Friday, March 16, 2007

Felician Sisters in Michigan Part 1 of 3

Here's the first part of the last article I will be presenting from Poles in Michigan, Vol.1.

The Educational Work of The Felician Sisters in Michigan

The Felician Sisters, officially known as the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalicio, were founded in Warsaw, Poland, on the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, November 21, 1855, a year after the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

The foundress of the Felician Sisters, Sophia Truszkowska, known in the Community as Mother Mary Angela, was born in Kalisz, Poland, May 15, 1825, and died in Cracow, Poland, October 10, 1899.

In 1874, five Felician Sisters came to America to assist Reverend Joseph Dabrowski, at that time laboring among the Polish immigrants of the Green Bay Diocese at Sacred Heart Parish in the wilderness of Polonia, Wisconsin. Father Dabrowski secured the sisters as teachers in his school.

During the next few years, despite the hardships which young community had to undergo, the number of vocations increased rapidly. With it, however, the demand for teachers grew. Mother Mary Monica, then the Superior of the American Sisters, felt that with the transfer of the motherhouse to Detroit where there was already a greater concentration of the Polish immigrants, there would be both vocations and a field of work. On October 4, 1882, the foundation planned by Father Dabrowski consisting of a motherhouse, novitiate, orphanage, and the Seminary of the Felician Sisters was blessed. From 1882 to 1936, the original building was repeatedly remodelled and enlarged to better serve the ever growing needs of the institution. It was Mother Mary De Sales who gave herself wholeheartedly to the gigantic task of erecting the new motherhouse in Livonia Township, to provide more adequate living quarters for the Sisters. On the eve of the Presentation in 1936, the Detroit Felicians moved their motherhouse and novitiate to the new location on the outskirts of Detroit, Schoolcraft and Newburg Roads.

The Felician Sisters began their educational activities in the State of Michigan in January, 1879, when a small group came from the wilderness of Polonia to St. Stanislaus Kostka School, Bay City, located in the proximity of the vast Michigan forests. Attracted by the saw mills in these forests, about one hundred Polish immigrants under the leadership of Louis Danielowski settled in Bay City between the years 1870-1874. Within the next four years the little group, working together with their American neighbors, erected St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, which was blessed by Right Reverend Gasper H. Borges, Bishop of Detroit, on December 18, 1874. By 1878, the first resident pastor, Rev. August Sklarzyk not only had his frame school building but also a small group of Felician Sisters, who were personally accompanied to their new field of work in the “wilderness of Michigan” by Mother Monica. The Present modern elementary school building was erected in 1910 by Rev. Edward Kozlowski, later Auxiliary Bishop of Milwaukee. Since then, a new rectory, convent, and a high school have been built.

In 1871 an organized group of Polish families in Detroit sent a delegation to Bishop Borgess requesting permission to erect a church. In 1873, the St. Albertus parish school was built in which secular teachers were employed until December 17, 1879, when at the invitation of Rev. John S. Wollowski, CR., five Felician Sisters arrived at St. Albertus to take up their first mission in Detroit.

Many of the graduates of St. Albertus School have entered higher institutions of learning to prepare themselves for medicine, law, teaching, and other technical professions. The parish has been blessed with vocations. Of the eighty girls that entered religious communities, seventy-seven have joined the Felician Order. Thirteen men have become diocesan priests, while nine entered various religious orders.

At the request of Bishop Borgess, the Felician Sisters took charge of St. Casimir School on June 1, 1883. This school - now one of the old land marks of the west side - was the first to be opened since the Sisters had established their motherhouse in Detroit on October 4, 1882.

Trained in an atmosphere of deeply religious culture, many Catholic professional men and women of Detroit have completed their early education at St. Casimir School. St. Casimir Parish has also been blessed with numerous vocations. Twelve boys have become priests and seventy-seven girls have embraced the religious life, seventy-four of whom joined the Felician Order. Among the outstanding figures that attended St. Casimir School is listed His Excellency Most Reverend Joseph C. Plagens, D.D., the late Bishop of Grand Rapids.

To be continued in parts 2 and 3...