Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Nuns of Nowogrodek

The history of Poland is one of immense tragedy and unparalleled courage, a suffering people who had and would endure ever more horrors. As Poland found itself in the middle of two evil powers, that of National Socialist Germany and Communist Russia.

Many problems began when within the Treaty of Versailles, what had been a part of Germany, Upper Silesia, came under Polish control, this left many people feeling disaffected for the predicament they were placed in. It would also lead to further complications once Adolf Hitler came to power.

Things didn’t get any better when a coup de'etat took place within Poland under the leadership of Jozef Pilsudski, who then tried to install a dictatorship with Ignancy Moscicki as President while Jozef kept control of the armed forces. The coup would eventually fail, but it led to further destabilising of the country, none of which helped the Polish people.

But things would go beyond the internal vicissitudes of their own political insecurities, once Germany and Russia signed their non aggression pact. This placed Poland in an invidious position with both their neighbouring countries, as both Germany and Russia made their own plans for this great country, Poland.

The Polish people would suffer immensely under these two evil empires, but it would be their Faith and their love for the Church which would strengthen many Poles for the fight which lay ahead of them.

But it was in 1929 that a couple of Religious sisters arrived to establish their Order of the Holy Family of Nazareth, in the town of Nowogrodek. At first the towns people were not happy about this and did not welcome yet another Religious Order, in that many Religious Communities relied on the charity of the towns people to provide them food and other essentials necessary to live.

But through the Sisters patience and perseverance and through their own hard work, the towns people eventually accepted them. This brought the Sisters much joy as they endeavoured to teach the children of the area, who came from poor families, and also to teach them the Faith through kindness and compassion.

This would be put to the test though when Nowogrodek was overtaken by the Communists and the Nuns were forced to wear ordinary clothes and were also removed from the Convent. The people of Nowogrodek came to the aid of the Sisters and provided many with accommodation and sustenance as they all endured the repressive regime of the Soviet Union.

It would be the generosity of the town’s people who clung to their Faith and also helped the Sisters in their time of need that would be paid back in full by the love the Sisters had for these brave people of Nowogrodek.

But sadly things did not improve for the Sisters nor for the town’s people when the Germans took control of the town in 1941. And even though the Sisters were able to return to their Convent, the Nazi's would also show that they too had no respect nor love for religion as would be shown by their persecution not only of the Jews but also of devout Catholics!

As the Sisters watched in horror and heard stories of the persecution of their Jewish neighbours, as many of the Jews were rounded up and shot in the open square for all to see. The Nazi's made no attempt to hide their hatred and also their genocide of the Jewish peoples and any who aided them.

This troubled the Sisters immensely, as they became witnesses to the horror before them, the Sisters then under the guidance of their Superior prayed in these words, "O God, if sacrifice of life is needed, accept it from us who are free from family obligations. Spare those who have wives and children."

These holy Sisters meant every word, as they observed the tyranny and unholy behaviour of the Nazi war machine and the savagery of the SS soldiers who showed no mercy to anyone. The Sisters love for the people who had come to their aid would now be paid in full with their own lives.

For a bond had been built between the Sisters and the people of Nowogrodek, as the Sisters tried their best to meet their spiritual needs and also to do the works of Mercy for the poor and sick in their community. A mutual love and respect grew as both the people and the Sisters reached out to each other in love and compassion.

This bond of affection did not go unnoticed by the Nazi's, who saw the Sisters charity to the towns people as a threat to the terror they wished to induce into the hearts of the people.

And so when the Nazi's heard about the prayer of these courageous Sisters they decided to put it to the test and instead of murdering a group of factory workers, the Nazi's instead arrested the Nuns of Nowogrodek.

The Nazi's placed an order for the Sisters to appear before them at the commissars building that very evening. Not willing to incur the wrath of the Nazi's who may have vented it on the people of the town, the Sisters kept the appointed time and place, except for one Sister who being elderly had remained behind in the Convent.

Upon showing up at the requested time and place, the Nazi's then arrested the Nuns and placed them in the basement of an old building, where upon on the morning of August 1st the Sisters were driven by van to a wooded area. And seeing the open grave which had been dug the Sisters looked to their Superior and upon gaining her blessing each Sister then placed themselves at the edge of the mass grave. The Nazi's then opened fire on the Sisters as each one fell into the open grave.

These brave Sisters gave their lives so others could live, something the towns people never forgot, as they gathered around to protect the one remaining Sister, who had stayed behind, Sister Malgorzata. It would be this Sister who went into the woods and found the unmarked grave of her beloved Sisters, where upon Sister Malgorzata secretly tended the grave in remembrance of these holy souls who lay down their own lives for their people.

The names of these holy Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth are;

Sister Maria Stella, Superior

Sister Mary Imelda

Sister Mary Rajmunda

Sister Maria Daniela

Sister Maria Kanuta

Sister Maria Gwidona

Sister Maria Sergia

Sister Maria Kanizja

Sister Maria Felicyta

Sister Maria Heliodora

Sister Maria Boromea

The Sisters of Nowogrodek died in 1943.

The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth were beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

Peace of Christ to ALL
Copyright © 2005 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.
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