In the late 19th century, a young woman named Michaelina Hordashevska from Lviv, Ukraine, felt a divine calling to dedicate her life to God. Little did she know that her spiritual journey would lead to the establishment of a congregation that would touch countless lives and survive the trials of time. Today, we explore the fascinating story of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, their beginnings, their enduring legacy, and some highlights of their missions.
The Birth of the Congregation
Michaelina Hordashevska sought guidance from Father Jeremiah Lomnitskyj, OSBM, who recognized the need for an active apostolic community of religious women to support missionary work. With Father Kyrylo Seletskyj’s support, the foundation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate was laid. On August 27, 1892, seven young women became postulants of the newly-founded congregation in the church of Zhuzhel, commencing their formation under the guiding hand of Sister Josaphata.
A Call to Serve
The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate had a clear mission: to minister to the spiritual, moral, intellectual, and social needs of their people, witnessing God’s love and care. From the very beginning, they identified with the plight of the Ukrainian people, many of whom emigrated to other countries in search of a better life. As a result, the congregation expanded its mission to various parts of the world, including Canada, Yugoslavia, Brazil, the United States, and more.
Enduring the Darkness
During the 1940s, the communist regime in western Ukraine suppressed all religious orders and congregations. The Sisters Servants were forced to go “underground” to continue their mission secretly. Sister Veronica Gargil and Sister Chrystophora Kachkowska managed to escape to Rome, where the Generalate was officially transferred in 1947. Despite the challenges, the Sisters remained resilient and continued to serve their people in any way they could.
Emergence and Rebirth
With the downfall of communism in Ukraine and Slovakia in the early 1990s, the Sisters Servants emerged from the “underground” and began to re-establish their homes and mission work. Sisters from various countries, including Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Slovakia, Yugoslavia, and Rome, went to Ukraine to assist the Mother province in its time of rebirth. The Sisters embraced their renewed freedom to fulfill their calling with renewed vigor and dedication.
Highlights of Missionary Work in Alberta
The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate have been actively involved in numerous missions worldwide. Some of their notable contributions include:
1. St. Josaphat’s Home in Edmonton (1905): A religious education center where the Sisters organize programs for children, youth, and adults of the Eparchy, as well as provide spiritual direction and assistance to the sick and needy.
2. St. Ambrose Home (1968): A place where Sisters conduct a daily pre-school Ukrainian language program and offer various pastoral services to the community.
3. St. Bernadette’s Home in Calgary (1952-2016): Sisters serve in parishes, teaching Ukrainian language and religion, leading liturgical singing, and offering spiritual guidance to the community.
4. Mary Immaculate Hospital (1928-2005): The Sisters ministered to the health care needs of the predominantly Ukrainian community, visiting the sick, helping the needy, and taking care of the elderly and ailing.
5. St. Joseph’s Home in Mundare (1926): This home is for elderly and ailing Sisters. This home is a “house of prayer”; and those who are able to spend time on the telephone giving good counsel and supporting the needy.
6. Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Vegreville (1943-2003): The Sisters were involved in parish work, teaching catechism, preparing children for First Holy Communion, visiting the sick and elderly in their homes, and sowing liturgical vestments.
7. Mary Immaculate Hospital in Willingdon (1935-1998): Sisters managed the hospital, often having a great influence on the religious life of their patients. They visited the sick at other hospitals. Helped the needy and neglected. Took care of the elderly and ailing Sisters. The hospital was closed in 1998 as part of the provincial government cut backs.
The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate have left an indelible mark on the world through their unwavering commitment to God’s service and their dedication to the spiritual and social welfare of their people. From their modest beginnings in Ukraine, they have expanded their mission to touch lives in various countries, leaving a legacy of love, care, and faith. As we celebrate their centenary and reflect on their remarkable journey, we honor the Sisters Servants for their enduring spirit and their remarkable contributions to the communities they serve. May their legacy continue to inspire generations to come.