DEVELOPMENT OF THE RELIGIOUS CONVENT OF THE BENEDICTINE SISTERS IN HUNTINGTON
The efforts of the Congregation’s board to send three sisters to USA: Boguslawa Marianna Kapusta (as superior), Waclawa Jozefa Kalinowska and Maura Kalina Moszynska, after two years of waiting and prayer were successful in 1962. In May 1962 the sisters received passports (and visas) to travel to America, and their farewell was held at the Mother House on June 19 that year. At the beginning of July of the same year the delegated sisters flew from Warsaw to the United States (to Huntington, Long Island). It should also be noted that in 1962 a great event for Roman Catholic Christianity was the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, which changed the face of the Catholic Church. The renewed community of sisters with energetic superior took up the work, and there was a lot of work. This was in keeping with the law of canonical form of following up to establish the legal status of the religious institution in Rockville Center Diocese, Long Island, New York, to build a new home for the care of the elderly and, above all, to organize the religious life of the sisters in a foreign land.
Difficulties piled up at every step: lack of English, lack of professional preparation of sisters to undertake the work, and bad opinion of Poles in America coming from lower social strata, crossing the ocean to earn their bread, without any preparation for living and working in the American environment. It is not surprising that the Polish Missionary Sisters of Saint Benedict, deeply religious and marked by traditional culture, at first experienced a severe lack of acceptance by the American bishops. The material bases required by canon law (canon 496) to establish a religious institution in the case of the Benedictine Sisters from Huntington were not regulated. Sisters Małgorzata and Witolda were allowed to live in the Diocese of Brooklyn until the end of the war, but they still thought of helping their poor congregation in Poland, which had to leave their homes in 1945 and the eastern borders of the II Polish Republic.
Thanks to the generosity of the local community, the sisters expanded their Huntington estate by eight acres and built another small house, planted a vegetable garden and were breeding chickens. With money saved, they supported the Mother House and Novitiate in their homeland. The diocesan curia led by Bishop Kellenberg organized a conference in 1959, highlighting the unregulated legal status of the material possessions of the emerging community of the Missionary Sisters of St. Benedict. They were accused of not paying tax, and the way out of this difficult situation was indicated. In order to build a home for the elderly, the sisters were required to set up a corporation, as required by the laws of New York State.
Corporation of the Missionary Sisters of St. Benedict, which also included the members of the curia and an attorney, was approved on October 26, 1959. It defined its purpose, resources and tasks. However, the first year of its operation showed many errors and brought the sisters many existential hardships. Mother Malgorzata, with the help of a trusted lawyer, Józef Płoński, led the change of the character of the corporation from temporary to perpetual. The housing conditions of the Sisters in Huntington were very difficult. There was an immediate need to build a new residential home for sisters and their residents in a short period of time. The hope of realizing such an investment in the absence of funds and lack of knowledge of English bordered on a miracle.
This difficult task was undertaken only by a new team of sisters who arrived in the United States in 1962. Before this happened, the sisters had received a permit from the diocesan curia to open a semi-public Chapel still in the old building. They did not expect so many challenges on the American ground, but did not give into fear because of the difficulties. Trusting the help of God, they took St. Joseph to be their Patron Saint. They also found in the new environment many benefactors, friends and advisers among priests and bishops of Polish origin. One should note special kindness, pastoral care and practical help (especially in situations requiring good English) of Father Alfred Jan Markiewicz, a professor at the seminary, then an auxiliary bishop of the Rockville Center Diocese, and finally the Ordinary Bishop of the diocese of Kalamazoo.