Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis

Sr. M. Benita Soll

Go throughout the whole world and preach the Gospel 

During the ceremony of baptism I was christened Irena because of my father’s forgetfulness. Following a family tradition my name was to be Regina, but my father was so excited that when the priest asked what name they had chosen for their daughter, he just forgot. The most popular name in those times was Irena, and that is how I got this name. My grandfather was very unhappy about it and told my father to go and have me rechristened, which was, of course, impossible. And so I remained Irena. I have a sister and two brothers. I drew the example of religious life from my family, especially from my father, who never missed Sunday Mass (except when he was ill). Even when he had to go to work on Sunday, he would tell his boss that it was Sunday and that his duty was to take part in the Holy Mass (I heard him saying that). When he was going home from work in the evening, he walked three kilometers to a nearby parish to take part in the Holy Mass. He always took one of his children with him (usually it was me). When I was growing up, I got involved in the religious life of the parish.

An unexpected question of the parish priest and the consequences of my answer

One day I heard a surprising question from my late parish priest: ‘Can I pray for you to become a nun?’ And what could I answer? I smiled, turned on my heel, said ‘you can pray’, because I did not take the priest’s question seriously, and left. Apparently, the priest’s prayer started to work, because more and more often I asked myself the question ‘What next?’ Later, I was involved with bicycle rallies, catholic youth camps, retreats, and meetings with nuns from different convents. The time of my primary and secondary education was drawing to an end and the question ‘What next?’ recurred. I answered myself – I’m going to carry on learning. Suddenly Somebody in my heart said stop! Time to make up your mind it’s now or never. I was trying to decide which religious congregation to choose. I had a great devotion to Mary Immaculate, so I wanted to go where there was devotion to her. This time I didn’t choose what my uncle wanted (he was an oblate) or my father (though it wasn’t easy for him). I chose the Franciscan nuns – our parish priest took us there for retreat once.

Convent life

I started my convent formation in OÅ‚drzychowice. After taking the first vows I studied in Medical School in KÅ‚odzko. After getting a diploma I started work at Children’s’ Infectious Diseases Clinic in WrocÅ‚aw. Since then, the majority of my convent life has been work with children, who are a school of humility and simplicity for me (I am still so far away from both).

Missionary life

I have been in Kazakhstan for two years. Somebody may ask how did it happen? You have never talked about it. God leads us through different paths. Deep in my heart I often wondered what missionary life was like. My father’s brother – a priest – served God abroad, my father’s uncle was a priest, too – he worked in Germany till the end of his life. When a thought of working in Kazakhstan emerged, I told my superiors that I could go if need be. And so I went. Unfortunately, my beloved father did not live to see it. I’m sure and I can feel that my mother supports me with her prayers. I repeat the words: ‘The Holy Spirit blows wherever It wishes’ and ‘Go (and do not sit) and preach the Gospel’!