Founded in Rome in 1891 by a widow and her daughter, Celine and Hedwig Borzecka, the Congregation of the Sisters of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ is dedicated to a life of union with God through living out the Paschal mystery in daily dying and living with Christ and a Sisters of the Resurrection Provincial House and Novitiate. Chicago life of service dedicated to the renewal of society by giving witness to the presence of the Risen Christ in the world.
On February 2, 1900, four Sisters of the Resurrection arrived at the newly founded St. Mary of the Angels parish in Chicago, having been invited by the Resurrectionist Fathers. With Sister Anne Strzelecka at the head, the Sisters began teaching the immigrants in the parish school less than two weeks later. It was from this nucleus of four Sisters that the work of the Sisters in the United States was begun.
The following year the Sisters accepted the school in St. Casimir parish, and, in 1902, during a visit of the foundresses to Chicago, the first American novitiate was opened in a building provided by the pastor of this parish. After two years the novitiate was temporarily closed because of a misunderstanding of conditions at St. Casimir parish on the part of ecclesiastical authorities. It was reopened when the Congregation built its first convent in 1905 across from St. Mary of the Angels. At this time the Congregation also became a legal entity in the State of Illinois. This building served as a central home of the Congregation in the United States until the erection of a new convent in Norwood Park a decade later. To this day the building across from St. Mary’s continues to operate as Resurrection Day Care Center (q.v.).
In 1906, the Sisters took over the school in St. Joseph parish in Chicago Heights, where they taught until 1918. The following years found the Sisters expanding beyond the confines of the Chicago archdiocese with the opening of a school at St. Mary parish in Schenectady, New York, the first home in what was later to become the Eastern Province of the Congregation in the United States. In 1908, the Sisters turned westward to Nebraska and then in 1910 eastward again to Yonkers, New York and Stamford, Connecticut.
In 1912, Sister Anne Strzelecka purchased property in Norwood Park, northwest of Chicago. This purchase laid the foundation for the complex which now includes three major apostolic institutions, the provincialate, and a home for the retired Sisters.
After the death of the foundress in 1913, the vicar general, Mother Antonine Soltan, was advised by the Sacred Congregation for Religious to become acquainted with the Sisters and their work in America before calling a general chapter. She arrived in the United States in 1914, and World War I did not permit her to return to Europe until 1919. During her stay in America, the novitiate was transferred to Norwood Park and a number of new schools were accepted, three in New York State and two farm schools, one in Nebraska and one in North Dakota. In the last place the Sisters taught in the public school, and therefore became involved later in difficulties concerning the wearing of religious habits in the public schools.
In 1915, Resurrection Academy opened its doors in Norwood Park as an elementary school. Since further plans included the opening of a high school, Mother Antonine encouraged the preparation of Sisters for this work.
After the Second General Chapter (1920), Sister Mary Zublewicz was appointed the delegate to the United States. During her term of office, Resurrection High School (q.v.) was opened (1922), and the Sisters accepted the school at St. Thecla parish.
The Third General Chapter, 1926, authorized the division of the Congregation into Provinces. The homes in the United States were divided into two Provinces, one composed of the homes in New York State and the other of the homes in the Midwest with headquarters in Norwood Park. The Provinces continued to have a common novitiate until 1933. Originally placed under the patronage of St. Therese of the Little Flower, the Chicago Province became the Immaculate Province in 1935, at the request of its membership.
Appointed delegate for the first two years until the Provinces were officially established, Sister Anne Strzelecka then became the first provincial superior in 1928. In that same year, the Sisters opened a two-year commercial high school at St. Casimir parish; it became a four-year high school in 1945 and continues to serve as St. Casimir Parish High School (q.v.). The Sisters also taught briefly in Kewanee, Illinois, during the depression years of 1930-32.
Under Sister Theodosia Szrom (1932-38), the Sisters accepted a school in the farm community in North Creek, Wisconsin, in 1932, and one in South Bend, Indiana, in 1937. Included in the work in South Bend was the conducting of South Bend Catholic High School until 1953.
After Sister Alexandra Krzempa’s short term (1938-39) as provincial superior, Sister Mary Leonard Madura (1939-1947) undertook a number of new works, among them domestic services at St. Gregory College in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and at La Salette Seminary in Olivet, Illinois. The Sisters also accepted a black mission in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. During the summer months, the Sisters conducted Catholic Youth Organization camps for children in the Archdiocese of Chicago, first at Norwood Park, then at St. Mary of the Angels parish. Teams of Sisters also went out to catechize, particularly in the South and in the farm states of the Midwest. The provincial home was also used for weekend retreats for women.
It was in the 1940s, too, that a new form of apostolate, hospital work, was undertaken in Minden, Nebraska. The Sisters withdrew from this hospital after Resurrection Hospital (q.v.) was opened in Chicago.
A joint venture of both American Provinces was the Mother Celine House of Studies for the junior professed of both Provinces. It was one of the first such institutions in the Sister Formation Movement. Opened in New York in 1947, it was closed in 1973.
In the 1950s, the Province entered the health care services in the archdiocese. Thirty acres of community property across the street from the provincialate in the Norwood Park section of Chicago was set aside in 1946 for Resurrection Hospital. Begun under Sister Mary Leonard Madura, the project was continued under Sister Theodosia Szrom (19481950) and Sister Mary Dolores Kierna (1950-55), resulting in the opening of Resurrection Hospital in 1953.
Under Sister Eulalia Domagala (1955-1964, 1967-1973), two additional newly established parish schools in the archdiocese, St. Bede in Ingleside and Queen of the Rosary in Elk Grove Village, were accepted by the Sisters, as well as schools in Panama City, Florida, and Fullerton, Nebraska. During this time, too, Resurrection High School’s enrollment increased considerably and a new school building was opened on Community property in 1962.
As the number of elderly Sisters increased, a need was felt for adequate accommodations for them in their declining years. Under Sister Mary Stephanie Gremski (1964-67), the Queen of the Resurrection House of Prayer, located on Community property north of the provincialate, was erected. Here the senior Sisters spend their days in limited physical activity and in prayer for those members in the Province in the apostolic fields and for the needs of the Church and the world.
In the 1970s, under Sister Mary Edward Gira (1973-1980), work was accepted in a school in Parma, Ohio, and a new apostolate was entered into in the form of the Resurrection Retirement Community (q.v.), a complex of apartment living for senior citizens, erected on the grounds of the provincialate. The Sisters provide pastoral care and recreational, occupational, and social opportunities for the residents of the Community.
Early in 1980, the Province leased the Green Oaks Terrace Nursing Home in Park Ridge to offer skilled nursing care to those in need of such services. Renamed the Resurrection Nursing Pavilion, it is the first such facility under the auspices of a Catholic hospital in the archdiocese.
As Sister Stephanie Blaszczynski (1980- ) begins her term of office as provincial superior, the Province has fewer apostolic institutions than it had in earlier years and the area served has become more centralized, but the types of apostolates have become more varied. The closing of the homes of the Province was the result of the establishment of consolidated schools in the rural areas and thus a loss of enrollment in the small parish schools. Only two houses of the Province are now located outside the Archdiocese of Chicago, the ones in Parma, Ohio, and in Panama City, Florida. The complex on the Province’s property, sometimes called Resurrection Park, includes the provincial home, used several times a year for retreats for young women, Resurrection High School, Resurrection Hospital, Queen of the Resurrection House of Prayer, and the Resurrection Retirement Community. Other Communityowned institutions are Resurrection Day Care Center on the city’s near Northwest Side and Villa Celine, a rest home for the Sisters on Delavan Lake in Wisconsin- The inner city schools, St. Casimir grade and high schools and St. Mary of the Angels school, are located in changing neighborhoods and are currently ministering to Hispanic populations. The other parish schools still operated by the Province in the archdiocese are St. Thecla in Norwood Park, St. Bede in Ingleside, and Queen of the Rosary in Elk Grove Village.
While the areas served, the types of institutions conducted, and the numbers of people affected have changed through the more than eighty years the Sisters of the Resurrection have served in Chicago, their mission has remained the same: to witness to the Risen Lord not only in the formal fulfillment of their professional duties, but also in every contact that they make and in every aspect of life.
From “A History of the Offices, Agencies, and the Institutions of the Archdiocese of Chicago” – 1981
Reprinted with the permission of the Chicago Archdiocese.