AMONG PEOPLE IN EMIGRATION
Emigration itself is always a breakage of social and family relations, it can sometimes cause changes in personality which is strongly trying to get adjusted to what is ‘new’. There are various life paths which lead far away from borders of Homeland and there are various paths in emigration. The place which always unites Poles, regardless of where and who they are, is the Catholic Church. Missionary Sisters say that an emigrant is a man who is somehow stuck over the ocean, that is, missing what he left, but realistically walking on the land which he chose or which was assigned for him as a mission
Ignacy Posadzy, a founder of the Convent of Missionary Sisters of Christ the King for Poles abroad (17 January this year there is the 30th anniversary of his death), was the one who looked deeper at the poverty of Poles leaving their country. He noticed the very essence of the problem and expressed it with the words: ‘Who changes Homeland, he changes sky over himself but does not change his heart’. Fr. Posadzy was a great friend of Poles scattered all over the world. Being faithful to the inspirations of cardinal Hlond, he decided to establish the female convent in 1958, which would serve with pastoral help to priests from the Society of Christ, working among Polish Diaspora. And, so, in 1959 the convent community of Missionary Sisters was established, which have been serving till today, also in Chicago, where I had an occasion to meet them.
Missionaries from Chicago
Sisters, faithful to the words of the founder of the convent: ‘Go and light the world with love’, embrace everybody with heart in equal extent. Smile and a grey habit are their distinctive sign.
In Chicago I met Sister Ewa Biniek, a delegate for the USA and Canada, who has been serving in these countries for 22 years. As she emphasized, in emigration there are new challenges and needs. Many works and fruits are created during prayers: - We leave our Homeland according to what the Church has ordered us to do through the father founder, and we are going where Polish hearts beat. We are going where we can to testify about God, but also in order to cultivate Polish religious traditions, Polish spirituality, and even Polish language. First of all, in the younger generation, already born outside Poland – explains Sister Ewa.
What Polish emigrants experience is the contribution of every Sister. They often feel nostalgia and feel alienated. After all, they live on a foreign land and this land will never be completely theirs. Although most of them have passports of countries where they arrive, at every moment their Polish hearts beat.
Talent of every Sister may be used to work with people, according to the charisma of the convent. It is seen both in the USA and in Canada. Sisters work in Polish parishes, catechize children, work in offices, are sacristy sisters. They are responsible for Polish religious programs at Catholic schools. They prepare bilingual catechisms for children who were born on emigration. They take care of elderly and ill people. Through their ministry they are close to Polish families which often struggle with serious problems. In the United States and Canada there are many excellent families like in Poland, but there are also the ones, which went away from religious and spiritual values in the difficult everyday life. They need help, patience and much love. Polish missionaries perfectly recognize signs of the time.
House for a single mother
The first work which I notice is the House for a Single Mother of St. Family in Chicago which has existed for 5 years. It is in the Polish district, next to the basilica of St. Jacek. The director of the house - sister Maria Cichoń tells me about its beginning. Working in the office by the parish church, she has met many women, who shared their problems with her. They told her about alcohol, violence appearing at their homes. They had tragedies in their life, death of their husbands or his deportation. – Our help was an emergency one-off help, giving them clothes, food – mentions sister Marta. – Here, in emigration, I have seen a deeper problem of the family. In Chicago, where many Poles live, this problem is seen clearly. On the occasion of these meetings and talks, an idea of establishing the house appeared, where mother and their children could stay longer. It is the first and the only such a Polish house in Chicago till today. It has already given help to 67 mothers and 87 children. The house supported by many volunteers, who are young people, is maintained only from dotation of the Polish Diaspora.
The House for a Single Mother in Chicago is not only a shelter. Mothers take an advantage of a therapy and help of psychologies here three times a week. Women who are here, change themselves and, consequently, everything around them. There are women who use help of the house on a regular basis, and also those who have become independent mainly thanks to the possibility of staying here in the most difficult period of their life.
Testimonies of love
Ania and her 3-year-old son lived in this house for a year. – Help which I received from the sisters: shelter, therapy, prayer helped me stand on my own feet – she says. – I bounced off the bottom and I am starting my life anew, regaining the sense of my own value. Today I know that if I have a problem, I can always make a call. I can still take advantage of sisters’ help. When one does not have the closest family, this house is a wonderful place. I am in Chicago in my own and my whole family is in Poland. When big problems appeared in my family, I received much help from the sisters. The time of my stay in this house helped me organize my life. I became independent after a year, today I have work, I found a kindergarten for my child, I am independent in keeping my house- all this was possible thanks to the fact that I could take an advantage of this house.
Sylwia has been in Chicago for 9 years, she came to the House for a single mother a few years ago. She came here with her 9-month-old daughter. Her child’s father was deported to Poland. They are alone in a foreign country. Thrown away by her husband’s parents they came here where they can normally live.
A kindergarten of the Good Shepherd
During my stay in Chicago, I had an occasion to participate in an official opening and sanctifying the Catholic Kindergarten of the Good Shepherd. It is a place prepared for 70 children. The Missionary Sisters take care of the youngest generation of Poles, who were born on the American land. They are also a support for the families of ‘their’ preschool children. What is important and what the sisters emphasize, is the fact that they do not release parents from their duties. They only want to serve with their help in the emigration reality, where there is not any grandmother, or an aunt, there are not any family facilities, which helps in forming religious and patriotic attitudes.
- We were looking for such a kindergarten which would give our child not only the Polish culture, but also faith and we found this all here – says mum of one of the preschool children. – First of all, this is a Catholic kindergarten which gives values, which we express in our family. It is important for us, parents, that children learn rhymes, songs and prayers in Polish. Our child in this kindergarten becomes strong in faith and Polishness.
Help for people involved in abortion
Moreover, Sisters are not afraid of the most difficult matters and tasks. Sister Maksymiliana has been conducting a therapeutic program Rachel for a few years, to the request of the cardinal metropolitan of Chicago. It is an extremely difficult and important ministry. It is said that it is a road of hope and healing for those who are suffering from the consequences of abortion. The program include individual talks with women who are suffering from this tragedy. There is also a therapy for men and medical staff involved in this situation. The therapy helps them overcome the post-abortion syndrome, recover from a deep spiritual and psychic crisis, cope with destructive consequences of abortion, rehabilitate the sense of life and the sense of humanity, regain peace with God and people, find their place in everyday life.
Hania says: - Suffering after abortion is enormous. For years I was crying, I could not be happy, I was praying all the time, and I also blamed myself for it. It was suffering in loneliness. After 30 years from having the abortion done, I am using help and I am trying to forgive myself. I found a path to another world just here, thanks to the sisters.
Jagoda: - Abortion is not a solution but an entrance to a hell; I think that I am carrying the past with me, but today I am able to get up in the morning and during a therapy I helped myself to forgive me, I gave name to my child, I wrote a letter to my child and I know that he/she lives in God.
Bringing hope to the deported
Sisters Ania and Magdalena visit interned people who are waiting for deportation. They give them a good word, prayer and comfort. It is important because people who are still in isolation, quickly lose their hope. They are left to themselves: without a possibility for contacting their families, without any knowledge about their future. Sisters who do this kind of ministry, are often as the only ones who are a great support for prisoners.
ABOUT THE CONVENT
The General House is in Morask, and the postulate, novitiate, vows and perpetual profession take place there. The missionary sisters are sent to the world from there to work among the Polish Diaspora on nearly all continents. In the convent there are nearly 200 sisters sent to the whole world. It also has the so-called delegation: in the United States and Canada, in Australia, Great Britain, in Italy, in Hungary, in Greece, in Germany and in Belgium. Sisters also work in Brazil and Belarus. In the USA and Canada there are 50 of them.
Missionary Sisters, leaving their Homeland, do not have any influence on their choice of a country where they are sent. They entrust their fate into God’s hands and are obedient to their superiors. Their arrival was a great gift for the Polish Diaspora in Chicago. A GP, whom I met from the Windy City, LeszekBallarin says that they are ‘rescuers of souls’. Through their prayer and their devotion they are trying to take care of Polish immigrants in their prayer to God and give immigrants an opportunity every day to see how valuable this support and intercession for them is.