Regina Prot(h)mann (also Brotmann; 1552 – 18 January 1613) was a pioneer in the establishment of community hospitals as well as starting schools for girls. She was beatified in 1999 by Pope John Paul II.
Protmann came from a well-to-do patrician German family in Braunsberg (Braniewo), Warmia, Royal Prussia. Her first biographer, a Jesuit named Engelbert Keilert, described her as smart, well-versed, and able to read and write and correspond with church officials. Her uncle was one of the government officials (Ratsherren).
While growing up, Protmann became familiarized with religious and political matters during the time of the Protestant Reformation and the Counter Reformation. At the age of nineteen, she explained to her parents that she could not be married as expected, but was devoting herself to religious studies and taking care of the sick and needy.
Despite the opposition of her parents, Protmann moved out on her own and with two other women lived in an abandoned house. They made a living by taking care of and nursing the sick and by doing housework. During a time of witch hunts and strict counter measures by the Roman Catholic Church, it was unheard of for women to live on their own. There were no female cloisters in the area at that time. The recent Council of Trent restricted females to work and worship within the confinement of abbey walls. Protmann, however, persevered and founded one, the Saint Catherine Sister Cloister.
Protmann's first rule stated: "Do not flee from the world, but instead confront, engage and embrace it, constantly. Service to the needy and sick humanity shall have precedent over any formal regulation."
The way the women devoted their lives to the community convinced and won over the Braunsberg burghers. More and more young women applied to become members, and church recognition came in 1583. The bishop recognized the St. Catherine Order in 1602 with papal approbation. Since then the order has been recognized by the Vatican.
Protmann had chosen Saint Catherine of Alexandria as her role model. At a later time Vincent de Paul would follow in taking care of the needy. Protmann nursed the sick, educated nurses, and saw to it that nurses themselves received care, when needed. Under the Catholic government of the prince-bishops only schools for boys existed, but Protmann founded schools for girls as well. At the time of her death in 1613 four convents already were established in Warmia.
The Saint Catherine of Alexandria Church in Braunsberg, along with the city, was destroyed in 1945 during its capture by the Soviet Red Army during World War II. It was rebuilt after 1979 and in 2001 dedicated as Basilica Minor (Polish: Bazylika Mniejsza).
- Ulrich Fuesser, Regina-Protmann-Schule (School for Nurses), Frankfurt a. M.,
- "Das Leben der gottesseeligen Jungfrawen Regin Brotmanns Stiffterinnen der Loeblichen Gesellschaft Sanct Catherinen Jungfrawen und martyrinen, durch ein glaubwuerdigen Priester beschrieben.", Kracow 1623, 2. edition Braunsberg 1727