Sister Mary Jadwiga Delikowska
of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament
24/12/1927 – 31/05/2020
Sister Mary Jadwiga, known by her baptismal name as Władysława, died and left us quickly after a long and active life. For only a week she was unable to come to the chapel for the Eucharist and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Only for a week, we looked at her empty place in the refectory. She had been ill invisibly, as she used to say, for nearly two years, suffering from cancer, which ultimately led to her death. Sister Jadwiga died on May 31, 2020, at dawn, on the Feast of Pentecost, having received the sacrament of the sick just a few days prior to her death.
Sister Jadwiga was characterized by a strong character, a clear system of values, and an unshaken faith. She valued the consecrated life and religious vows, especially the vow of poverty. In her own opinion, she was a happy person and considered her long life as a unique gift. She was not afraid of death, although she did not do anything to hasten or delay it. Until the last hour, she was blessed with a clear mind and good memory of people she met and of current events. A few days before her departure she made several calls saying goodbye to her family in Poland and numerous friends and acquaintances. She asked to check whether she had paid the Membership Fee to the Circle of Friends from India. She made sure that her existing “pocket money” would reach the person she had been helping for many years. She prepared an envelope with medals of Our Lady, asking us to mail it to one of her spiritual daughters. She made sure that an article about festivals in Pitsford would be handed to a teacher in Poland so that the memory of those events is protected.
Sister Jadwiga Delikowska was an “apostle of the pen”. Gifted with good Polish, she wrote a lot and often to many people. The writing was her way to help others to better understand the principles of the Christian life, to strengthen the doubters, to admonish the wanderers. She used to be in touch with her friends regularly, especially with the lonely ones. When she was younger, she visited the sick and organized help for those in need. In an exceptional way, she was faithful to the friends of her youth, especially her colleagues with whom she spent time together in India. From her childhood to the last hours on this earth she used to read a lot. With a visible sadness, she was moving her “collections” of patriotic and religious literature to a common library, not because she was so attached to her books, but because she was afraid that they would not find the proper respect in the future. She carefully studied the circular letters of the major superiors and the documents of the Congregation. “I read everything which has been written about our Mother Foundress”, – one reads in Sister Jadwiga’s autobiography. “And I have a lot to say to Mother Foundress in heaven” – she used to say often.
The war did not allow young Władysława to become a teacher, the profession of her dreams. Probably she would have been an extraordinary teacher – intelligent and artistically gifted by nature. Blessed with a strong and clear voice, she loved to sing, reacting immediately to the slightest “out of tune” of those who did not have the best ears. She had artistic talent, never fully developed due to a lack of proper education. It helped her, however, with gardening, making cards, and sewing theatrical costumes for many generations of our students at the school in Pitsford.
The greatest influence on Sister Jadwiga’s/Władysława’s early formation was her deeply religious family (“what belonged to God was respected in the family” – reads her memoirs). The other significant influence was scouting. The scout whistle, a compass, and The Law of Scouts were found in Sister Jadwiga’s desk drawer. Władysława became a scout during the second world war in India. After arriving in the United Kingdom as a young woman, she formed her own scout team comprised of Polish girls. Once, together with her team, she attended the instructor course in Pitsford. It was in Pitsford, where Sisters of the Holy Family had just opened a school for Polish girls, daughters of Polish soldiers, who together with their families landed in the British Isles after the war. It was in Pitsford where 21-year-old Władysława met nuns for the first time in her life. It was in Pitsford where the next adventure of her life began. It was there where Władysława entered our Congregation, and after her novitiate in Albano, returned to Pitsford, where she spent the next forty years of her religious life.
After the school in Pitsford was closed in 1984, Sister Jadwiga moved with other sisters to Northampton. She ministered as a superior in that new convent, served as a provincial councillor and assisted in the Polish Saturday school. Then she worked in the Pilgrim’s house in Lourdes for one year. In 1996, she moved to Enfield to do various household chores and took care of flowers in the large monastery garden. This is a brief sketch of Maria Jadwiga’s portrait as a Holy Family sister.
Who was she for 22 years of her life before joining our Congregation? Handwritten memoirs which she left can help us in this best. Here’s what we read: “My name is Władysława Delikowska. In the Congregation, I received the new name Jadwiga and my religious mystery being Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament. I was born on December 24, 1927, in Jasionów, Tarnopol county. These were lands inhabited mainly by Ukrainians. Ukrainian was the second but mandatory language in the Polish school I attended. My parents, together with four children (one daughter was already on her own), moved from their family place in Łagiewniki near Krakow to the east of Poland in search of better living conditions. I was born already in Podole, not to say – in Ukraine (because it was Poland at the time), as the sixth and youngest sibling of three sisters and two brothers.
I had a hard childhood for various reasons, not only because my parents were materially poor. When I was 12, the expected war broke out. A year later, on February 10, 1940, the mass deportation of the Polish population from the eastern territories into Russia began. My parents, my older brother and I shared the fate of the victims of the Stalinist regime. We spent one year and a half in extremally difficult conditions in Russia. In 1941 Stalin agreed to the formation of a Polish army and, as a result, the Poles deported from the Soviet Union. Again, in my short life, unhuman train journey began, at the beginning towards the south of Russia, and later to Persia. My father did not survive the severe epidemic of typhus that outbroke before leaving for Persia and died, along with thousands of other sick Poles. My brother, like other adult men, joined the army in the Second Corps of General Anders. I stayed with my mom. First, we lived in camps near Teheran. From Teheran, we were transported to India, the former English colony. I spent 6 years in India. It was there that I finished high school and started teacher’s college – unfortunately, never completed after leaving India.
In 1947, all Poles had to leave the English colonies. After three weeks of another sea journey, I found myself with my mother in England. My brother also came to England. As a soldier of a foreign army, he had to resign from military service and move to civilian life. My brother was thinking about going to Canada, but I wanted to stay in Europe i.e. in the British Isles. There was no question of returning to Poland immediately after the war. The part of Poland where was once my home was gone. The news of the loss by Poland of its eastern terrain has crossed out our entire past. In the northern part of England where we stayed, we lived in a post-military camp, designed for war migrants from different parts of the world. Having scouting experience in India, I started a scouting team for Polish girls there.
In 1947, all Poles had to leave the English colonies. After three weeks of another sea journey, I found myself with my mother in England. My brother also came to England. As a soldier of a foreign army, he had to resign from military service and
Although I did not think about religious life in my early youth, today I know that God had been preparing me for himself for a long time, especially through scouting formation. A memorable meeting with the Holy Family Sisters in the Pitsford, Father Bełch’s stories about the Congregation, shared with scouts at Mother Regina’s request, began within me the internal process of discovering how God was leading me, as I discerned his will shining clearer and clearer through the various events of my life. I began to recall anew moments which seemed to be entirely put aside: how suddenly, during the best fun, I was filled with a strange emptiness; how while thinking about getting money to go to the fairs, I heard a gentle voice: “You do not trust In God”; how, years ago, during the procession of Corpus Christi, I looked lovingly at Monstrance, attracted by a strange power. “
After meeting the Nazareth Sisters in Pitsford, I worked for a year as a house helper in the Irish Sisters’ convent in St. Alban. For the first earned money, I bought The Imitation of Jesus, a book that I remembered from India. Having prayed a lot about my future, I eventually made the decision to return to Pitsford. Without telling anyone, even my mother, about anything, I travelled to Pitsford and found Mother Regina. When I was accepted and entered the convent on April 17, 1949, I felt like taking the next step up from my beloved scouting – deeper down, yet higher. God’s logic and God’s guidance suddenly became so clear to me.
Sister Jadwiga Delikowska was full of passion in reminding her friends, even the Sisters in the community, who we all are, and should be as God’s children. She very rarely allowed herself to share her deeply personal experiences. We also knew little about her family and the horror of war, except for the truth that most of all the sufferings she was afraid of …was hunger.
However, she surprised us with a touching, hand-written piece of paper, which reads: “I apologize to all the sisters and ask for forgiveness for any harm I had ever caused them. I also, on my part, forgive all the sisters and remain grateful for the goodness and kindness showed to me.”
Till we meet in heaven, Sister Jadwiga. Do not forget to talk to our Mother Foundress, also about Enfield. May you rest in peace.