miracle AT THE Motherhouse
By Peggy Landers 44 Alvernia University Magazine
From the very beginning, “God will provide” was Mother Veronica’s mantra. On Oct. 16, 1894, at the age of 51, without knowing more than a perfunctory word or two of English, this foundress of the Bernardine Sisters in the United States, flanked by Sisters Frances, Catherine, Gertrude and a tertiary, Barbara Jasinska, arrived at New York Harbor. They disembarked the German steamship EMS and Father Jakimowicz from St. Joseph’s Parish in Mt. Carmel, Pa., retrieved them the next day. He had written to their motherhouse in Warsaw, Poland, asking for Sisters to teach young children of the Polish immigrants in his parish. The nuns were game for their new assignment, but culture shock barely describes what they experienced after leaving
their cloistered Polish convent. After a year at St. Joseph’s, a conflict developed between the type of religious life they were used to living in Poland and Father Jakimowicz’s expectations. After conferring with the Bishop in Harrisburg, Pa., the Sisters decided that returning to Poland was best. A missed train connection from Harrisburg, however, landed them in Reading, Pa., then a growing industrial hub with machine shops, iron and steel foundries and a strong textile trade. Without a place to stay for the night, Divine intervention interceded. A couple of Sisters of Mercy whom they met at the station offered to put the Polish nuns up at their convent. The next day they were introduced to Father Malusiecki, the pastor of nearby St. Mary’s Parish. He offered the Bernardines teaching jobs at St. Mary’s,
Images Courtesy of Bernardine Franciscan Sisters Archives
When St. Joseph paid a visit to the Bernardine Sisters one snowy winter day in the early 1900s, he brought to Reading with him a sled full of food for the near-starving nuns, and left a legacy that is recounted in Alvernia history to this day.