The Jubilee of the Felician Sisters
Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski
The Congregation of Sisters of St Felix of Cantalice has celebrated the 150th anniversary this year. On 21 November 1855 Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska together with her cousin Clothilde Ciechanowska dedicated themselves to the will of God in helping the poor.
His Holiness John Paul II beatified Mother Mary Angela Truszkowska on April 18 at the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. On that day he also beatified another Polish woman, Sister Faustyna Kowalska. In his homily the Holy Father said, 'I greet you, Mother Mary Angela Truszkowska, mother of the great Felician Family. You were a witness of the hard times of our nation and the Church, which fulfilled her mission in this nation. Your name and calling was connected with the person of Blessed Honorat Kozminski, great apostle of clandestine congregations, which restored the life of the tormented society and restored the hope of resurrection. [...] Her greatest desire was to become 'offering of love'. And she always understood love as an unselfish gift of herself. 'To love is to give'. Give everything that love demands. To give quickly, without sorrow, with the desire to demand more of us. These are her words in which she expressed briefly the programme of her entire love'. The above fragment constitutes a perfect characteristic of the Foundress of the Felician Sisters. The Congregation originated to respond to the calling of 'merciful love', which escaped from the hearts of the most needy people. Fryderyk Skarbek, well-known social activist in Warsaw, claimed that 'there was no city apart from Warsaw in Europe where the misery of women was so severe and grinding'.
The Congregation originated in Warsaw and was to meet the greatest problems of the city: homelessness, orphanage, begging and immorality. It began with one centre for orphans and women. Within three years it was moved twice to a bigger building because of the need for such activities. Soon the Sisters left the capital and began working among the poor in the country. Eight years after the foundation of the congregation the January Uprising broke out. Most centres were changed into temporary field hospitals. After the fall of the mass uprising the government of the Soviet Russia decided to dissolute the Order and close all its centres. The Sisters came to Krakow, under the Austrian partition, and continued its activities there. They returned in secret to Warsaw in 1907. They began working in Wola. After World War II the communist regime deprived the Felician Sisters of almost all their charity and education centres. Today the Sisters are working in 12 countries in the world, including Brazil, Kenya, United States, Canada and Ukraine.
The name 'Felician Sisters' was given by the inhabitants of Warsaw who often saw the sisters praying with their charges at the figure of St Felix of Cantalice. This Capuchin Saint, very popular in Rome in the 16th century, was an interesting figure. He is numbered among the most famous beggars. He begged on behalf of the poor and for them. The Servant of God John Paul II addressed the participants of the 21st General Chapter of the Congregation of Sisters of St Felix of Cantalice, 'To follow the logic of incarnation meant going along the streets of Rome as some 'Capuchin donkey', begging for food for brothers, answering with his famous Deo gratias and giving food to the poor from the alms St Felix collected'.
Dear Sisters, on the 150th anniversary of your Congregation, we, charges, thank you for the great good you have always generously given us. We thank for the heart and 'the looking through the heart'. As the poet said, 'What is beautiful and most precious is hidden from sight'. And You, dear Sisters, have taught us how to look through the heart. We thank for the gift of prayer that you embrace us and for the power of prayer that each of us is experiencing today.
On your feast, Dearest Sisters, accept our assurance of kind and warm memory in our prayers to the greatest Teacher Jesus Christ. May he, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Mother, grant you peace and accept your daily efforts for his glory.
Alumni of the Felician Schools in Wawer in the years 1934-62.