Dominican Sisters, Immaculate Conception Province
Teaching, Evangelization, and Aid to the suffering
Get in Touch!
708-458-3040; Sr. Charbel Joseph (Vocation Directress)
Justice, Illinois (Provincial House). The featured video above highlights our congregation in Poland, but it does not specifically show our province in America. However, we are still animated by the same spirit of joy and Dominican life evident in the video. All candidates entering the Immaculate Conception Province receive their formation in our provincial house located in Justice, Illinois.
Patron Saints/Famous Saints of the Community
In 2004, Pope St. John Paul II approved the promulgation of the heroic virtues of our very own foundress, Servant of God Mother Kolumba Białecka. Her small stature did not stifle her magnanimous spirit. She influenced lives by the purity of her heart and by the selfless dedication in which she served her neighbor. She became foundress of the Dominican Sisters at the tender age of 21 with the promptings and guidance of the Master General of the Dominican Order, Fr. Alexandre Vincent Jandel.
Mother Kolumba pioneered scriptural and sacramental catechesis, a task reserved for the clergy alone during her time. She also had great love for the poor. In the beginning stages of the Congregation, she set her attention on the villages where she sought to catechize and school the young children. The families oftentimes were not in approval of letting their children go to school because that meant less hands for labor in the farm, so Mother Kolumba would send her Sisters to work in the farm while the children received catechesis and other instructions.
The driving force of Mother Kolumba’s zeal can be traced from one source: the Eucharist. She poured out all her struggles to Jesus hidden in the Blessed Sacrament, and she garnered all the strength she needed from her Hidden Spouse on the altar. She further urged her sisters to “live for Jesus the host”. Mother Kolumba also had great devotion to Jesus’ Mother. When she was much younger, she was part of the “Association of Mary’s Children” and the “Rosary Confraternity”. As she lay dying of tuberculosis at the age of 49, she was remembered to say, “Oh, I did not know I love the Mother of God so much! …I love Her so much!”
Another saint we honor in our Congregation is our very own sister martyr, Blessed Julia Rodzińska, who died in the concentration camp during World War II. Sr. Julia had a difficult life from the very beginning, losing both of her parents at the age of ten. She and her sister were then arranged to stay with the Dominican Sisters’ orphanage while their brothers stayed with relatives. Bl. Julia had such a profound experience with the Sisters in the orphanage that she decided to enter and become a religious Sister herself.
Sr. Julia became teacher, catechist, and Superior of the convent house. She was graced with many talents and gifts that she didn’t keep to herself. Because she knew the struggles of poverty and isolation, she made sure to alleviate the same sufferings in other people, especially with the orphans. The city of Vilnius showered upon Sr. Julia accolades for her many relief efforts for the suffering, even giving her the title of “Mother of Orphans”. She was known to slip sandwiches in the desk of poorer children, and made sure those same children were not poorly dressed so that they would not feel the stigma of their circumstance. All these sensitivities did not elude Bl. Julia.
When World War II began and the Sisters were ousted from their convent and teaching positions. Bl. Julia partook in the underground movement, teaching the Catholic faith, as well as Polish history and language. She also smuggled food to retired priests who were left destitute, and took care of her religious Sisters whom she dispersed to housemaid jobs.
In July 12, 1943, Sr. Julia along with three of her Sisters were arrested by the Gestapo. Sr. Julia was placed in solitary confinement for a year. Her cell was a mere closet, only big enough for her to be in a sitting position. Despite the inhumane treatments, Bl. Julia clung to prayer and inspired others to do the same especially when all hope seemed lost. An eyewitness attests, “In her presence, you felt the need to pray”.
After the isolation confinement, Bl. Julia was transferred to the concentration camp in Stutthof by cattle car. In the concentration camp, she organized common prayers with other prisoners, secretly coordinated the Sacrament of Reconciliation with other prisoner-priests in the barracks, and urged those contemplating suicide to life by writing notes to them. All of these activities were punishable by death, but she was not afraid. At the end of her life, she volunteered to go to the abandoned barracks to care for those dying of typhus. Undeterred by the contagious disease, she sought to give relief to those suffering by moistening their lips with water and urging them with spiritual consolations. She ended up contracting the disease herself which eventually took her life. Prayer was ever on her lips all the way to the end. This is how those in the barracks with her knew that she had died, because they no longer could hear her murmured prayers.
Servant of God, Mother Kolumba, and Blessed Julia Rodzińska, pray for us!
The heart of our apostolic ministry is to fulfill the mandate of our Savior, which is to go and preach the Gospel, to tell the Good News! We do this through evangelization, education, and by bringing aid to the suffering. We hope to transform the lives of the people we meet by witnessing the love of Jesus and by sharing His redeeming plan.
We evangelize the culture by hosting and facilitating retreats in our retreat center. We also take part in events where there is an opportunity to preach the Word of God and share our Catholic culture, in conferences, in summer camps, in pilgrimages, etc. As women religious, we also hope to witness the joy and gift of consecrated life in all areas of life.
Some of our Sisters teach in schools, educating the young in the life of grace, and instilling in them the love of Jesus. We seek to develop their values and virtues, with an end to be better members of society and above all to be faithful disciples of God as they come to learn their filial role in His Kingdom. Our Sisters also work in the parishes, working closely with our priests to serve the catechetical needs of the children, preparing them for the Sacraments, and nourishing their spiritual lives.
We bring aid to the suffering in the healthcare facilities we run. We remind the suffering of their inestimable dignity as children of God, precious and unique in His sight. In our nursing homes, we perform corporal and spiritual works of mercy as we take care of both the bodily and spiritual needs of our residents. Lastly, we journey with the dying, preparing them for Heaven, praying by their side, and making sure they have the last rites available to them.
Our American province, Immaculate Conception Province, began with two Sisters from Poland in 1925. Bishop Weber, our foundresses’ spiritual director, envisioned in 1909, that our Sisters from Poland should come to help their fellow Poles in America. His vision came true, and today, 95 years later, we continue to pour out the love of Christ not only to fellow Poles, but to all of God’s children who come to us.
However, our story goes back much earlier than our arrival in America. The history of our congregation begins with our foundress Mother Kolumba Białecka, when at a young age, Mother Kolumba, then Róża, wanted to give her life wholeheartedly to God. She was initially prevented from doing so by her father as well as by her health, but eventually God prevailed. One day, Róża had the opportunity to meet and speak with the Dominican Master General of the Order, Fr. Vincent Jandel. Father was thoroughly impressed by the spiritual maturity of Róża who was only seventeen at the time. He saw in her the makings of a future foundress of the Third Regular Order of the Sisters of St. Dominic in Poland. Fr. Jandel had been hoping to revive the Third Order of St. Dominic in the country which was dissolved by Joseph II, Emperor of Austria. Father Jandel saw in Róza the perfect candidate for his vision.
As suggested by Fr. Jandel, Róża entered and received her religious formation with the Dominican Sisters in Nancy, Lorraine, France. She received the name Kolumba, or “dove”, symbolizing purity and simplicity which reflected her demeanor.
After professing her first vows at the age of twenty-one in 1861, Sr. Kolumba returned to Poland to begin the new congregation. She experienced many hardships in the beginnings of the foundation, especially struggling to find a place to plant the foundation’s roots. After she returned from France to begin the community, she was also much maligned by the people around her. She received all with grace and humility saying, “They have a right to treat me like this… I in my heart and soul receive this penance and thank you Lord, for the never-ending mercy and compassion for me.”
Mother Kolumba offered up all her sufferings to the Lord and clung to him for refuge. She also offered her bodily health which was debilitated by tuberculosis. Despite this, Mother Kolumba threw herself into the sacrifices of the life, ardent in her obedience for love of God and His will.
A year after her return, a priest named Fr. Leszczyński was eager to speak with Mother Kolumba in hopes of helping her with her congregation. With Father’s help, the first house of the congregation was built in Wielowieś, and the community has flourished since then.
Mother Kolumba first began her apostolic works in the villages, ministering to the poor and suffering. Her work continues to this day through the hands of her Sisters throughout the world. The congregation’s apostolic work expands to teaching, evangelization, and aid to the suffering.
Our congregation is located in the United States, Canada, Poland, Italy, France, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Cameroon.
We sanctify the day in union with the Church by reciting the Liturgy of the Hours. We pray the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer. We nourish ourselves with the gift of the Eucharist as we participate in in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily. We also adore the Lord in the Holy Eucharist every day in Holy Hour.
We begin and end our day under the mantle of our highest patroness, Mother Mary, as we sing the hymns “Inviolata” and “Hail O Star of Ocean” in her honor. We are faithful to the gift of the Rosary which Our Lady gave to St. Dominic, and we recite one part of the mysteries together daily. Apart from praying together, the Sisters also nourish their relationship with Christ in private and personal prayer.
Since our Congregation was originally founded in Poland, we still keep Catholic Polish traditions to honor our roots. One Catholic tradition, for example, begins in Christmas Eve! This vigil celebration or “wigilia” (vi-gil-ya) include sharing “opłatek” (op-wa-tek) or wafers during Christmas Eve before celebrating the big Christmas meal. Every Sister has her own blessed wafer. As each Sister goes around to greet other Sisters, she breaks a piece of the other Sisters’ opłatek. As they share their opłatek, they also share well wishes and prayers for the upcoming year. All the Sisters go around until they have greeted everyone. After this follows the big Christmas meal! Usually this consists of 12 meatless dishes in honor of the apostles. Finally, the Sisters recollect themselves for the Christmas Vigil Mass.
During Lent, we sing the “Gorzkie Żale” or Bitter Lamentations which are several Lenten hymns sung together. They are moving reflections and meditations on the bitter Passion of Christ and His Holy Mother. This is sung on all the Sundays of Lent.
In between Lent, we also celebrate the feast of St. Joseph with St. Joseph’s table, where we fill a table with meatless food, in St. Joseph’s honor, to be blessed by a priest. Meatless because his feast falls during Lent. We also honor St. Joseph the whole of March by saying his litany daily.
We also honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the whole month of June by praying the Litany to the Sacred Heart every day.
These are some of our traditions!