The Birth of Our Congregation

Sr. JosaphataAs a young woman of Lviv, Ukraine, Michaelina Hordashevska experienced a call to the religious life and searched for a way to respond. Privately, she sought spiritual direction from Father Jeremiah Lomnitskyj, OSBM, and at one point, made a private vow of chastity for a year, with his permission and witness. At that time, there was only one women’s religious community in the Eastern or Byzantine rite in Ukraine, that of the Basilian Sisters, a cloistered order, and at first, she was discerning entering that community.


Fr. JeremiahFather Jeremiah Lomnitskyj, OSBM, had been among the first of the Basilian Fathers trained under the renewal of the Polish Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), then mandated by Pope Leo XIII, because of the decline of the order over centuries of persecution. A great missionary in his own right, Fr. Lomnitskyj also held that the work of missionaries in any location would not bear fruit without an active apostolic community of religious women to foster the spiritual seeds planted in souls. He kept that thought close to him, not knowing how it could be realized for his people.


Fr. KyryloIn the village of Zhuzhel, Father Kyrylo (Cyril) Seletskyj, a diocesan priest and a widower, beloved of his parishioners, was being transferred to the village of Rava-Ruska. As a parting gift to his parish, he arranged for a parish mission to be preached by a Basilian mission team, headed by Fr. Jeremiah Lomnitskyj, OSBM. The mission was very inspiring and memorable.





Zhuzhel Mission three girls and Father
At that mission, in 1891, Fr. Lomnitskyj was approached by three young girls, also wanting to give their lives to God. He told them of the Basilian Sisters, adding that if their parents approved, and could afford a dowry, the only way a cloistered order could support itself, he would help them to enter. One of them asked, “And if a poor girl wanted to give her life to God, there would be no place for her?” This moved him very deeply, and reminded him of the active community he knew would be needed to support his and his confreres’ missionary work. That night, he talked over this proposal with all the clergy present, including Fr. Seletskyj, about 30 in number.The result of their discussion was thus: Because of polemics between the Polish and Ukrainians, Fr. Lomnitskyj feared that the people, on whose material support this venture would depend, would be suspicious of a monk of the Polish Jesuit reform. So he asked if Fr. Seletskyj would look after the material needs of the new congregation, and he, as a Basilian monk, would look after their spiritual needs. Fr. Seletskyj agreed, and permission to pursue this project was granted by Fr. Lomnitskyj’s superior.Fr. Lomnytskyj asked Michaelina to be the first member of this new apostolic congregation, openly speaking of the difficulties that she would face. She consented and was prepared for this challenging responsibility by the Felician Sisters, an active apostolic branch of Franciscans, in Zhovkva.On August 27, 1892, seven young women were received as postulants of the newly-founded Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in the church in Zhuzhel, and, under the guiding hand of Sister Josaphata, began their formation in religious life. She initiated the educational and health care ministries and oversaw the opening of new missions.

Destined to Live On

Our congregation had been founded to minister to the spiritual, moral, intellectual and social needs of our people, as we witness to God’s love and care. Since our founding we have identified with the plight of our Ukrainian people, many of whom emigrated to other countries in search of a better life. Over the years, the congregation branched out from western Ukraine to Canada, Yugoslavia, Brazil, United States, Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Great Britain, France, Argentina, Germany, and Australia and Kazhakstan.

SSMI Underground Sisters Underground

In the 1940’s the communist regime in western Ukraine suppressed all the religious orders and congregations. All of our homes and institutions were seized and the Sisters were forced to go “underground”. Sister Veronica Gargil, Superior General and her Councillor, Sister Chrystophora Kachkowska, were able to escape to Czechoslovakia, and then in 1945, to Rome. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s our Sisters in Czechoslovakia also were suppressed by the communist regime and also had to live and serve their people “underground”.

In 1947 the Generalate was officially transferred from Lviv, Ukraine, to property which the Canadian Sisters Servants had purchased in Rome.

With the downfall of communism in Ukraine and Slovakia in the early 1990’s, our Sisters emerged from the “underground” and have re-established their homes and mission work, adapting to new circumstances. Sisters from Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Slovakia, Yugoslavia and from the Generalate in Rome went to Ukraine to assist the Mother province in its time of rebirth.

It was truly a great blessing to celebrate the Centenary of our Founding in 1992 in Ukraine. The Sisters in Ukraine hosted Sisters Servants from North and South America and other European countries for the largest world-wide gathering in the congregation’s history. An especially memorable Centenary Year celebration was in Zhuzheliany (formerly Zhuzhel), the location of our first home. Sisters from thirteen countries participated in a Divine Liturgy of Thanksgiving and a special Jubilee program.

Our Centenary history, Glory to You, O God, published in 1992, recaptures the remarkable story of the Sisters Servants in our first hundred years. It is available in English, Ukrainian and Portuguese.

For a closer look at our beginnings, see our DVD, “Life ~ Spirit ~ Sainthood: Sister Josaphata Hordashevska”.