GIVE THE WORLD THE TASTE OF DIVINE MERCIFULNESS
Tomasz Strużanowski talks with the mother Petra Kowalczyk – the general superior of the Convent of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercifulness and the vice-chairperson of Conferences of Major Superiors of Female Religious Congregations
TOMASZ STRUŻANOWSKI: - How does the convent serve to the Church and the world at present?
MOTHER PETRA KOWALCZYK: - Our convent tries to proclaim God’s merciful love with a deed, word and prayer and a testimony of consecrated life according to received charism. Besides the fact that we have twenty houses in Poland, the convent is in Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Czech, the USA, Jerusalem, Rome and Cuba at present. Communities in Poland undertake their ministry in youth educational centres and houses for single mothers; sisters help girls and women accept their hurt lives and look at themselves in the way merciful God sees them. In the house of social help for women run by the convent, sisters help elderly women in the final phase of their lives and help them trust merciful Father in their suffering and passing ‘from life to life’. We also try to show merciful image of God to children, running nurseries, common rooms and undertaking catechization.
- 150 years ago the convent recognized its mission as its vocation to work on improving the situation of girls and women needing deep moral renewal. What has changed in this respect, under the influence of St. Sister Faustyna’s mission?
- The gift which the convent received in St. Sister Faustyna, is also a duty. I think that the most suitable answer to this question are the words of St. John Paul II. He told the sisters that choosing Faustyna among them, Christ called them for a particular apostolate of His mercifulness, mercy works and prayer for mercifulness. At that time the Pope emphasized not to neglect any of these apostolate dimensions.
- In what sense does the convent acknowledge St. Sister Faustyna as its co-founder?
- Our convent was founded by Mother Teresa Potocka in 1862 and in the beginning it run houses of mercifulness for prostitutes who wanted to change their lives and return to the road of salvation. So, God called sister Faustyna to the convent which devoted itself to saving souls through its ministry to fallen women. The charism of proclaiming the world – especially to sinners – the message of Divine Mercifulness, which sister Faustyna has got in herself – and also exceeds it - this gift which was realized by the convent. Noticing and accepting this Divine generosity in the gift and mission of sister Faustyna, the convent acknowledged her as its spiritual co-founder.
- What to do not to waste the Year of Holy Mercifulness, but experience it consciously and fruitfully?
- It is necessary to admit one’s sinfulness, pray to merciful Father with trustfulness, accept His forgiving love with gratefulness and try to be merciful towards one another, like God is merciful towards us. Sister Faustyna wrote in her ‘Diary’: ‘Only then are we similar to God when we forgive our neighbours’. (1148).
- Somebody said that faith in Divine Mercifulness is protecting oneself from the two attitudes: on the one hand, from audacious hoping for the fact that ‘in the end God will forgive me anyway’, and on the other hand – from despair suggesting that there is no help for my sinfulness. Will Mother agree with these words?
- Yes, I can agree with these words. What to do to avoid these extreme attitudes? Get to know God in His mercifulness and trust Him. The mystery of Divine mercifulness is revealed in Jesus the best – in his Incarnation, his whole life, especially in his death and resurrection. He has already ‘paid’ for our sins, took them on himself, so they are not the reason for despair; on the other hand, awareness of the price with which he redeemed us, protects us from audacity. In this issue what essential, is the personal relation with God.
- What does it mean to be merciful in everyday life? Many people would say that unselfish showing mercifulness has got something of naivety in itself, that it makes one more audacious than leads to repentance…
- So it is worth taking seriously the encouragement of the pope Francis to practice deeds of mercifulness both towards the body and soul. Sister Faustyna prayed a lot so that her eyes, ears, mouth, hands and legs and heart would be merciful. It is necessary to look at Merciful Jesus; in His words, acts, gestures, his relations with people we will find an answer – how to be merciful. It seems that it is easier for us to be strict than naive towards our neighbours.
- Does your convent join preparations for the World Youth Days? If so, how?
- Yes, it does. We have been praying in this intention for a long time, and also our sisters are engaged in this work. Sisters in Cracow are directly engaged in the media space, running monthly meetings of the youth – ‘Łagiewniki 22’, within the spiritual preparation for the World Youth Days.
- It is 5 years since the convent has been present in Toruń. What do Sisters deal with in the diocese of Toruń?
- They are trying to be witnesses of Merciful Jesus through who they are and how they live; through prayer and proclaiming mercifulness also in the works which they undertake. I hope that both their ministry to the ill in the parish house ‘Samaritan’ and catechization of the youth or their ministry in the diocesan sanctuary of Divine Mercifulness in Toruń have the taste of mercifulness.