- January 11, 2013
The Catholic Congregations in Vilnius (part 3)
The Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate came to Vilnius before the World War I. The congregation was founded in 1878 by Blessed Honoratus Kozminski, a year after the apparition of Mary Immaculate in Gietrzwaldz, near Olsztyn.
At the beginning, the sisters had usually lived separately, rarely taking part in collective activities. The group, that became known as “United Sisters”, cooperated with the sisters who had lead a communal life and worshipped St. Francis without taking the monastic vows. The covenant developed further in the first half of 20th century due to the Holy See’s decision. It became the habitless congregation that formed a community. United Sisters came to Vilnius in 1913 and lived in six dwellings, three of which were functioning from 1913 until 1939. Sisters worked in the nursing home, seminar and tailor shop. In Ejszyszki, in one of the dwellings, the sisters worked in the orphanage, tailor shop and weaving plant. In 1927, they moved to Trynopol where they helped with housekeeping, in seminar, and –in Jerozolimka near Vilnius—the shop and tailor shop.
In the interwar period, 36 Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate lived in Vilnius and in the vicinity. After the World War I, the Sisters of St. Dominic, referred to as “Dominican Sisters”, settled in Vilnius. The congregation was established in 1861 by Mother Kolumba Bialecka in Tarnobrzeg-Wielowsi and abides by St. Dominic’s principles. Moreover, the congregation belongs to the Order of Preachers’ family. The congregation focuses on preaching the Gospel, catechization of children and youngsters, increasing the quality of education, fostering the culture, and offering help to the people in need. The nuns came to Vilnius in 1920. Their dwelling was located at the Witebska Street. They worked in the orphanage (taking care of 80 children), dormitory, and nursery school (60 children). Eight sisters stayed in Vilnius, three of them in Milejszyszki, near Sapiezyszki. They moved to Poland in 1945.
After World War I, the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary—Congregatio Sororum Franciscalium Familiae Mariae (CSFFM), and the Sisters of the Family of Mary, RM— appeared in Vilnius. The Warsaw Archbishop Zygmunt Szczesny-Felinski (1822-1895)—canonized in 2009—founded the congregation in St. Petersburg in 1857 with the mission to save catholic parishes and help people in destitute, including Polish children, who lived in the Russian empire. The Holy Family of Nazareth exerts a major impact on sister’s way of life. Their faith is based upon the Franciscan ideas of serving God and common people, especially the poorest. The spirit of scarcity is evident in their own standard of life. Dwellings and rooms of the Sisters are furnished in such way as to make the poor and the rich feel humbled. They trust in divine providence when it comes to the subsistence. The black habits with purple ropes distinguish them from other orders. Eleven sisters lived in two houses: at the Swietostefanska and Wilkomierska Street. They moved to Poland in 1945.
The Congregation of Sisters Servants of Jesus in Eucharist, known as “the Eucharists”, was set up in Vilnius by Jurgis Boleslovas Matulaitis (1871-1927). Their mission consisted in looking after the faithful of the Vilnius diocese, and the abandoned members of the Catholic and Orthodox Church. The sisters were also teaching girls. In 1924, the dwelling in Drui was created. The sisters presided over a shelter, tailoring school, knitting shop, and the dormitory for girls. Moreover, they were teaching in junior high school, catechizing and preparing the children for receiving the sacraments. Three additional dwellings were established before 1945 in the Vilnius diocese from which the sisters could provide missionary and catechizing services in the near towns. After World War II, some sisters returned to Poland. The ones that stayed in the USSR had to hide because of persecutions and stop wearing habits. The congregation operated during World War II and it still does.
The Daughters of Our Lady of Sorrows (Congregatio Filiae Beatae Mariae Virginis Addoloratae [CMBB]) was established in 1930’s. In 1881, Blessed Honoratus Kozminski and Mother Malgorzata Lucja Szewczyk founded the congregation in Zakroczym to revive the morals and religiousness of a nation. It follows the ideas spread by the Franciscans and thus provides an aid to the elderly and poor people, runs education institutions, namely dayroom and nursery schools. First and foremost, they take care of the dependent, terminally ill, elderly and mentally disabled children. Ten sisters came to Vilnius in 1933, set up their dwelling at Antaklnis, and worked in the orphanage, and girls dormitory. They moved to Poland in 1946.
The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (CMA or FMA), called “Salesian Sisters”, did a lot of good in Vilnius and surrounding area. They were founded in 1872 by St. John Bosco in Mornese, Italy and received a support from Pope Pius IX. Fr. Dominic Pestarino, a vicar of the parish in Pestarino, met St. John Basco in 1862 and helped him with the congregation establishment. St. Mary Domenica Mazzarello is also recognized as a co-founder of the Salesian Sisters. In their vows, the Sisters promise to follow the obedient, pure and chaste Christ. Their work revolves around helping young women, especially the poorest. In 1922, lead by Blessed Mary Laura Meozzi, they came to Rozanystok, Poland. The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians set up their house in Vilnius (at the Stefańska Street) in 1924. Fr. Karol Lubianiec (1866-1942) bestowed the farm in Sakiszki to the sisters. They created another house their named “Laura’s House” after Mary Laura Meozii. The Salesian Sisters used to work in the orphanage and private school. What is more, they organized vacation trips to Laurow for children from Vilnius and run the health centre for local citizens. The congregation enjoyed a great respect and popularity in Vilnius and Laurow. They moved to Poland in 1945.
The Congregation of the Ursulines of the Agonizing Heart of Jezus—Congregatio Sororum Ursulinarum a Sacro Corde Jesu Agonizantis (USJK)—commonly referred to as “the Ursulines” or “Grey Ursulines”, belongs to the Society of the Sisters of Saint Ursula founded in 16th century by St. Angela Merici. St. Ursula Ledohowska (1865-1939) set up the Grey Ursulines congregation in St. Petersburg. The Ursulines were banished from Russia and therefore lived first in Sweden and than in Denmark. Next, they came to Poland and settled in Pniewy, near Poznan. After receiving the legal status on November, 21st 1930, the congregation began to flourish. The sisters established kindergartens, schools, children’s home and dormitories for students. They came to Vilnius in 1925 and set up a girls dormitory. In 1927 Grey Ursulines established the socio-economic school in Czarny Bor. Few houses of the congregation were also situated in this town. Apart from that, their dwelling was at the Skopoka Street, in Vilnius. Stanislawa Kosmowska was Mother General in years 1934-1945. The nuns were apprehended by Gestapo in 1942 and sent to prison in Łukiszki. After the release, they were banned from conducting their activities and wearing habits. The Soviets shut down sister’s house in Czarny Bor on September, 29th 1946 and Grey Ursulines decided to move to Warsaw.
The Missionary Sisters of the Holy Family—Congregatio Sororum Missionariarum Sanctae Familiae—settled in Vilnius in 1927. In 1905 in Mohylew, Russia, Blessed Boleslawa Lament (1862-1946) founded religious congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Holy Family. Its goal was to work toward the unity of Orthodox Christians with the Catholic church. Also, the congregation was called to strengthen the faith of Catholics since their unity with the church was threatened in those times. Soon after, in 1907, the whole community of sisters moved to Petersburg. Sisters taught all children and youth despite their religion and nationality.
In 1914, the Bishop Jan Cieplak (1857-1926), the administrator of the diocese in Mohylew, confirmed the constitution of the congregation as a written document. However, this document was lost during the war. The archbishop of Mohylew, Edward Ropp (1851-1939), wrote a new confirmation of the constitution on April 24th, 1924. The congregation was allowed to do its apostolic work on the territory of the diocese of Mohylew. On October 27th, 1925, bishop of Lomza, Romuald Jalbrzykowski, (1876-1955) accepted the renewed version of the Constitution. In 1922, sisters moved to Poland and had to start organizing religious life from the beginning. The first convent was established in Chelmno where sisters worked in the dorm for 200 Russian girls. For the first time, sisters could wear their habits. The convent in Vilnius was established in 1927 at the Wielka Street; and in 1933—at the Konarska Street. Missionary Sisters organized dorms for female student, boarding house, and sewing courses for girls. In 1938 in the Missionary Sisters’ house lived 24 sisters, 13 novices, and 1 postulant. The convents were also founded in Holszany, Oszmiana, Kiemieliszka, Konstantynow, Smorgonie, and Swir.
The Sister Servants of Mother Mary of Good Shepherd, known as “the Shepherds”, settled in Užupis, near Vilnius. In 1895, Blessed Honoratus Kozminski founded this convent in Warsaw with the aim of directing towards God people violating Christian moral rules, in particular girls and children in danger of being demoralized. Sister Servants do charity work for people in need, especially large families that live in poverty. Sisters came to Vilnius in 1930 and helped with a housekeeping in the Dolorists’ dwelling. The brotherhood was operating in Vilnius in 1930’s and was known as the Educational Association “Future”. Sister Servants of Mother Mary of Good Shepherd moved to Poland in 1945.
Another missionary congregation is the Congregation of Missionary Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate—Congregatio Sororum Missionarium Apostolatus Catholici (SAC)—in other words “the Pallottines”. St. Vincent Pallotti founded the convent in 1843, in Rome. Fr. Alojzy Majewski (1869-1947) brought the Pallottines to Poland in 1934. They teach at middle and high schools, run nursery schools and apostolate groups for teenagers, work as nurses in a hospital, and do missionary work. On September, 1939 two sisters left Rajca, near Nowogrodek and came to live with the Nazareth Sisters in Vilnius. In years 1941-1943 they taught religion in secret, took care of war refugees, helped the soldiers of Armia Krajowa (Home Army). They moved to Poland in 1945.
Tłumaczenie Karolina Jasińska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Karolina Jasińska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.