Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
March 12, 2001
Polish sisters in Alberta for 25 years
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
SMOKY LAKE — The Sisters of the Holy Name, a religious community born in 19th century Poland and which operated secretly to escape Russian persecution, celebrates 25 years of service in Alberta this month.
The sisters belong to one of 26 similar congregations given birth in the secrecy of the confessional by Blessed Honoratus Kozminski, beatified by Pope John Paul in 1988 "as a man who had fought his way back from infidelity to a triumphant faith."
At the invitation of Bishop Raymond Roy of St. Paul, the first sisters arrived in 1976 and have been active in Edmonton and the Smoky Lake district since, working with largely Polish and Ukrainian communities.
Much as they were when first formed, sisters in the order are not distinguishable by clothes from lay society and generally hold secular jobs. They do not wear religious habits, a fact that originally helped them to survive persecution and to work in many areas unnoticed.
Their apostolate includes religious teaching, babysitting and day care of the elderly in homes and institutions and contact with ethnic residents in diverse communities.
In Smoky Lake, Sisters Barbara Chodkowska and Grazyna Kosowska, both members of the congregation for 25 years, have served the community since 1984. Both work as nursing attendants and, in addition to their evangelization, serve historic Our Lady of the Atonement Church.
In Edmonton, Sisters Anna Maka, Zofia Skorzynska and Margaret Lawicka work in Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish and in occupations similar to their predecessors in Smoky Lake.
The congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Name has 358 members in Poland, Canada, England, Africa, Latvia and Slovenia.
The Alberta sisters, the only ones in Canada, in due time become Canadian citizens. Every three years their mother general from Warsaw makes an official visit. Also, every three years each sister has an opportunity to visit Poland, family and the motherhouse.
"Of course sometimes we miss our homeland," says Chodkowska. "But this is our home now, we want to stay."
Kosowska arrived in Smoky Lake in June 1984 followed by Chodkowska on Halloween the same year. "First we noticed all of the land, it was so huge, and of course we appreciate greatly the freedom."
Immediately the sisters began learning English and took driving lessons. They have become proficient in both.
The first sisters to arrive in 1976, who since have been posted elsewhere, lived with the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception in the Radway hospital. They later bought an empty convent in Smoky Lake built by the Sisters of the Atonement.
After renovations, the convent became their home. It now is shared with Father Jan Otlowski, a retired Polish priest who has been in Canada since 1957. He is chaplain to the sisters and provides service to the local parish, which does not have a resident priest.
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