Saint of the Day – 5 June – Blessed Malgorzata Szewczyk (1828-1905). She was called “an Angel of Kindness” – Religious and Founder of the Daughters of the Sorrowful Mother of God, known commonly as the “Seraphic Sisters,” Apostle of Mercy and Charity to the poor, needy, homeless, the sick and orphans – born as Łucja Szewczyk in 1828 in Szepetówka, Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine and died on 5 June 1905 in Nieszawa, Aleksandrów, Poland. Patronage – the Seraphic Sisters.
Łucja Szewczyk was born in 1828 in a noble family in Volhynia. Orphaned at an early age, she was cared for by her half-sister. In the difficult situation of partitions and persecution of the Church at the age of 20, she made her tertiary profession in the Third Order of St Francis. She learned to love “love who is not loved” from the poor man from Assisi.
At the age of 42, together with another tertiary she went on a dangerous journey to the Holy Land. She went all the way to Odessa on foot. There she boarded a ship that sailed to her dream destination. In Jerusalem, she worked at St Joseph’s Hospital alongside French nuns. During her three-year stay in the land of Jesus, she surrendered her life to Our Lady of Sorrows. Here, in the footsteps of the Lord, she discovered her calling – she wished to live “for the glory of God and for the good of suffering humanity.”
After returning from the Holy Land and Loreto, in 1880, she went to Zakroczym near Warsaw. On the advice of Father Honorat Koźmiński, who became her Spiritual Director, the first step she took was to invite two poor and sick elderly women to live in her apartment. According to her memoirs, she carried two elderly women on her own back, whom she cared for. She took care of them in secret, because charitable or church activities were forbidden, according to the decrees of the Russian Emperor, who at the time ruled over Poland. When taking her Franciscan vows, in addition to obedience, poverty and chastity, she took a vow pledging mercy to the needy. Father Honoratwrote: “Łucja felt a desire to devote herself to the misery of the poor … She found paupers and devoted herself to them with a strange passion…. Encouraged by her example, pious people began to join her. … God blessed her.”
Later to accommodate the growing number and better serve those in need, she decided to purchase a new house with a garden. On the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows – on 8 April 1881, she founded a new Congregation, initially under the name of the Sisters of the Poor. Father Honorat chose their Superior, Łucja, who took the name Małgorzata. For the first 10 years, the sisters operated in the Russian partition in a hidden way. Mother Małgorzata opened houses in Warsaw and Częstochowa. In 1891 she went to Galicia, where there was greater religious freedom. She founded a religious house in Hałcnów. The Congregation adopted Franciscan habits and a new name: Daughters of Our Lady of Sorrows.
A year later, the construction of the Monastery in Oświęcim began, which became the Motherhouse of the “Seraphic Sisters.” The sisters created an orphanage for children, a shelter for sick and abandoned old men, a tailoring and embroidery workshop for girls. There was also an orphanage in Żywiec, a religious institution in Wielka Wieś (teaching), in Przemyśl (to serve in a local hospital), Stryj and Frydrychowice (orphanages for children, a shelter for the elderly), Siemiechów (teaching), Przemyślany (hospital ministry), Drohobych (orphanage, orphanage), in Mogila near Kraków (teaching in elementary school) and Jarosław (hospital ministry). Mother Małgorzata, by her example, encouraged the sisters, by using the sick and neglected, to reach their souls and to preserve the “holy virtue of poverty.”
In 1904, after twenty-three years, Mother Małgorzata, “burdened with age and physical weaknesses,” she resigned from the post of Superior General. She went to Nieszawa, a branch which at that time was the only one operating within the Russian partition. She became a “little” sister again. She continued to serve the needy and, toward the end of her life, offered her suffering for their intentions.
The inhabitants of Nieszawa called their Mother Małgorzata “an Angel of Kindness.” She spent the last months of her life “praying constantly.” She died on 5 June 1905. Crowds of people attended her funeral in 1905. The “mother of the poor and orphaned” was beatified on 9 June 2013 in Krakow, where the Motherhouse of the congregation she founded is currently located, at 3 Łowiecka.
In 1931, her remains were moved from Nieszawa to the cemetery chapel in Oświęcim and in 1951 – to the local church which she, herself had built.
Mother Małgorzata makes us careful not to pass by a person who may not seem in need but suffers from loneliness, rejection and ill health. It is not enough to secure someone materially or give him professional help. One must first see a person, a human being, because human suffering has a specific face.
Bl Małgorzata ‘s Order now operates in places such as Belarus and France and in 2005 had 679 religious in 76 houses. The Order received the Papal Decree of praise from Pope Pius X on 12 February 1909 and full pontifical approval from Pope Pius XII on 3 March 1953. At some stage the order was aggregated to the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.
Bl Małgorzata was Beatified on 9 June 2013, Sanktuarium Bożego Miłosierdzia, Kraków, Poland by Cardinal Angelo Amato.