem Mission Society decided to open an “apostolic school” in Freiburg in order to win French-speaking members. For this purpose they bought “Grand Torry“, an estate with manor house, farm and fields. Four classes were planned and the students then continued their education at the Collegium Immensee and later in the Mission Seminary in Schöneck.
The school was closed in the spring of 1972 as it became increasingly difficult to recruit students. About 250 pupils attended the school over a period of 34 years and 36 of them continued their education in Immensee. During this time 31members of the SMB, 5 Diocesan priests and 23 lay teachers belonged to the teaching body. Several worked for some years while others only occasionally, or in part time work. About 10 members of the SMB lived as guests in Torry during the time they studied at Freiburg University.
A new purpose for the house
The house took on a new purpose once the school was closed. The editorial staff of the magazine “Bethléem” and the benefactor’s office were moved to Torry from Immensee. A wing of the house was rented out to the “École de la Foi” and rooms to university students, especially from the Third World. Some work was required to adapt dormitories and classrooms into single rooms or offices. Then we began to recruit adult lay people to carry out an engagement in our mission areas. About 20 persons were accordingly prepared and sent oversees.
Since the Bethlehem Mission Immensee (BMI) took over most of these activities, the three SMB members living in Torry are largely engaged in parish pastoral work. One of them lectures at Fribourg University.
In May 2013, the management of the house was given over to the Oeuvre St Justin. Most of our guests (a dozen), are foreign priests doing extra studies, supported by the Oeuvre St Justin.
The 9 SMB members living in outposts all have their own story. Most of them worked in earlier years in other continents. The diversity of their presence helps to maintain the SMB connection-network in Switzerland.