The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate

Vignettes - The Voice of our SSMI Past

In honour of the celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, and the 115th of the arrival of the SSMI in Canada, we have decided to feature a small piece of our SSMI history, joining both celebrations.

Sister Athanasia (nee Theodosia) Melnyk, SSMI, was one of the first seven postulants who joined our Foundress, Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska, forming this new Congregation. She later volunteered to be missioned in Canada, to serve our newly emigrated Ukrainian people. Her mortal remains rest in the cemetery of the SSMI at Mount Mary Retreat Centre in Ancaster, ON.

The following are excerpts of her memoirs. Enjoy!

The Birth of the Congregation — part 4

The great day arrived! The day of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary — their day! The church was filled to the brim, but they had come to church earlier, for a dress rehearsal. The priests arrived, among them Fr. Jeremiah Lomnytskyj. He was not able to stay for the entire ceremony, because he had received an urgent telegram from his superior to go elsewhere. However, he delivered the homily.

“I shall never forget the following moving words of his homily: ‘Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! The Lord picked for His garden several flowers from among you, but He wants you to give them to Him. I am asking you in His name are you giving them to Him? Answer!’ With trembling voices the entire church responded: ‘We give them.’ Then Father turned to the parents: ‘And you, Dear parents and relatives answer: Are you giving God your children?’ Then with a voice, deafened by tears, came a quiet but resolute answer. ‘We give them.’ What was happening in our hearts at that time — each one must answer for herself. As for me, from that great joy, I heard no more of the sermon.”20 After the sermon Father Lomnytskyj left to where he was summoned by his superiors.

After the Divine Liturgy, Rev. Canon Seletskyj asked the people to return in the afternoon, and then, in procession, they would go for the blessing of the Sisters’ home and lead them into their convent. At the sound of the church bells, in the afternoon, the Zhuzhelians hurried to church, from where, in procession, they would walk to the Sisters’ home. “There were eight of us in procession: Sister Josaphata Hordashevska, and postulants: Anna Muzyka, Tekla Polikha, Anna Kiselyk, Maria Zinko, Pelegia Karaban, Tekla Dudrak and Theodosia Melnyk.”21

When the blessing of the home was completed, the postulants with their superior, Sister Josaphata, entered their convent. Father Khmiliavskyj, OSBM, still had a talk to the assembled people. Then the procession returned to the church, the priests went to Canon Seletskyj’s residence, the people went to their homes, and the occupants of the convent were left alone, happy, satisfied that they finally attained their deepest desire.

“We sat down to our first supper together. From Canon Seletskyj’s residence, we received a ‘kolach’ and fried chicken. We already had plates but no cutlery. With all the guests at the residence they couldn’t spare any for us, and even forgot to give us a knife. Sister Josaphata, a practical woman, broke the ‘kolach’ and gave a piece to each of us, also divided the chicken among us saying: ‘Fingers are older than forks.’ Later on, we received the rest of the supper. After the meal, several of us went home to pick up a few things. I went to bid farewell to my beloved father. On my knees, I thanked him for a good Christian upbringing, kissed his hands and feet, and left him with tears in his eyes, and my sister in a high fever. My brother helped me carry some of my things right up to the convent gate. Before our night prayers, Sister Josaphata explained to us the next day’s schedule.”22 be continued.

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On to Part 5
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20 Sr. Athanasia Melnyk, My memoirs, manuscript, p. 5, CPA. (back to text)

21Ibid. p. 6. (back to text)

22 Ibid. p. 7. (back to text)