The zeal for the greater glory of God brought the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Family to America, a country characterized by many religions. The work of congregation started with individual trips made by sisters who were invited here by their relatives or friends. The following sisters belong to the group of first missionary sisters organizing work in this country: Sr. Konstancja Selenis, Sr. Maura Puzynkiewicz, Sr. Melania Mazurowska, Sr. Euzebia Dakowicz, Sr. Celina Skutnik, and Sr. Angelina Pawelska. For few years, sisters lived in various places. In 1968, Fr. Michael Sawlewicz invited sisters to Kankakee, a city located close to Chicago, where they established their first convent. Ten years later, next convent was established in West Allis.
From the beginning, sisters started working as nurses at local hospitals. To this day, this form of service is developed the most. Sisters work on the floors that require constant sacrifice: surgical floor, oncology, intensive care units, and hospice. Through their attitude of service and self-giving, sisters earned the title of sisters with golden hearts. With friendly presence and professional help, they accompany people touched by illness or permanent disability. Sisters equally care for all the sick, despite their religion and status, and bring to them physical and emotional help. Very often, the sick who are not Catholics ask sisters to pray or bless them.
The work in hospice is especially difficult. With her presence and prayer, sister reminds about good preparation to meet God in eternity, to make peace with Him, and to trust in God's Mercy.
The proof of how sisters' work is appreciated comes in one of the letters:
"Dear Sr. Krystyna,
We appreciate the fact that you answered God's call to help the sick in hospital. We thank God for sending you to help us in our need. Leaving hospital, we knew that our son was in good hands. You are a true treasure. We pray that God blesses you just as you were a blessing to us. Your kindness will never be forgotten."
Recently, sisters broaden their service to school and religion education. One sister in West Allis is a teacher in kindergarten; other is a grade school teacher at St. Martin of Tours parish. It's a Catholic school, but children of other religions attend there too. Under direction of a sister, children learn English, Math, Art, Religion, Science, and Social Studies. Parents truly appreciate the presence of sister in a habit. Children come not only to gain the knowledge, but also for spiritual help. Sometimes, children from junior high come to talk about their problems, seek advice, or simply visit. Sisters join in the parish works such as teaching religion and preparing children to sacraments. During Christmas, they prepare Christmas play. The also help priests through the distribution of Holy Communion and reading at mass. Through religion classes for children from immigrant families at St. Maximilian Colbe, sisters have an opportunity to help directly their follow Polish immigrants living in U.S.
Quiet but equally important work is done by sisters working for Franciscan Fathers at Mission Center in Burlington. Though they themselves don't go to mission places, sisters support many missionaries through their daily work and prayer. Sisters help with correspondence with beneficiaries of church's missions. They participate in collecting the resources for evangelization of those who don't know Christ yet. New mission places, hospitals, orphanages, churches, and help centers for lepers are built from collected gifts and money.
There is another important aspect of apostolic work in America's land. In the world where the footprints of God are often erased, where there is not very well understood freedom, sisters are the live and authentic signs of Christ and God's Kingdom. Very often, they're being stopped on the street by total strangers to hear the words of appreciation and respect for a fact of being sisters, devoting life to God, and wearing a habit. Some of those people are not even Catholics, but they ask for prayer for themselves and their families. The sign of habit and consecrated life tells sisters how much they still have to do and fills them with new strength to zealous service to every person they meet.
God called us to be in congregation with apostolic-missionary goal so that we can serve the church with love and loyalty in spreading the Kingdom of God. In our work, we should be open and respectful toward other religions. That way, we would be able to pave the way to unity since we are children of One Heavenly Father.
One of the main means of achieving the goal of congregation is education of children and youth.
Education should be base on the principals of the catholic faith and teachings of the church. We need to introduce our students to the sacramental life, awaken the awareness of belonging to the church, taking responsibility for its destiny, and educate them in the spirit of obedience and love toward Holy Father. Simultaneously, we have to execute the attitude of respect for people of different religions; that way, we could create the friendly atmosphere that leads to better understanding of the Gospel truth helping in works toward the unity.
In Poland, sisters serve the church in 22 communities. Part of them is located on territories with mixed population of Catholics and Orthodox. The basic source of fulfilling the goal of congregation is educating and upbringing children and youth. In our methods, we try to base our instruction on the principles of Catholic faith and church's teachings; we try to introduce students to sacramental life; inflame the awareness of belonging to church and responsibility of its destiny, bring them up in the spirit of obedience and love of Holy Father, nurture in them the attitude of respect toward people of different religions to create friendly atmosphere that would help to recognize the real truth leading to unity, and prepare children to good life in society.
In the charismatic mission of congregation, religion lessons play an important role. It's a part of work that offers an opportunity of ecumenical work, helps in strengthening people in their faith, shapes the ecumenical attitude, inflames the desire for unity with God, church, and the world. It gives an opportunity to evangelize not only the children and youth, but also families, teachers, and workers of education centers.
Currently in Poland, thirty eight sisters teach religion in kindergarten, grade schools, and high schools. Sisters prepare children to sacraments of reconciliation and communion. Following the charismatic spirit of their congregation, sisters encourage the practice of Holy Communions on the first Fridays of each month and participation in various devotions during liturgical year. Sisters take a special care of children who don't practice or know very little about their religion.
Religion lessons are seeds for all other works. Sisters make sure that teaching religion goes together with liturgical life of the parish. They organize many groups: choirs, missionary groups, rosary groups, Rays of Mary, prayer groups, and Oasis of God's Children. Keeping the tradition started by mother foundress, sisters eagerly take care of processions. They actively work with youth. During the school year, they offer retreat days and organize prayer gatherings in their convents. During winter break and summer vacation, girls participate in retreats under our care. Through such activities, sisters accompany the young in searching for the sense of their lives and own vocation. Through prayer, but also fun times, young people are encouraged to be the witness of Christ in their environment.
The congregation fulfills the mission of educating children and youth in their own education places. Currently, sisters run Grade School, after school program "Nazareth", and five kindergartens. These institutions are also open to people of different religion.
The charitable work is an important part of all works. The sensitivity to the poor, the sick, and the lonely allows sisters to spread the Gospel of Unity and strengthen in faith those touched by challenging situations. Through the work of nurses and parochial helpers, sisters help the sick, elderly, forgotten, and poor; they also bring hope into their lives.
Sisters who work as nurses in hospitals serve as sisters of mercy. They don't limit themselves to just professional help. With their witness of love, they stand by the sick, take care of them with deep compassion and eagerness, and bring hope with the strength for survival. They encourage offering of their sufferings for the unity of families, church, the world, and mission intentions. Sisters help them to understand that, through their prayer and suffering, they participate in salvation of the world. Sisters who work as nurses try to be the true apostles in their workplaces. Through their sacrifice, they teach the respect for human life from the conception to natural death according to moral teachings of the church. One of the sisters-nurses works at hospice in Bialystok. Here, the medical help is important, but even more there is a need for spiritual support in such difficult time of going to Father's house without fear and dignity. She also offers emotional support for families. Different people come to hospice: rich, poor, those who desire God, and those with religious conflict. It happens that people who are not baptized or prefer different religion come too. Sister works with the young people who, as volunteers, help caring for the sick. Every month, she organizes prayer service for families who lost their loved ones due to cancer.
Sisters working in parishes search for people in need. They try to understand their situation, so that they can offer appropriate help for the body and soul. They willingly offer their time to simply listen to others. They encourage praying and full participation in mass. They collect donations, especially clothes and groceries. For Christmas, they prepare a lot of gifts. Before Christmas, they organize Christmas Eve supper for the lonely and homeless. They make sure that people with disability would receive holy sacraments.
During summer, sisters take care of children from big and poor families and take them to summer camps. Sometimes, sisters get help from volunteers fro whom they have formation meetings.
Each of our convents has its own poor for whom we care. Sisters visit them and give gifts for the most poor. They share catholic magazines to strengthen people's spirit. Homeless who knock on our doors always receive a hot meal. If they can, sisters help in changing the status of some people.
Some sisters work as sacristans or organists. Through this work, they share the love of Jesus in Eucharist. Care for esthetic look of the altar, beautifully arranged flowers, and prayerful singing help the faithful in meeting God.
We also cooperate with clergy. Sisters work as secretaries in various institutions in the church. We help the clergy of local churches through quiet computer work or with different letters and documents.
Sisters who are sick, those who work in the kitchen, do laundry, clean, or work in the garden, are the true missionaries and apostles of unity. The efforts of these works and sufferings offered for the intentions of unity are the spiritual treasury of all initiatives of our congregation.