HISTORY OF THE CONGREGATION
The male Congregation of the Resurrection came into being first. Its roots go back to the fall of the great emigration when many prominent Poles found themselves in Paris. Some understood that their chance to gain independence by way of armed insurrection had faded, but there was hope to save Poland through work on a moral rebirth of the nation. Adam Mickiewicz expressed significant words about the need of a new religious order and indicated that Bogdan Jański, the lay apostle of the emigration, would found it.
Jański and his first confreres, who later received holy orders, gave a spiritual face to the work. They were Jerome Kajsiewicz and Peter Semenenko. The first community, the so-called House of Jański, was initiated on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 1836 in Paris. The name of the congregation comes from the fact that on Easter Sunday, March 27, 1842, Semenenko, Kajsiewicz and five confreres professed their first religious vows in the catacombs of St. Sebastian in Rome.
A female branch of the Congregation of the Resurrection of Our Lord was also in God’s mind. It arose a half century later. For this task God called a mother and her daughter: Celine and Hedwig Borzęcki, a fact which remains a phenomenon in the history of the Church.
Celine Borzęcka, a 42 year old widow, came to Rome in October 1875 with her daughters: Celia and Hedwig. Here, in the church of St. Claude she met Fr. Peter Semenenko, the co-founder and general of the Congregation of the Resurrectionist priests. Fr. Peter became the spiritual director in the realization of the religious vocation, discovered by Celine in her youth. On March 25, 1881, the younger daughter, Hedwig, after a retreat directed by Fr. Peter, expressed her “Fiat,” deciding to help her mother in founding the new religious family. On December 24, 1882, Celine with Hedwig and one candidate began community life at Via in Arcione 88. This is how the spiritual journey of the founding of the Sisters of the Resurrection began.
Fr. Peter Semenenko formed Celine and Hedwig Borzęcki and the first candidates for 11 years, imparting to them the principles of resurrection spirituality. The sisters, side by side with their “brotherly” congregation, were to undertake work on the religious-moral rebirth of society, through the formation of girls and women, in order to contribute in this manner to the renewal of the family. However, Fr. Semenenko died on November 18, 1886, before the Congregation came to be officially in the Church. It was born on January 6, 1891 at Via Veneto 95 in Rome. On that day Mother Celine and Mother Hedwig received the habit and professed perpetual vows, and three other sisters professed their first vows.
The first community of the Congregation was formed in Rome. Next, October 27, 1891 saw the first foundation of the Congregation on Polish lands, in Kęty where Mother Celine also opened a novitiate. In 1900 land was purchased for the construction of the generalate at Via Marcantonio Colonna 52. The building was dedicated on October 17, 1902 and exists until today as “Casa Madre”.
In 1893 Mother Celine gave the beginning to a society of women who lived according to paschal spirituality in the world and worked together with the sisters. These were originally called Associate Sisters, and presently the Apostles of the Resurrection. The first Associate Sister was Gabriela Wrotnowska, a friend and benefactress of Mother Celine, who lived not far from Kęty, in Łęki.
Mother Celine understood very well the missionary character of the Church and even if at the beginning there were not many sisters, she sent them far away for apostolic work. In November, 1896 she travelled with three sisters to Bulgaria to open a mission house in Malko Tirnowo, and in 1900 she sent sisters to the United States. During her lifetime homes were also established in areas dominated by Russia, where the sisters had to wear lay attire: in Częstochowa in July 1899 and in Warsaw in July 1903.
In 1905 the Foundresses, together with the sisters, thanked God for the Decree of Praise (Decretum laudis) which was the first approval of the Congregation. For its definitive approval and also that of the Constitutions the Congregation had to wait until July 17, 1923.
The Mother Foundresses mutually supported one another and complemented each other in the work of the development of the Congregation. Mother Hedwig was the hope of her mother. Mother Celine desired to place the future steering of the Congregation in her hands. But things happened differently. By a strange ordinance of God, Mother Hedwig was the first to go to eternity. She died suddenly in Kęty on September 27, 1906 at the age of 43. Mother Celine died on October 26, 1913 in Kraków and was buried near her daughter in the tomb of the Congregation at the Kęty cemetery.
After the death of the Foundresses, the Congregation continued to develop. August 15, 1928 witnessed the first division of the Congregation. The Polish province and two American provinces: the western (Chicago) and eastern (New York) arose. On November 21, 1937, the Polish province was divided into two provinces: Poznań and Warsaw. The next day, another important event took place: the exhumation and moving of the earthly remains of our Mother Foundresses from the Kęty cemetery to the crypt under the chapel of the Kety convent.
During World War II the homes of the Congregation in Poland and Italy suffered, especially personnel-wise and materially. The American provinces hastened with efficient help, especially to the sisters in Poland. After a short while homes of the Congregation arose in other parts of the world: in 1951 – in England and Canada, in 1952 in Australia, in 1961 in Argentina. The Sisters began their apostolate there working among the Poles, and taking care of war orphans.
In the Congregation and beyond it there was a conviction about the sanctity of its Mother Foundresses. The beginning of their beatification process began after the encouragement of Pope Pius XII, expressed in January 1942. Even though the process of Mother Celine should normally have begun in the archdiocese of Kraków because of her death in Kraków the Holy Father granted the privilege to conduct the processes of the Mothers in Rome. Tribunals in Kraków and Chicago also took place. After the informational processes during the pontificate of Pope Paul VI the apostolic processes took place. Efforts were made not to separate both Mothers during the time of the processes, since the pope drew attention to this unusual fact in the history of the modern church that a mother with her daughter founded the Congregation together. Thus the apostolic process of the Servant of God Mother Celine was concluded on December 29, 1967 in Rome and of Mother Hedwig on February 17, 1968. A similar thing happened with the decrees of heroic virtue signed by Pope John Paul II in the same year 1982, for Mother Celine on February 11 and for Mother Hedwig on December 17.
On January 6, 1991 the Congregation celebrated the 100th anniversary of its existence in the Church. Eight years later on June 13, 1999, it rejoiced with its first beatification of Sister Alice Kotowska in the group of 108 martyrs of World War II, who gave her life for the faith and her country on November 11, 1939.
1993 witnessed the founding of the House of Contemplation in Grottaferrata, 30 km. from Rome, where the Sisters devote themselves to the apostolate of prayer and sacrifice for the intentions of the Congregation, the Church and the world.
The exhumation and translation of the remains of our Mother Foiundresses from the crypt under the Kęty convent chapel to the tomb in the parish church of SS. Margaret and Catherine in Kęty took place on April 3, 2001. In a spiritual sense, that day was beginning of the process pertaining to the presumed cure through the intercession of Mother Celine that had taken place in July 1999. The recipient of the miracle was Andrzej-Mecherzynski Wiktor, a great grandchild to the fifth degree of Mother Celine. The process in this matter took place in 2002 in Kraków, and next in Rome. On December 16, 2006 our Holy Father Benedict XVI signed the decree confirming the miracle.
The beatification of Mother Celine took place on October 27, 2007 in Rome, in the papal basilica of St. John Lateran. We trust that the Congregation will soon be able to rejoice in the canonization of Mother Celine and beatification of Mother Hedwig.
At the present time, the houses of the Congregation are located in Poland, the United States, Belarus, Italy, Great Britain, Canada, Argentina, Australia as well as Tanzania, where our Sisters began their work in December 2006 in Buturu-Musoma and in January 2016 in Dar es Salaam.