A reflection by Sr. Angela G. MWIMBE
God calls us with both our gifts and our limitations. It is in our limitations and parts of our lives which embarrass us, that we are often drawn closest to God. He loves us the way we are. Therefore, he wants us to cast off any thing that may keep us from following him more closely. He is always inviting us to follow him with full knowledge of our human nature. One can serve God faithfully in any state of life, not only as a priest, or a consecrated person; but, as a lay person. One such an example is Blessed Edmund Bojanowski; founder of the religious congregation of the Little Servants of Mary Immaculate Sisters.
Edmund was born into a devout, patriotic family of nobility, to Valentine, and Teresa, on November 14th. 1814. This was a time of religious renewal after many years of political instability. Many people had died in war leaving behind many orphans. Due to his delicate health in childhood, and youth, Edmund did home-schooling by private tutors. He went to Wroclaw University, and later to Berlin in Germany. He took keen interest in theology, pastoral renewal, and Christian charity. While at Berlin University he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis (TB). So he returned to Poland; interrupting his studies. After recovery, he was committed to assisting in the struggles of “human spirit,” particularly with children, and the sick. He was a remarkable Catholic lay apostle, a writer, and educator who worked for social justice. Later in life he entered the seminary, for he wanted to become a priest; but, could not make it due to his failing health.
Moved by the miseries he saw, Edmund started a home for the orphans and health services for the sick, day nursery shelters for the neglected children, libraries for the needy, and various activities to develop the religious, moral, and cultural values of the people. Due to the demand of work, he realized that he needed help. He gathered village girls, and he taught them how to care for the orphans. After prayer and consultation with his spiritual advisors, he decided to form a religious institute to support his work. Inspired by the Holy Spirit he founded the congregation of the Little Servant of Mary Immaculate, on May 3rd. 1850. He entrusted the spiritual care of the first group of his sisters to the Jesuit fathers, while he remained an encouraging, and a disciplined “father” to the sisters. He frequently visited and prayed with them, directing, and observing their progress, and he wrote the (original) rules for them. The sisters worked to educate, and care for children (orphans), and then extended to the youth, the sick, elderly, and the needy.
From rural nursery schools, and health care among the sick, the congregation spread into towns of Poland, later to Asia, USA, and Africa. Eventually the congregation became autonomous with papal rights. Today, the congregation is a federation of four distinct religious branches, due to the 19th century political partition of Poland, which made it impossible for the sisters working in various locations to keep in touch, and to remain in contact with each other. Nevertheless, the four branches still remain mindful of their founder’s charisma. From time to time, delegates from these branches meet to discuss matters pertaining to the federation. Despite his delicate health, Edmund was endowed with many talents, and a particular depth of spiritual life. The holy Eucharist was the center of his life, the most important event of the day. He walked a long distance to attend a daily holy mass. He spent hours in the church before the Blessed Sacrament. He was a ZEALOUS ADORER OF THE HOLY EUCHARIST.
Edmund “no longer prayed with words, and thoughts; but, with the heart and fullness of spirit”. Before his death he wrote, “I have concluded prayer which I do not know when I started.” He is a MODEL OF FERVENT and TRANSFORMING PRAYER.
Edmund was immensely sensitive to the spiritual and material needs of others. He was compassionate and never neglected any occasion to help the needy. Through his hands, God showed his providence to children, the sick, and the poor. He loved those whom others scorned, and allowed the poor to surround him. In the poor he recognized the features of Christ defenseless in the stable, and suffering on the cross. His entire life was “one thread of love.” He was A CORDIALLY GOOD MAN.
During his life, he experienced various difficult situations; but, he endured them on his knees, commending them to God. He is a model of PATIENCE IN OPPOSITION, UNCERTAINTIES, and ADVERSITIES.
Edmund did so much good during his short earthly life; he even founded a religious congregation of sisters as a layman. Before his death he said; “now I understand that God wanted me to die a layman.” He is A MODEL OF THE LAY FAITHFUL.
During contentious discussions of religion, Edmund did not keep silence; but, with patience, tranquility, and gentleness, he defended the faith, truth, and justice. He was a DEFENDER OF FAITH.
Edmund spent most of his time with children teaching them the fundamental truths of the Gospel, and encouraging them to pray. He is a MODEL OF EDUCATORS (teachers) OF CHILDREN, AND THE YOUTH.
Edmund used to visit the sick, bringing them medicine, herbs, comfort, encouraging reception of sacraments, watched them, and earnestly prayed for the dying. He was a RELIEF TO THE DYING.
In his life, Edmund experienced physical weakness and suffering; but, the love of God strengthened him, though physically weakened by illness. He said to the sisters, “even if you would be falling in spirit, do not allow your faithfulness to be shaken.” He is a MODEL FOR THE SICK, AND SUFFERING.
Edmund exemplified the value and beauty of evangelical simplicity. In its spirit, he formed the congregation of the Little Servant Sisters of Mary Immaculate. His final recommendation to the sisters before his death was simplicity. He said, “above all I recommend simplicity. As long as it is fostered in the congregation, God’s blessings will be upon it.” He is a MODEL OF SIMPLICITY. Since simplicity is our charisma, I really like the song entitled:
In simplicity ….
Refrain: Like the sunflower that follows every movement of the sun, so I turn towards you, to follow you my lord (x2).
1. In simplicity, charity I follow: (x2)
2. In simplicity, fidelity I follow: (x2).
I like this (very familiar) song, because it summarizes the Charisma of blessed Edmund. As his followers, we are invited to always turn to God in simplicity, and allow him to lead us.
Edmund died on August 7th. 1871 at 57 years, and was beatified on June 13th 1999, by Pope John Paul II (now St. John Paul II).
In order to involve the lay faithful in the work started by a lay person –Edmund, a movement has been started for the lay faithful in Lusaka archdiocese, with the permission of Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu. Therefore, we invite everybody to join us in praying for his canonization.
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