If God calls, don't delay!
On July 1st 2020 our religious Family had the joy of celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Religious profession of five Indian Sisters and Sister Assunta Giertych, at present General Counsellor and Mission Secretary of our Congregation. We asked her to share her vocation story you.
Although I was born in England where my parents went to live after the upheaval of World Ward II, I am Polish. At home we always spoke Polish so when I started to go to school at the age of five, I didn’t know a word of English. As a child I had no difficulty learning this new language so I grew up bilingual. My mother taught us Polish and she made us read aloud classic Polish literature. She also asked us to write in Polish to our relatives in Poland. My father taught us Polish history.
Our family life was permeated by our faith in God, a loving and provvident Father, who helped and sustained us in every trial. Everyday we prayed a decade of the Rosary together, but over and above this formal prayer, it was the spontaneous turning to the Lord on every occasion - big or small - of daily life which would define the simple but profound faith that was part of our family life. I was 9 years old when one of my older sisters joined the Felician Sisters. Later on, my younger brother joined the Dominicans.
We were a big family, with nine children – I was the sixth. As we were refugees it was a difficult task for our parents to provide for us. Before he got married, my father had studied law and later on he engaged in political studies. He had worked for some time at the Polish Consulate in Germany and later on as a journalist but in England it was impossible to continue his profession. He opted to settle for whatever work was available in order to provide for his big family: he washed dishes in a restaurant, he made bags, he helped in a bakery, as a shop assistant in a big book store. I was already a teenager when, with the advice of the Parish Priest, he found work as a teacher. From then onwards he earned a better salary and this eased the economic burdens.
When I was 16 I read a booklet on the Claverian vocation written by Mary Theresa Ledochowska. At this stage I had an inner conviction of the direction I would follow. I don’t know how the booklet arrived in our home. However, since my mother was a subscriber to the “Echo from Africa”, I presume that the Sisters sent it to her when acknowledging a donation she had sent them.
At that particular time, two of my companions entered the Postulancy with the Sisters whose school we attended. I asked myself if I should do likewise. I spoke to my mother about it and showed her the booklet which explained the Claverian charism and indicated the conditions necessary for entering the Congregation. One of these prescribed that school should be completed. My mother told me that, given this condition, it would be advisable to finish school. I accepted her advice.
Shortly afterwards I had my one hesitation in my otherwise firm conviction of the call to consecrated life; it was about when I should enter the convent. One of my sisters was studying at university at the time and during the holidays at home, she talked not so much about her studies but about the student get-togethers, the carnival, the jokes and the joys of student life. All this was a huge attraction for me. I knew that as a Sister I would be able to continue my studies. All the Sisters who taught us had obtained their degrees as Sisters but I was aware that as a Sister it would not be possible for me to share the students’ celebrations. I wonderded if it would be better to delay my entrance to the convent, attend university, enjoy the carefree student life and then later on, consecrate myself to the Lord. It was a real interior struggle. I felt that the Lord wanted me, He was calling me, but I was attracted by the joys of college life... Then I read somewhere, I don’t know exactly where, of the risk of losing a vocation, if one delayed answering the Lord’s call. But I didn’t want to lose the calling that had been in my heart for many years. Jesus won in the end – I decided to enter the convent as soon as I finished school.
At 18, I no longer had inner doubts: my decision was already made. I finished school in the summer of 1967, I had my last holiday with my family and in September I left for Rome to enter the Congregation. I have never regretted my decision and I thank the Lord for His fidelty and His goodness to me throughout all these years. I made my First Profession on July 1st, 1970 and 50 years later I can sing with Our Lady: “The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name”.