God’s work of mother and daughter

Lidia Dudkiewicz

Europe. The nineteenth century. For us, Poles, that time, after the fall of the November Uprising, was the period of the Great Immigration, located mainly in Paris, and the period of the influence of the Polish poets: Mickiewicz, Slowacki and Krasinski. Among the circle of the Polish Romantic poets was Bogdan Janski, the first open ‘Penitent of the Great Immigration’ (as John Paul II described him) whose contribution to the origin of the Society of the Resurrection of Our Lord in the 1830s was considerable. The co-founders of the Resurrectionist Fathers were Fr Piotr Semenenko and Fr Hieronim Kajsiewicz. The first Resurrectionists who took the vows in 1842, focusing on the necessity of women’s renewal as the sign of the times to come. It was Fr Semenenko, who continued Janski’s work and who was the Superior General of the Resurrectionists, wanted to originate a female branch of the order and looked for some foundress. In those times, in the melting pot of modern trends and religious indifference that increased after the French Revolution, many laymen got involved in the Catholic works and in the Church. The female branch was founded in 1891. Two Polish women Celina Borzecka and her daughter Jadwiga founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Both of them had an eleven-year-old formation under the supervision of Fr Semenenko and accepted the paschal mystery of Christ. They were so convinced about their Resurrectionist vocations that they had inner strength to say, ‘We will be Resurrectionist Sisters or we will be nothing.’

Wife, mother, widow, nun

The life of Mother Celina Borzecka, the foundress of the women’s congregation, was so rich that every woman could find some model for herself. She experienced all stages and statuses of woman’s life: she was a beautiful girl, then wife and mother; she had to deal with the death of her two children and the serious illness of her husband who she cared for herself; she was widowed young, and finally, she founded a congregation and was Mother General, i.e. she entered the way of religious life. That exceptional woman who experienced all sides of life became the spiritual mother of the Sisters of the Resurrection, and at the same time she was a role model for Polish women.

Life in the world

She was born on 29 October 1833 in Antowil near Orsza in eastern Poland (now the territory of Belarus). She was brought up in a rich family belonging to the gentry; her family preserved the national and Catholic traditions. She received a thorough education and upbringing. At the early age she desired to follow God and become a nun. ‘At the age of 13 I wanted to become a saint very much and I mortified myself’, she wrote in one of her letters. But at the age of 20, in accordance with her parents’ will, she got married. She was a good wife and mother of four. However, she always thought about religious life since she wanted to be closer to heaven, living in a cloister. Although she was married she was convinced that ‘she would not end her life in an ordinary way.’ She suffered much. She had to bear the death of two small children. Two daughters survived. They were Celina and Jadwiga. Then her husband got sick. He was stricken with paralysis. She decided to leave for Vienna and took her girls with her. She wanted to ensure better medical care for her husband. She was a perfect nurse for five years. Before his death he left his daughters a testimony to their unique mother. He wrote, ‘Beloved daughters, my heath is getting worse but God still lets me speak to you I would not like to close my eyes in peace if I did not reveal to you who your mother, the best mother, has been to me.’ He called her an angel and friend. He admired her goodness and dedication. He died in 1874.

Wearing a habit

A year after her husband’s death when she had put in order all the matters concerning her possessions (in the years 1875) Celina Borzecka came to Rome since she wanted to show her daughters the big world. She met Fr Semenenko, the Superior General of the Resurrectionists, and he became her confessor and spiritual director. He also advised her daughter Jadwiga who felt God’s calling to religious life. The elder daughter married the cousin of General Jozef Haller and she had a loving family.
Fr Semenenko helped Celina Borzecka discern God’s will. When she was free and her daughters were adult she could decide to dedicate her life to God. Although Fr Semenenko died the exceptional penitent fulfilled their common intent and on 6 January 1891, together with her daughter she founded the Sisters of the Resurrection. That was an unprecedented event: mother and daughter founded a religious congregation. The Resurrectionist Sisters joined the activities of the Church as a contemplative-active order aiming at renewing Polish women through teaching and Christian upbringing. The Resurrectionist Sisters organised laymen’s formation and called into being the Association of the United Sisters – currently the Apostles of the Resurrection – that receives married women.

Growth of the congregation

Just after the foundation of the congregation Mother Borzecka, together with her daughter Jadwiga, co-founder of that work of God, came to Kety, in Galicia, and opened their first centre, the novitiate house, in the Polish lands. Then in 1896, Mother Celina continued her mission in Bulgaria, in Malko Tirnovo, beginning her work with the Greek Catholics. She collaborated with the Resurrectionist Fathers. Then the Sisters, wearing laymen’s dresses, began working in the Russian partition, in Czestochowa and Warsaw. In 1990, the first sisters went to work among the Polish immigrants in the United States. The congregation grew very rapidly and its mother-foundress was not anxious about its future since her daughter Jadwiga was with her. She could continue her work and preside over the congregation. However, Mother Borzecka experienced a sudden blow in 1906 when Jadwiga died at the age of 43. Her reaction to her daughter’s sudden death showed again that she was completely dedicated to God’s will. When she stood at the body of her daughter she said, ‘There is nothing that a soul full of love for the Lord cannot endure.’ Mother Celina lived seven years after Jadwiga’s death, and she served the Church as the superior of the congregation till the end. She died in Krakow on 26 October 1913, leaving her sisters the spiritual testimony, ‘Be saints!’ and ‘So that they are one.’ Her body was buried in the cemetery in Kety, in the grave beside her daughter Jadwiga. In 1937, the relics of the foundresses were transformed to the crypt in the chapel of the congregation, and in 2001 they were taken to the sarcophagus in the parish church in Kety. After getting to know this short profile one can say that the life of Mother Celina Borzecka realised the sentence written on the cross that she had received when she took the vows, ‘Through the cross and death to the resurrection and glory.’

The way to the altars

Pope Pius XII initiated the beautification process of Mother Celina Borzecka in 1944. John Paul II issued the Decree of Heroic Virtues in 1982. The next step was the process concerning a miraculous healing through Mother Celina’s intercession. It was the cure of her grandson, a fifth generation descendant. The process was conducted in the Archdiocese of Krakow in 2002 since the cure took place in Krakow. The medical documentation was given to Mother General Dolores Stepien. The attempts to open the process concerning the healing began in April 2001. And on 16 December 2006, Benedict XVI issued the decree confirming the miraculous cure through the intercession of Mother Celina Borzecka. The beautification date was arranged on 27 October 2007.
It was Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, representing the Holy Father Benedict XVI, that presided over the beautification ceremony at Saint John Lateran Basilica in Rome. The day before the beautification a prayer service and Eucharist presided over by Bishop Robert J. Kutrz from Hamilton, CR, was held in San Gioacchimo in Prati in Rome. The thanksgiving service after the beautification took place in Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome and was presided over by Cardinal Edmund Szoka, the former President of the Pontifical Commission for the State of Vatican City. Therefore, the solemn ceremonies of Mother Celina Borzecka’s beautification were held in Rome, at the heart of Christianity and at the same time in the city that was a harbour for the young widow and her two orphaned daughters, where they learnt languages, singing, music; where they deepened their spiritual lives, visited the Christian monuments and where their mother introduced them into the big world. And finally, it was in the city where all of them made the most important decisions: Celina and Jadwiga decided to wear religious habits and the second daughter Celina, like her mother, discovered her calling to family life. Rome is still an important place for the Congregation of the Resurrectionist Sisters who have their Mother General and the generalate there. The Congregation is growing rapidly. Currently, apart from Poland and Italy, the Sisters of the Resurrection are working in Bulgaria, Argentina, Canada, the USA and Great Britain.

"Niedziela" 43/2007

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl