On April 28th, after a great meeting in Warsaw, the members of the General Council with all the Provincial, Regional and Delegature Superiors travelled to Gdańsk for the second part of the Central Assembly. It was here, in 1945, that young Pallottine Sisters arrived after the war and started a community. They came from Rajca, today belonging to Belarus. The Convent served as the Headquarters for the Polish Pallottine Missionary Sisters until 1983 when the Provincial House was moved to Warsaw.
In Gdańsk we were warmly welcomed by Sr. Kazimiera Kaczykowska, the Superior and all the Sisters. They expressed their joy in meeting the Major Superiors of the different countries. Though we could not communicate in the Polish language, the signs of love broke the barriers and made it possible to relate and converse with each other.
The theme for the Assembly was “Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be forever (Hebrews 13:8). The opening Mass was celebrated by Fr. Janusz Łuczak SAC, the Rector of the Pallottine community, at the convent chapel with the participation of all the Sisters. Our meeting began with a warm welcome and the Report of the Superior General. Sr. Izabela Świerad said: “Our Pallottine charism is a charism for our time. Pallotti’s ideas and methods of apostolic ministry in the spirit of collaboration are still very contemporary. New times are coming. We need to be rooted in Jesus, change our mentality and with faith and courage take up new challenges. In light of today’s signs of the time, we must take the right path and create a new fundamental thinking for our style of life, for living in wholesome communities and working in close collaboration with UAC members and with people who desire to build a better world”.
Through their Reports the members updated the Assembly on the current situation of each entity and about important matters of the entire Congregation. We had much to listen to, to be grateful for and to be concerned about. Sr. Marie Claire Mukeshimana, the Novice Mistress of the International Novitiate in Tanzania presented her Report on the progress of the Novices and placed before us the joys and the challenges of Formation work today. At the moment there are 24 Novices from Rwanda, Congo, Tanzania and Cameroon. Sr. Mary McNulty presented the importance of Intercultural Living, based on material from a Workshop organized by UISG in Rome (January 2019), in which four of our Sisters took part. This was a necessary topic to be discussed since our Congregation is moving more towards international and multicultural communities.
On the 30th, Fr. Michał Gutkowski SJ, a guest speaker gave a talk on the topic: How to be a Leader today? He reflected on four core points to exercise leadership: Who am I and what is my work; Who is Jesus to me, what are His plans, and then my response. He also emphasized the aspects of listening, following and imitating Jesus in order to be a good leader. The celebration of the Holy Mass closed the morning session.
After listening to the reports and meditating on the talk of Fr. Michal, we spent time in reflection and fruitful discussion, touching different aspects of the Congregation and the Provinces. Living the charism, the Union, missions and institutions as well as the need for professional training of our members to serve effectively in our ministries, were priority themes of the Central Assembly.
In the midst of our Assembly we also witnessed very significant moments. On the 1st of May, the Solemnity of St. Joseph the Worker, we celebrated the feast day of Sr. Josephina D’Souza, Vicar General and the blessing and inauguration of the newly renovated old house on Gorka (house on the hill).
The Holy Mass was celebrated by Bp Wiesław Szlachetka, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Gdansk, who subsequently, after the procession to the “house on the hill” proceeded with the blessing and inauguration. This old house was the first house of the Sisters after World War II. Later, when the number of the Sisters had increased, a new convent was built nearby. For many years the old house remained unused. A few years ago, the Sisters learned that this house is under the preservation of monument law and that the city government authorities could financially help to restore it. The Sisters took this opportunity and renovated the house to create a museum of their existence and service in Gdansk. Officially it is called “Integration Center on the Hill” and is surrounded by a Biblical Garden.
The 2nd May was dedicated to the funeral of Sr. Władysława Sitarz, who died on April 27, at the age of 88. Sr. Władysława served the Congregation in different capacities as a leader.
She was Vicar General and later the Provincial of our Polish Province. Sr. Władysława dedicated herself to work with the youth, developing Pallotti´s method and idea on the Cenacle, creating Cenacle groups from which the Polish Province received many vocations. This was also the topic of her Doctoral dissertation. As a superior and in her daily life she always encouraged the Sisters to be united and to be loving. She gave a true testimony to the religious as well as to the lay faithful and was an obedient servant of the Church. It was very significant that the Major Superiors of our entire Congregation had the opportunity to take part in the funeral ceremony and to pray for her departed soul. The funeral Mass was celebrated by Bp Zbigniew Zieliński, Bishop of Gdańsk.
From our deliberations we came to the conclusions of the meeting, emphasizing some of the concerns of the Congregation. The Provincials also brought symbols of their culture which were presented. A very touching moment was when Sr. Maria Landsberger, representing Sr. Helga Weidemann, Provincial of the German Province, brought the Key of Marienborn, the Motherhouse of our Congregation, to the Superior General.
In her final words at the concluding session, our Superior General expressed her gratitude for the spirit of openness and unity, of listening and understanding among the members of the Central Assembly. She stressed the importance of collaboration between the General Administration and the Provincials in carrying on the tasks entrusted by the Congregation. She added: We need to be one, we need to be together in daily life and at the service of one another!
A Missioning ceremony during Evening Prayer with the community members was the concluding point of our meeting. Sr. Josephina led the prayer and gave a brief introduction to the ceremony.
Sr. Izabela, gave a final message to the members of the Central Assembly, and blessed them by giving a symbolic gift – a lamb, which points to Jesus as the true Paschal Lamb, who takes away the sins of the whole world, so that we may live as Easter people.
She also blessed all the Sisters of the local community and presented them with rosaries. On the following day we visited one of our institutes for people with different disabilities at Sobieszewo.
In the evening we toured the old city of Gdańsk and learned about its unusual history and architecture.
We are very grateful to the Provincial, her Council and to all the Sisters of the Polish Province for this special and rich time. We came to know the Polish Sisters more closely and we believe that from now our sisterly relationship will lead us to greater collaboration and unity. The joy of relating to one another brought unforgettable memories that our Major Superiors now carry back to their Provinces. The welcome and hospitality of the Polish Province was remarkable. May God reward them for being so generous – and we say “Thank you Sisters”!
We are also grateful to the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers of the two Polish Provinces for their collaboration, for their open hearts and opens doors, and especially for the opportunity of being together with them in the Seminary of Ołtarzew. From the history we learned that this collaboration between the Polish Pallottine Fathers and our Pallottine Missionary Sisters began when the General Superior, Mother Aquina Klär, by invitation of Fr. Alojzy Majewski, the founder of the Pallottines in Poland, came from Germany to Ołtarzew in June 1933 with the specific aim of creating a new foundation of the Congregation in Poland since some girls were requesting to become Pallottine Sisters. In February 1934, two Sisters, Mother Aurelia Wachowska and Sr. Kazimiera Milewska of our German Province arrived in Ołtarzew to prepare themselves for this new adventure. Two months later, in April 1934, the Sisters with seven Polish Postulants, and accompanied by Fr. Alojzy Majewski SAC, left for Rajca (today Belarus), to start a new community of the Pallottine Missionary Sisters on Polish soil.
May we all be grateful to God for the past and may He bless our present life so that we can go forward together with missionary work led and guided by the Holy Spirit. United with one another, in the love of Christ, let us become sowers of prophetic hope for the world. St. Vincent Pallotti, pray for us!