A transcontinental and spiritual journey

Sister Philomena Nowicka, LSIC
Sister Philomena Nowicka, LSIC

More consecrated persons are needed in the Catholic Church today. I am happy to be one of them.

Each one of us has a unique calling inscribed in our DNA by our Creator. The gift is a treasure to follow the chaste, poor and obedient Christ, our Beloved, passionately in a radical way. Through our public vows — chastity, poverty, obedience — we count on God’s grace to give witness. Inspired by Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord, and the zeal of the missionary disciples, we are but unworthy servants, as regards our duty.

From my early days, I have loved the glistening dewdrop reflecting the Creator, the Eucharistic monstrance, the stories of Mary’s visitation and Jesus teaching the multitudes from a boat and healing the sick in the streets.

My parents from Eastern Poland and St. Petersburg escaped during the Bolshevik Revolution to China, where they later met and married. During the Japanese invasion of Singapore in 1942, my mother, a professional artist, older brother and I at 3 years, escaped torpedoes by ship on the way to Australia and landed in India. My father had to remain at his post in the British Ministry of Information in Singapore and became lost in World War II. Unaware of whereabouts in the search, only after his death in 1949 in Poland, we learnt from a Jesuit that he had been interned by the Japanese, eventually released from beheading. Amid travesties of justice, he had wished our family the best.

My mother’s courageous faith and cheerfulness with that of my creative brother encouraged me as we dealt with the challenges faced as refugees needing to live in far flung places.

In India, a lively girl, I began school. During the Indian Revolution of 1947, we set sail to South Africa.

A new chapter opened when I went to the school of the Sisters of Mercy. They impressed me, especially Sister Philomena Stafford, a musician. At the age of 9 years I wrote: “The happiest day of my life was when I made my first holy Communion.” Later a friend lent me the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux which greatly inspired me. My family walked miles to Sunday Mass. Later by vehicle. At home the icon of Our Lady, prayer and song. Industriousness, helping others and hobbies thrived. After school I visited the Blessed Sacrament.

Mr. Max Martin, a relative of St. Therese, took me on visits to the Carmel of contemplative nuns. One day, Father Leon Lominski told me about Blessed Edmund Bojanowski, a remarkable layman who founded the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, to carry on his service of love among needy children, the poor and the sick. Welcome visits to the Little Servant Sisters resulted.

When I told my mother of my desire to become a sister, she said: “The future is in your hands. You carve your own destiny. You could get married. If you want to become a sister, you have my blessing.”

My dilemma was which religious order to join of the three known and dear to me. Kneeling, I prayed: “Blessed Mother, take me where Jesus wants me.” Then everything signaled to the active community of the Little Servant Sisters.

After a further year’s discernment I asked the Little Servant Sisters’ Superior for admission to the community. She replied: “The religious life is beautiful, but it can be very demanding. With God’s help you can make it.”

With immense joy I went to the chapel, entrusting my heart to Jesus through Mary. My entrance in 1955 was not without opposition from some persons outside. Yet, I was convinced that Jesus wants me in this community to pray and work for souls to be saved.

Three months later, the Lord took my mother to Him. Amid adaptation, study and work, my spiritual life developed in the acceptance of Mary’s “Yes” and the fullness of the Gospel with Jesus’ unconditional love and sacrifice.

In 1976 I was invited to the International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, and in the following year was requested to serve in the USA.

Years as a little servant to children and adults in God’s image, in need of compassionate care, education and justice, fine art and music, plus years of administrative assistance, formation, missionary and vocational representation, events, in the church’s mission in every generation.

Thankful for God’s mercy, echoing Mary’s Canticle in community with the Eucharist and prayer, joy and simplicity, striving after mutual love of each different member in Christ; urged on by our founder’s charism, evangelization and vocations, with Jesuit Pope Francis, our supreme superior, and all consecrated persons: “Gratefully remembering the past; embracing the future with hope; living the present with passion. Wake up the world.”

Sister Philomena Nowicka, LSIC lives at the community’s Provincialate-Novitiate in Cherry Hill.