Testimony of Sr. M. Benona SMI
I got to know the congregation through my older sisters who worked in Fridrichstahl (Zagwiździe), where I lived. The sisters looked after children and the elderly there, and they also visited the sick. There was one older sister Gerwazja who loved me very much, and I loved her also. This acquaintance drew me to the monastery (“I drew them with human bonds, and they were bonds of love” Hosea 11: 4).
Unfortunately, in January 1943, the Russians (Russians) shot Sister Gerwzia. That day she came from the sick, and there was a Rusek who hurt her and then led her out into the yard. She knelt beside a lilac bush, and he killed her with a shot to the side of the head. The sisters took her home and after 3 days she was buried without a priest who was also afraid that they would shoot him. Ultimately, it also happened. My father broke the coffin, dug a grave and laid Sr. Gerwazja in the ground, without any funeral ceremonies. She is lying there in the cemetery to this day.
From the age of 15 I had been working for sisters as a help with the care of elderly women and children. I was washing and cleaning. At that time I thought that God specially educates and stores in some special place girls who want to become religious sisters, and then sends them to a monastery. I wanted to enter a monastery, I didn’t care what it was. I also knew the Noterdam sisters, but they kept their distance from me, they were unavailable, and I wanted more and more to join and be one of the sisters, so I came to the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, because they embraced me, showed a lot of warmth and interest. I wrote a letter to Sister Agreda in German, because I did not speak Polish yet. I wanted to join on October 1st. She wrote back to me to come in early to go to school from September 1st. And that’s how it happened. Together with other candidates, we rejoiced to be together in the convent, there were 14 of us. We were very close, we loved each other.
In my candidacy, for the first time I had a dream about the Founding Father, i.e. his tomb. On both sides stood two little beautiful angels, they held the light in their hands and said: “come here to the Founder and pray, he always listens to you.” At that time, I did not know the Founder, at first I was just glad to be in the monastery. After this dream, I began to get to know our Founder more, I began to pray for his intercession and feel a bond with him.
Later in 1953, while already being deported to Otorowo, I had a dream again of Founder. I only saw him then. He was supposed to be a bishop, but he came in plain clothes, he had black trouser and a white shirt, he was tall, slim and dignified. We were curious how long we would stay there, we waited for him to tell us. We knew it comes from heaven. He raised his hand, looked right, left and said, “Hold on, sisters, hold on.” Behind him was an Angel who talked to the sisters and gave us black wool. We followed Father Founder, but only we could get to the border of the house, then not, because he started to ascend to heaven. We were like disciples who looked at the Ascension of the Lord Jesus. This dream gave me more joy, a willingness to pray and to life in general.
On March 25, at the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 10 sisters and myself made their perpetual vows in Otorowo. It was very modest, but joyful. We got wedding rings (I don’t know where from) and sleeves as a gift.
I was very happy. I was one of the youngest, I was 23 years old. They took a picture of us.
The Ursuline Sisters, who lived 10 km away, visited us, and for holidays and celebrations – they made us surprises to make us happy.
Initially, I worked in the field for 3 months. We were collecting potatoes, beetroots, it was harvest. Later, I sewed shirts and sheets on the machine, ironed them (75 shirts a day, but I ironed more), sewed buttons. There was matins every morning, then Holy Mass, noon prayers at noon, and vespers in the afternoon. We prayed the Latin breviary, I presided often. In summer, when it was hot, we prayed outside, sitting on benches made of wooden boards.
The following year, in January, they let us out.
The stay in Otorowo strengthened my vocation, I was not discouraged by this experience. Only one sister left after her first vows because her mother had come for her. There were 120 sisters there, but only one went. If my mother had come to pick me up, I wouldn’t have gone.
I am proud that I am in the Congregation of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate and that Mary watches over us, because she is closest to the Lord Jesus, she is our Protector and Help of Christians. She is ours and we are her children.
In the most difficult moments, I was supported by mutual love and the joy of being in the community. I experienced that being together gives strength.
Now I am 84 years old and I am waiting for one more dream, when the Founder will come to me. I want to hear what he tells me.
(She listened and wrote down Sr. Rachela Wąsowicz)