SHE WAS CALLED AN ANGEL OF GOODNESS
Who is in need at most? How can I bring him a relief in his suffering? These are the questions which were asked by the new blessed nun – Małgorzata Łucja Szewczyk
She did not complain about what the world is, she did not ponder over difficult events of her life. – Her spiritual formation was standing with Our Lady of Sorrows, in front of the cross and her deep desire of mature faith towards suffering, pain and solitude – says sister Sebastiana Wróblewska, a nun of the convent of Daughters of Our Lady of Sorrows, who dealt with organizational matters connected with the beatification of the founder of the convent. On 9 June, in the sanctuary of Divine Mercifulness in Kraków – Łagiewniki, the woman was proclaimed the blessed, for whom mercifulness was not an idea, but the practice of life.
For God’s glory and welfare of the suffering humankind
Łucja Szewczyk, a co-founder of the convent of Daughters of Our Lady of Sorrows was born in 1828, in a noble family in Wołyń. Being orphaned early, she remained under the care of her half-sister. In the difficult situation of partitions and persecutions of the Church, she professes the tertiary and takes private vows of evangelical counsels at the age of 20. She is learning to love ‘the Love which is not loved’, from the poor man of Assisi.
At the age of 42, she is going on a dangerous journey to the Holy Land with another sister of the Third Order of St. Francis. She has been helping ill pilgrims for three years there, she also often visits the death place of the Redeemer. She uncovers her vocation – she wants to life ‘for God’s glory and welfare of the suffering humankind’.
After return from the Holy Land and Loreto, she gets to Zakroczym near Warsaw. Following the advice of Father Honorat Koźmiński, who had become her spiritual leader, she rents a flat, brings two elderly women found in the street and takes care of them. Earlier she makes a religious profession onto the hands of a Capuchin. Apart from the obedience, poverty and chastity, she also vows mercifulness. Father Honorat writes later: ‘Łucja felt willing to devote herself to the last poverty. (…) She found such poor people and devoted herself to them with unusual love. (…)Being encouraged by her example, pious people started joining her. (…) God was blessing her’.
Little Sisters of the poor
On the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows - on 8 April 1881, a new convent is founded, initially called Sisters of poor people. Father Honorat elects Łucja as their Superior, who takes on a name Małgorzata. Sisters have been working secretly in the Russian partition for the first 10 years. Mother Małgorzata opens houses in Warsaw and Częstochowa. In 1891 she is going to Galicia, where there is more religious freedom. She founds a religious house in Hałcnów. The convent adopts Franciscan cassocks and the new name: Daughters of Our Lady of Sorrows.
A year later, the building of the convent house starts in Oświęcim, which becomes a motherhouse of the Daughters of Our Lady of Sorrows. The sisters create a resort for children, a refuge for ill and abandoned elderly women, a house for orphans, a tailor-embroidery workhouse for girls. Moreover, an orphanage is founded in Żywiec, a convent place in Wielka Wieś (in order to teach at folk school), in Przemyśl (in order to serve in the local hospital), Stryj and Frydrychowice (orphanages for children, a house for elderly people), Siemiechów (teaching at the folk school), Przemyślany (ministry in hospital), Drohobycze (an orphanage, a house for orphans), in Mogile near Cracow (teaching in the elementary school) and Jarosław (ministry in hospital). Through her example Mother Małgorzata encourages other sisters to be willing to reach to the souls of people, while serving to the ill and neglected, and also to maintain ‘the holy virtue of poverty’.
In 1904 Mother Małgorzata ‘burdened with her age and its weaknesses’, resigned from the function of the general superior. She left for Nieszawa (a diocese of Włocławek), a subsidiary, which at that time was the only one functioning within the Russian partition. She became an ‘ordinary’ sister without a nun’s habit.
In order to see a human being
Inhabitants of Nieszawa called Mother Małgorzata an angel of goodness. She spent the last months of her life on ‘praying all the time’. She died on 5 June 1905. In 1931 her body debris were moved from Nieszawa to the graveyard chapel in Oświęcim, and in 1951 – to the church there which she had built.
Mother Małgorzata makes us sensitive to another person, in order not to be indifferent to others who may not look as if they were in need but who are suffering from loneliness, exclusion, who are fighting their illnesses. It is not enough to secure somebody materially or give somebody a professional help. First we have to see a human being, because human suffering has a particular face.
Writing this text, I used the publication: Waldemar Rozynowski, ‘Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows in Nieszawa’, volume III, Toruń 2004; ‘Everything for Jesus through sorrowful Heart of Mary’, edited by Fr. Stanisław Zygarowicz , Przemyśl 1996, and the website: www.serafitki.pl