Sainthood Awaiting Foundress of Felicians

Sainthood Awaiting Foundress of Felicians by Mark Ciemcioch

Some people believe miracles happen every day while others think they may happen once in a lifetime, if that. But one thing is clear: Western New York has at least one proven miracle among its people, thanks to the foundress of the Felician Sisters. And if the prayers of many come true, another miracle will result in canonization.

People all around the world are praying on behalf of and for intercession by Blessed Mother Mary Angela Truszkowska, a Poland native who is credited with forming the Felician order in Warsaw in 1855. The 10th anniversary of her beatification will take place early next year.

Born Sophia Camille Truszkowska in 1825, Blessed Angela championed many social causes in her day, and even recruited the upper class to help her causes. Deemed a “Servant of God” in 1982, Blessed Angela was beatified on April 18, 1993, and now awaits confirmation of a second miracle for canonization as people continue to pray for her intercession. Locally, Sister M. Renée Kurczaba and Sister M. Teresita Langowski are among the many Felician Sisters who are promoting the cause for canonization.

While in everyday conversation the term miracle is oflen used gratuitously, the one place where the term is not used lightly is the Vatican, where officials can spend years, I even decades, attempting -to prove the existence of a miracle.‘ During an eight-year span, they did just that for Dunkirk resident Lillian Halasinski. Nearly 19 years ago Halasinski experienced what many thought to be a miracle. In 1992, Pope John Paul II confirmed it, officially clearing the way for Blessed Angela to be beatified. Halasinski’s story is one of determination and faith. Years ago, Halasinski was struck with a disease. A condition known as diabetic neuropathy caused severe pain and swelling in Halasinski’s legs and eventually prevented the then-71-year old from even walking without the use of an aide.

Doctors and hospitals had much difficulty helping to ease Halasinski’s pain. There was talk of amputating her legs, and Halasinski lost 65 pounds throughout the ordeal. During one hospital stay, Halasinski met with Sister Mary Leocretia, CSSF, a Eucharistic minister, in the building’s chapel. It was Sister Leocretia who first told Halasinski of Blessed Angela and gave her the knowledge to pray to “her. “For three months I said a prayer every day,” said Halasinski, who will be 90 this March. ,“I’ve been going to the hospital and they said they couldn’t do anything. I suffered quite a bit, all through the summer, fall and winter.”

On Jan. 4, 1984, the answer to her prayers finally arrived. Around 9 p.m. in the Halasinski house, Lillian was lying on -the, couch while her husband, Barney, and daughter, Geraldine, were doing other things.
“I saw Mother Angela‘ come through the house,” Halasinski said. “I could sense her presence right through the kitchen door. I could smell her beautiful flowers, and suddenly felt no pain.” “She had her daughter pour vinegar over a cloth to put over her leg,” said Sister Renée, who discusses the miracle with Halasinski occasionally. “She still gets emotional, especially when she talks about the beautiful scent in the room.”

“After 21 very painful day, I experienced a bit of heavenly peace,” Halasinski wrote in a testimony about her miracle. Observers were stunned. Her husband, who died a few years after Halasinski’s experience, stood at the foot of the stairway the morning after, expecting her legs to give out. She was able to walk to her first Mass in some time, completely unaided by others or a walker, much to the surprise of many of her friends.

Doctors examined Halasinski in test after test to find a medical explanation for the disappearance of her condition. Friends and neighbors, who saw Halasinski gradually rehabilitate after time, were interviewed and gave written testimonies. In the end, the Vatican investigators concluded what Halasinski already knew in her heart: there was no medical explanation for what she experienced.
“If it happened in some third world cormtiy where ‘they didn’t have the medical technology, I don’t think they would have to work so hard to prove it,” Sister Renée said. However, a second miracle would need to be established for Blessed Angela’s sainthood. If anybody believes they I experienced a miracle — which must be instantaneous — they would write to Sister Mary Marta Zielinska, CSSF, postulator for
the cause of Blessed Angela. Sister Marta would then begin the investigation process, but the odds aren’t good; most miracles are disproved.

“I’m sure there’s something always being investigated, but how thoroughly I’m not certain of,” Sister Renée said. Pope John Paul II, whose roots are grounded in Blessed Angela’s homeland and who personally opened the canonization process in 1967, was able to perform the beatification ceremony in 1993. This pope has canonized more saints than any in history, but with his ailing health, there are frequent questions on how much longer he can continue. When asked if the installation of another pope would change the odds of Blessed Angela’s canonization, Sister Renée said she believes in Blessed Angela regardless of a Vatican proclamation. “In our hearts, we don’t worry about it,” she said. “We see miracles all the time, but not the type that are canonized. She is a saint; we’re just waiting for the Church to identify it.”

“(Blessed Angela) does hear our prayers,” Sister Teresita said. “It’s all in God’s time.” Part of the canonization process is public relations; you can’t pray to Blessed Angela if you don’t know who she is. The Felicians are getting the word out through their order, which has convents around the world, including Canada, Poland, Brazil, Mexico, France, England, Germany and seven areas in the United States.

“(Miracles) only happen where people know her cause,” Sister Renée said. “We’re not doing this just to get her canonized; we’re doing it because we believe in her mission.” The mission of Blessed Angela, as Sister Renée puts it, was a calling “to improve the social causes in her native Poland.” Blessed Angela joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society in 1854 and worked with poor families. Eventually, she borrowed money from her father to open an orphanage for girls, with a section for elderly women. With growing numbers quickly overcrowding the facility, Blessed Angela moved the location. This was when, in 1855, Blessed Angela and her cousin Clothilde Ciechanowska found themselves before an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and devoted their lives to the Lord, forming the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Felix, better known as the Felician Sisters. She died in 1899 and was buried in the convent chapel in Krakow. “Spiritually, she definitely believed in God’s Will, and she dedicated her whole life to discerning God’s Will for her,” Sister Renée said. “She responded to the signs of the times.”

Today, the Felician Sisters try to continue her mission through social outreach work and education, where locally the order runs Villa Maria Academy and Villa Maria College, in addition to teaching in elementary and high schools. The Felician Sisters ministry includes working with prisoners and the mentally challenged. “It’s continuing the mission of Angela,” Sister Renée said. “Serving the poor includes the spiritually poor.” As the Felician Sisters and devoted Blessed Angela followers continue to deliver her message through prayer cards, relics, newsletters and other methods, they hope their prayers will be answered with a miracle, just like Halasinski’s was. “We now hope for a miracle so that she can be made a saint,” Halasinski said. “She was a good person, very humble, but she suffered.”

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