The history of the Congregation
of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland
The history of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland has its roots in the history of French religious communities. Mother Teresa, Ewa Countess Potocka of the Sułkowski princes (1814 - 1881), on receiving the Constitution, the instruction on spirituality and methods of apostolic work from mother Teresa Rondeau from Laval, at the request of archbishop Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, initiated the first House of Mercy in Poland, in Warsaw, on Żytnia Street. The 1st day of November, 1862 has been accepted as the date of the Congregation beginning.
The venues of apostolic activity of the Congregation of the Sisters of our Lady of Mercy, called the Houses of Mercy, gathered girls and women who wished profound moral change of their own free will. The sisters, while conducting this difficult pedagogical work and persevering in common prayer and work with the women, always took care of the family atmosphere in the houses. The separation from the world and certain anonymity also influenced the girls significantly and resulted in the expected effects. Many hundreds of girls and women began their lives again, with the feeling of personal dignity, with the firm conviction about the value and sense of human life and its ultimate goal. The Congregation was developing rapidly and more Houses of Mercy emerged in Poland soon.
In 1878 the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy obtained the decree of praise from the Holy See and since then it has been functioning on the basis of the Papal law. In the period between the world wars of the 20th century, more and more young girls were sent by the courts and individual people to the Houses of Mercy. Gradually a school system was organized for them. In this way the Houses of Mercy which were the places of work and prayer, were transformed into closed educational institutions with the teaching programmes for primary and secondary vocational schools. During the communist era (until 1962) the institutions run by the Congregation were nationalized and some of them were transformed into Caritas venues in which the sisters took care of children with lowered mental and psycho-motor skills and also of physically and mentally handicapped women.
It was this Congregation to which God called Sister M. Fautyna Kowalska (1905 - 1938) and where He made her the Apostle of Divine Mercy. While undertaking the charismatic mission of St. Sister Faustyna conveyed in the Message of Divine Mercy which was entrusted to her by Jesus, the sisters proclaim both with their lives and words the truth about the merciful love of God towards each human and they also implore this Divine Mercy for the whole world, especially for the people who are staying far away from God or for the ones who are dying. The Apostolate of Mercy is performed in the Congregation in the works run by the sisters. On 25 August 1995 St. Sister Faustina was solemnly recognised as the spiritual co-founder of the Congregation.
The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy run Youth Educational Centres for girls, the houses for single mothers, therapeutic local community common rooms, kindergartens, orphanages, nursing homes for children and adults and retreat homes. Additionally, they proclaim the Message of Mercy in shrines, parishes and prisons. They also help to form the apostles of Divine Mercy, they catechize in schools, run the paper Misericordia, the quaterly Message of Mercy and cooperate with other media. In all the works they are trying to make the evangelical value of Divine Mercy present to the world .
Contemporary Constitutions of the Congregation define its spirituality by means of the word Mercy. This word determines both the lifestyle of the whole Institute and each sister. In the centre of this spirituality there is the mystery of Divine Mercy which is the source, pattern and motivation of their apostolic activity, as well as of building their relationship with God and with other humans. Continuous learning and pondering over the mystery together with displaying mercy towards our neighbours, in practice guide each sister towards the attitude of full trust in God's goodness in imitation of Mary, the Mother of Mercy who is the main patron of the Congregation.
See more: www.faustyna.pl
Our Lady of Mercy
Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy through a solemn act of election appointed Our Lady for the Superior General of the Congregation entrusting her with all the earthly and eternal matters. That act took place in the General House in Warsaw, Żytnia Street on 5 August 1937 and it was attended by all the house superiors. Next, the act was repeated in all the houses of the Congregation on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven on 15 August 1937 with the participation of all the sisters of the Congregation. Saint Sister Faustina describes that event in her Diary:
August 15, 1937. During meditation, God‟s presence pervaded me keenly, and I was aware of the Virgin Mary‟s joy at the moment of Her Assumption Towards the end of the ceremony (10) carried out in honor of the Mother of God, I saw the Virgin Mary, and She said to me, Oh, how very pleased I am with the homage of your love! And at that moment She covered all the sisters of our Congregation with Her mantle. With Her right hand, She clasped Mother General Michael to herself, and with Her left hand She did so to me, while all the sisters were at Her feet, covered with Her mantle. Then the Mother of God said, Everyone who perseveres zealously till death in My Congregation will be spared the fire of purgatory, and I desire that each one distinguish herself by the following virtues: humility and meekness; chastity and love of God and neighbor; compassion and mercy (Diary 1244).
The act of election of Our Lady of Mercy for the Superior General of the Congregation is renewed on 5 August every year.