The Catholic Defender: Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska
Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska, baptized as Sophia Camille, was born in Kalisz, Poland, on May 16, 1825. Members of noble families, her parents were well-educated. Her mother, a devout Catholic, had a great influence on her faith.
Today we honor a woman who submitted to God’s will throughout her life—a life filled with pain and suffering.
Born in 1825 in central Poland and baptized Sophia, she contracted tuberculosis as a young girl. The forced period of convalescence gave her ample time for reflection.
As a child, Sophia was highly intelligent and generous. However, because of her fragile health, most of her education was completed at home under the supervision of private tutors. Her days as a young student were characterized by schoolwork and reading, as well as daily Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and nightly prayer.
Her compassion for the underprivileged grew as she gained invaluable insight into the social ills and issues of her time from her father, a juvenile court judge.
Sophia seriously considered joining the cloistered Visitation Sisters. However, at the age of 23, while traveling with her ailing father, she was enlightened by the Lord during her prayer in the cathedral of Cologne. Despite her love of prayer and solitude, she was destined to go among the suffering poor and to serve Christ in them.
Sophia felt called to serve God by working with the poor, including street children and the elderly homeless in Warsaw’s slums. In time, her cousin joined her in the work.
The residents of the Capital City, upon seeing the little group of children being led before the St Felix altar in the Capuchin church, started calling them children of St Felix. With time, the name Felician became associated with the sisters.
In response to God’s calling, Sophia became a member of the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul. During the day, she worked zealously for the cause of the poor and at night she prayed, constantly seeking God’s will.
With her father’s financial support and her cousin Clothilde’s assistance, Sophia began to serve the abandoned children and homeless on the streets of Warsaw. In time, she opened a school and shelter to give comfort and aid to this vulnerable population.
At the suggestion of her spiritual director, Capuchin Franciscan Father Honorat Kozminski, Sophia joined the Secular Franciscan Order, taking the name of Angela. On November 21, 1855, she consecrated herself totally to God and forged a new religious community steeped in the values and ideals of Saint Francis of Assisi. This new community came to be called the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Felix of Cantalice, often called the “Sisters of Saint Felix” or “Felician Sisters” by the people of Warsaw.
In 1855, the two women made private vows and consecrated themselves to the Blessed Mother. New followers joined them. Within two years, they formed a new congregation, which came to be known as the Felician Sisters. As their numbers grew, so did their work, and so did the pressures on Mother Angela (the new name Sophia took in religious life).
The mission of Mother Angela’s congregation was clear. The Felician Sisters would work to ensure that “in all and by all, God may be known, loved and glorified.” For three successive terms, she was elected as superior general of the congregation. At the age of 44, she resigned from the role of superior general, but she continued to watch over and guide her spiritual daughters and heartily endorsed the plan to send sisters to North America, personally blessing the five pioneers as they left Poland in 1874.
Mother Angela served as superior for many years until ill health forced her to resign at the age of 44. She watched the order grow and expand, including missions to the United States among the sons and daughters of Polish immigrants.
She forged one of the first active-contemplative communities that, nearly a century and a half later, would grow to include more than 1,800 vowed Sisters over four continents serving in an array of ministries. Patronages – against sickness, exiles, sick people.
After years of suffering from gradual deafness, malignant tumors and excruciating headaches, Mother Angela died on October 10, 1899.
The instantaneous healing of Lillian Halasinski in 1984 was the miracle, researched and certified by the Catholic Church, that led to the beatification of Blessed Mary Angela.
On April 18, 1993, Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Mary Angela, saying, “Blessed Mary Angela’s life was marked with love. She was concerned about all people: those hungry for bread, the heartbroken, the homeless, and those hungering for the truth of the Gospel.”
Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Angela in 1993. Her liturgical feast is celebrated on October 10.
Lillian Halasinski, suffering from the excruciating pain of incurable diabetic neuropathy, prayed to Mother Angela every day for relief. On January 4, 1984, as Lillian prayed to Mother Angela, her pain disappeared and she was rendered cured of the disease.