Hospital Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis
Special anniversaries, jubilees, dates always rouse me to reflection and memories. They are important part of the history of my life, whereas I am a bit fascinated with the history so different facts and all people and events connected with it are important to me.
This year I thank God especially for two round anniversaries: 45 years of life and 25 years of religious life.
45 years ago, on a frosty day (as my good, unfortunately deceased, mum used to said)November the 9th, 1965 I came into the world as a daughter of Jan and Hildegarda Kucharczyk. Four years later my brother, Henryk, was born.
Since I was born, Franciscan Sisters have been practically signed into my life. There were our Sisters in my hometown, Olesno. Some of them worked in the city hospital. Among them there was s. M. Fabiola. She told my mum that when she gave birth to a girl she should name her Barbara. The Sisters used to be held in high esteem by everyone and some of them really knew how to make people warm to their ideas. And so my mother named me Barbara. Then, in the novitiate, I took the name Justyna.
My brother and I were brought up in healthy catholic faith. I remember my parents kneeling and praying in the evening and I also recollect rosary saying together with them. They handed down catholic faith and real values to me. They paid a lot heed to us to be diligent students. Sometimes we rebelled as kids do but now I appreciate that. When I was to choose high school, I faced a dilemma: the High School of Fine Arts, that was connected with leaving home, boarding house and other consequences or a school in my hometown. I have always been a shy person so I couldn’t even imagine leaving my home for o long time. Despite the strenuous encouragement for my teachers part to choose the High School of Fine Arts, I chose a high school close to my house. I thought (like most of my friends) that after graduating I would find a job in an office.
But God had different plans … In the last years of school I started going on retreats for girls that were organized in Oldrzychowice. I also became a frequent visitor to the Sisters’ convent in my hometown. More and more seriously I started thinking of religious life. In the 80s, my school took a dim view of the youth involved in church. What was worse, my friend told at school that I was considering taking up religious life. I suffered the unpleasant consequences of it, that seemed really unfair and I couldn’t understand them that time. I was warned already in September by one of my teachers that I possibly won’t pass my school-leaving examination. And so it happened. I failed my school-leaving exam. I bore a grudge against God, and there was deep frustration in my heart. I had always learnt thoroughly … and I failed just because I was considering entering a convent, why? However, I didn’t changed my mind about religious life and God did everything in his own way. And it was only 10 years after the unfortunate exam that I became convinced that God could really surprise us with his generosity.
In the congregation I graduated from School of Religious Education in Wroclaw and I became a catechist. It was the time in Poland when religion classes were back to school. Everything would have been normal and peaceful if the provincial superior hadn’t asked me: ‘Maybe you could take the school-leaving exam?’ I was really surprised because 10 years had passed since I finish high school. How could I manage all of it? The school curriculum had changed. Although I was still teaching at school I knew that it won’t be easier but even harder because I would have to cope both – teaching and preparing to exam. There were thousands of question and doubts running through my heart but I knew that I couldn’t say ‘no’ to my superior. I trusted God but I must say that it was with great anxiety. Our dear elder Sisters and many other people were supporting me with their prayers while I was preparing to the exam and working simultaneously, having very little time at my disposal. Well, God surprised me a lot because the result is his work and the prayer of others. I passed the exam the best of all examinees at school ( there were quite a lot of them). Then I started postgraduate studies and wrote my awarded Master’s dissertation. Now I know that I needed that failed exam to become convinced how much God loves me and that He pays handsomely when we trust Him.
Then there was hard experience, before my final profession of vows – illness and death of my beloved mum, she was almost 52. My father died 6 years later. In that painful experience there was also important, beautiful God’s plan. Because of my mum’s illness my brother met his present wife and I gained a wonderful sister-in-law.
I worked in different schools and kindergartens for 10 years. It was hard for me to leave the job and children, who I loved so much, to take up responsible work in Postulant and Novitiate Formation of our province for 8 years. However, once again God’s love surprised me because soon I beloved work in formation. So watching how love to our community, fascination for our founder and history of the congregation grew in the youth warmed my heart. At present I am not directly responsible for the formation but I still give lectures in franciscanism and the history of the congregation, I take care of the provincial library and I do many different things connected with history but not only.
Finally, a small addendum about God’s plans that are often incredible for our human logic.
I used to dream of becoming a visual artist, a painter or an architect therefore I thought of High School of Fine Arts. I have always liked painting, sketching and when I entered the convent 25 years ago, I thought (especially at the first stages of religious life) that I would have to burry my talents and all that I liked so much. Well, once again God surprised me. Now I understand that when He gives us talents He does it because He wants us to serve others through them and to develop them and not to squander. I must honestly confess that I have many opportunities (like all of us) to use my talents and I can’t complain about it.
Thank you God for surprising me with your love so often because God’s way of thinking is not human way of thinking.
Thank you God for my 45 years of life and 25 years of religious life, for Franciscan and international vocation. For the fact You are and I am.