“Thank God humbly for the grace of His holy inspiration. May the holy fire of God’s love glow more brightly and ardently in your heart so that neither difficulties nor anything in the world would lessen the zeal in your heart in this spiritual endeavor.”
Encouragement of Blessed Edmund
The Life of Blessed Edmund Bojanowski
Blessed Edmund Bojanowski
was an extraordinary Catholic layman and learned writer who dedicated his life to the service of abandoned children, the sick, the poor and the most needy. Edmund is a remarkable role model of a person who used his talents to transform the lives of the poor. He was born the son of devout and patriotic landed gentry in Grabonog in Northwestern Poland on November14, 1814. Even though Poland was partitioned in 1795 after one hundred years of foreign regiments from Russia, Prussia and Austria, the beginning of the nineteenth century was a time of religious renewal in Poland. A keen interest in theology, pastoral renewal, Christian charity and addressing social problems were all part of the world in which Edmund lived, and his life and work reflect them.
In 1815, the Congress of Vienna severed the Northwest portion of Poland from the rest of the country and it was renamed the Grand Duchy of Poznan, under Prussian rule. Edmund’s father, Valentine, took part in the struggle for Poland’s independence. His mother, Teresa (nee Uminska) and her family were also known for their patriotism and sacrifices. From his family estate, Edmund became acquainted with the condition of poverty of the surrounding rural people. Family talks on the social struggle at home and abroad, education and contact with the villagers and the poor in the towns—unconventional for landed gentry at this time – opened Edmund’s eyes to the injustices around him.
Suffering from poor health in his childhood and youth, private tutors educated Edmund. One of these tutors, Father James Siwicki, was deeply concerned about the victims of oppression in his day and conveyed these ideas to Edmund. Edmund’s sympathy, accompanied by an active involvement in the service of people, is evidenced by the fact that his aunt left him property because of her confidence in his ability to use his resources for those in need.
Edmund attended the University of Wroclaw and later studied at the University of Berlin. However, his studies were interrupted by tuberculosis, which brought him back to Poland to recover after which he committed himself to assisting the struggles of the human spirit, particularly children and the sick.
Edmund had a deep religious devotion and was especially committed to Christ’s Mother Mary. He was a guiding force in the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Poland, which was founded by Blessed Frederic Ozanam, also a layman, in Paris in 1833. The laity movement emphasized the importance of spirituality as well as works for the poor. Edmund deepened his spirit of faith through prayer, scripture and theological reading and reception of the sacraments, walking daily to Mass and devotions. He was dynamic and very active in spreading devotion to Divine Providence and to Our Lady, and in encouraging the Rosary devotion.
Edmund addressed social injustice by his welfare work. He was especially concerned with the needs of children in urban and rural areas, who at that time were suffering because of wars and political disruptions. In some cases, the children did not have parents or families to care for them. Edmund also recognized the need for care of people who were ill, elderly or lonely. He saw the need for improving the moral, cultural and educational standards of people of Poland who were demoralized by foreign occupation, exploitation and policies to eradicate their language and culture.
Edmund established the first day nursery for children in Poznan and expanded this model to other towns and organized collections of books for the poor. Edmund visited the sick in their homes and set up a small hospital – caring for the sick there as if he were their servant. When the 19th century cholera epidemic left many children orphans, Edmund started an institute for children in the Gostyn Literary Club, where he was an officer. Edmund personally cared for the orphans assuring them a home and a Christian education.
Memories are still kept alive of his spiritual and corporal works of mercy that have endured worldwide through the Congregation of sisters founded by him in on May 3, 1850 – which in America is called the congregation of the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
Blessed Edmund died on August 7, 1871 and was immediately recognized for his sanctity. He continues to be an inspiration engendering enthusiasm in the service of Christ who comes in the form of a child, a person ill or impoverished, a person abandoned or lonely, awaiting a good word, a kind heart, care or other help.
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