From left to right, Sr. Alina Ploszczyca, Provincial Minister of the Krakow Province, student Jessica Pelletier, Sr. Mary Archangela Bojarczuk, a Felician sister from Toronto who accompanied the group, student Victoria Smirlies, an unidentified Felician sister from Poland and student Kamila Swiderski stand in the soup kitchen in Krakow. Photo courtesy of Holy Name of Mary College School

Felician Sisters inspire students in Krakow

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  • May 9, 2012

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. - To connect and give back to their school’s founders, Grade 12 students at Holy Name of Mary College School travelled to Krakow, Poland, where the Felician Sisters have a strong community.

From April 25 to May 3, nine students from the Mississauga, Ont., school volunteered at three institutions run by the sisters,  soup kitchen, a kindergarten class and a home for the elderly.

“The sisters showed a really transparent joy and love in the name of Jesus,” said Jim McLevey, Grade 12 religion teacher and chaplain. “I was overwhelmed by them and it caught us off guard. The students were really overwhelmed by the beauty of what the sisters are doing and who they are.”

The group also visited Wadowice, the birthplace of Blessed John Paul II, on the anniversary of his beatification.

“We went into his house, his town, the church where he prayed and we saw many of the churches that were dedicated to him.”

Kamila Swiderski spent two days at the home for the elderly with the Felician Sisters, helping to feed residents who were quite ill.

“The amount of passion and dedication that the sisters have for helping the elderly was really unbelievable and shocking,” said Swiderski. “And it definitely brought me to tears at some points on the trip.”

Through working with them, she gained a deeper connection with the sisters.

“I gained so much more respect than I already had for them and I definitely want to learn more about them,” said Swiberski, whose Polish background allowed her to act as a translator on the trip.

She said being in their presence sparked a greater understanding of the faith and how important it is in her daily life.

Some of the elderly members they helped had lived through the Second World War, added McLevey.

“You’re feeding them through a syringe and they couldn’t talk to us in a way we could understand, but certainly in their eyes you could really see the depth of history.”

Every night, the students came together to pray and debrief on each day’s events, identifying where they saw Jesus at work, said McLevey, who added the group also paid a visit to Auschwitz and spent a night in a historical mountain town.

For Meredith Webb, she enjoyed seeing the young nuns — some as young as 21 — in the 70-member community.

“Rather than go to Kenya to build a school, this was more hands on and relatable to our school community.”

Impressed by Poland’s rich history and deep religious faith, Webb said she’ll be thinking about the leadership trip for a long time.

“I’m still thinking about Auschwitz and feeding those elderly women there. It’s a good thing because it makes me reflect and think about life.”

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