Sr. Anna Maka has retired, but remains faithful to her life of prayer as a Sister of the Holy Name of Jesus.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Sr. Anna Maka has retired, but remains faithful to her life of prayer as a Sister of the Holy Name of Jesus.

December 7, 2015
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Pious and loving are the best words to describe the Polish Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus.

That is the first impression that a young Sister Anna Maka, a member of the congregation in Edmonton, had of the sisters when she entered consecrated life 60 years ago.

Growing up in Szaflary, a village in southern Poland, Maka's home and church life was very religious. When she finished school, she decided to answer God's call to serve him.

Her apostolate has taken her from nursing at a hospital in Warsaw, the capital of Poland; to Alberta, where she cared for the sick in Radway; and all the way to Namibia, in Africa.

While caring for the most poor and needy in the southern African desert country, Maka faced problems adjusting to the weather, scorpions, spiders, snakes and even contracted malaria.

Yet she always obediently went wherever she was told to go, following orders from the convent but also motivated by prayer, the love of God and her fellow person to help as many people as she could.

"Our life is dedicated to the Church," said Maka, through a translator. Now 80, she said she is happy with her life and with her vocation.

The Sisters of the Holy Name were founded in 1887 in Warsaw, one of many Franciscan congregations founded by Blessed Honorat Kozminski and foundress Mother Maria Franciszka.

The founding of the congregation came during a time of persecution after the failure of the 1863 January Uprising against the Russian Empire. New congregations could be started only in hiding, so the sisters never wore habits.

At the beginning, the sisters led their apostolic work among the seamstresses in Poland, aiming for their religious and moral improvement.

The sisters also served as nurses, cooks, teachers, sacristans, organists and ran a school in Warsaw.

Internationally, they also have convents in Namibia, Lithuania and England.

The mission of the sisters is to make the name of Jesus known to all nations by the holiness of their lives, through prayer and penance, and by participating in the pastoral mission of the Church through their work in the Church and lay institutions.

WORKING FOR THE LORD

The sisters work with all their heart for the Lord, not for people, to see, said Sister Malgorzata Lawicka, superior of the Edmonton convent.

The sisters arrived in Edmonton in 1991, when the Polish parish of Our Lady Queen of Poland was established on the south side.

Cardinal Józef Glemp sent a letter recommending the sisters to Archbishop Joseph MacNeil about their willingness to work in the Edmonton Polish parish.

"The sisters are conscientious, large-hearted and generous," stated Glemp, who had known the congregation for some time as archbishop of Warsaw. "That is why I hope that their ministry in the Polish parish in Edmonton will be led in the spirit of genuine service to God and man."

Today, five sisters serve in Alberta - three in Edmonton at Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish and two in Smoky Lake.

Sisters Zofia Skorzynska, Lawicka and Maka are revered by members of the parish, said secretary Irene Jez.

"They are very respected here by the parishioners," said Jez, noting that it is a part of Polish tradition to respect sisters as one would a priest. "In the old country, the way we were raised, whatever they say, we should listen to them."

For immigrants, the sisters also bring a little Polish tradition, said Jez.

ALWAYS AVAILABLE

In addition to helping with liturgy, church flowers, Communion and visiting the sick, the sisters cook delicious food and are available whenever needed.

"Whenever we need something from them they are ready to take the time and energy to follow through on whatever's asked," said Jez.

The parishioners are also very kind and helpful to the sisters, said Maka. "They want to help as much as they can, and they do."

While Maka is now retired, the sisters remain active in the diocese.

In addition to her duties as superior, Lawicka serves as a catechist and operates a daycare at their Edmonton convent in the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood.

The sisters live together in their convent and balance prayer and work. A chapel in the convent is used for Mass on feast days when the sisters often invite retired Polish priests to celebrate.

In their spirituality, the sisters follow in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi, known for his love of animals, the natural environment and the Eucharist.