For the Polish countryside – (Edmund Bojanowski)
If you are ever in Poznań or nearby, Make sure you go to Gostyń, to the Holy Mountain. There is a miraculous statue of Our Lady of Sorrows there, all covered with votive offerings. Among them you can see a small one, radial triangle, and on it the eye of Divine Providence. The history of this votive offering is interesting. The Bojanowski family hanged it, grateful for it, that Our Lady just heard their prayers for the health of Edmund's son. Their child was four years old, when he got seriously ill. Doctors gave up hope, that they can be saved. But God's providence has ordered otherwise. My son did not die, but he recovered and grew into a brave man, who did a lot of good in his life.
Edmund Bojanowski came from a noble family. His father fought in the November Uprising, and Edmund's mother was the sister of General Umiński, also a participant in the uprising. The boy initially studied at home, because he was still in poor health. Then he studied a little at the universities in Wrocław and Berlin, but only as a free listener. Poor health prevented him from completing his studies. So he returned to the country, to his family manor in Grabonóg, and settled there.
Edmund was an intelligent man, well-read, and at the same time kind to others and very sensitive to all human poverty. While in the countryside, he often looked at the farmer's work, he saw the cares and troubles of the rural housewives. However, he was most worried about the fate of young people and children deprived of proper care. Although he himself came from a noble family, he was keenly interested in the rural people and thought about it, how to help him. Because it was hard then in the countryside of Greater Poland. The Polish population struggled with various difficulties. Because it was also the Prussian government that was striving to disinherit and Germanise it, and there was nobody to defend the Polish peasant. And the working conditions were hard. The youth did not have access to education, because there were few schools. There was also a lack of cultural entertainment and proper medical care. And when some diseases came, plague, epidemics or crop failures, then it was a complete disaster. There was nowhere to seek help. People had to fend for themselves. Young Bojanowski saw all this and he was very sorry about it.
While still a student at the university, he discovered his literary passion. First, he began to translate various works from foreign languages, and then write yourself. Maybe he dreamed of a career as a poet or writer ? When he returned to the country, he took advantage of these talents and began writing articles for various newspapers and magazines. He was also the editor of some popular magazines for the Polish people, such as ,,Aftermath", "Rural Year" and others. He wanted, that people would like a good book and magazine, because it could teach them a lot and make their lives easier. He also established a library in Grabonóg and willingly borrowed books from it. He was known for this, that he was concerned to increase reading and education among the people. He made great contributions in this field.
His love for children was especially famous. Their fate in the countryside at that time was sad. From an early age, they had to work hard, and often they did not have the proper care and upbringing. When in 1849 year, a cholera epidemic broke out and many people died, many homeless orphans were left. Bojanowski took care of them. He collected them and established an orphanage for them in Gostyń. He took care of them himself and sought material help for them from wealthy families.
At the same time, in Podrzecze near Gostyń, a village woman, a certain Przewoźna, she also started collecting children in her home, to give them proper care. Bojanowski became interested in this matter and developed a kind of regulations for a children's nursery. Soon there were also three more girls, who have decided to teach and raise these children. With their help 3 May 1850 The first official orphanage for poor and abandoned children was established in Podrzecze near Gostyń. People haven't seen anything like that before, so they were very interested in it. Many praised Bojanowski for his idea and cordially helped him in this. However, there were also such, who criticized him and caused him great distress. Many girls wanted to devote themselves to this job. So they approached him and asked to be admitted. A on, always modest and reticent, but kind and smiling, enjoyed, that now the orphans will no longer be homeless and without their mothers. He first formed a religious association out of these girls, and then a new religious congregation called the Sisters Servant of the Mother of God of the Immaculate Conception. Henceforth, as their number grew, these sisters spread all over the country divided by the partitioning powers and, despite various difficulties, set up orphanages for rural children, and nursing the sick, they looked after the poor and abandoned.
Some people found it strange, that a layperson founds a religious congregation. After all, this is a matter of priests and monks - it was thought so. And Bojanowski himself wondered too, will it cope with this task. Although he read a lot and prayed, it seemed to him, that is not enough, to be the founder and director of a religious congregation. Therefore, he decided to enter the seminary and become a priest. And he had already then 55 years ! Unfortunately, he spent only a year in the seminary. Disease, which constantly tormented him, grew stronger and Bojanowski quit his studies again, just like in youth. He was not allowed to become a priest. He hurt a lot about it, but he agreed, as always, with the will of God. Ks. Cardinal Ledóchowski, who was then the Archbishop of Poznań, so he spoke to him : Edmund, Lord God wants to, that you would die in a lay state for the good of your Congregation ".
And it really happened. Not long after that, in July 1871 year, Bojanowski became seriously ill. And he didn't get out of bed anymore. On the day of Our Lady of the Snow, he received the sacrament of anointing the sick, and two days later, 7 of August, he died when he was years old 57. A few moments before his death, he confessed to his friend, Fr.. Gieburowski : "Now I understand, that God wanted, that I would die in a secular state ".
His death was like this, as well as all my life - full submission to God's will. He was a deeply religious man, He believed strongly in God's Providence and explained everything to himself by God's will. He prayed a lot. People in Grabonóg saw this tall one almost every day, thin man, always neatly dressed, as he rushed to church for Holy Mass. He received Holy Communion very often. He had a special devotion to the Mother of God, to whom he owed a miraculous healing. And he referred to people as his brothers and sisters. He did not mind his noble origin. He was careful, that in God's eyes all are equal. Therefore, a grateful memory of him was preserved in those parts and people remembered him that way : “He is a very good man… He exudes a strange simplicity and humility from him… He is apparently human, who prays a lot ". This deep religious life did just that, that he did so much good and lives in the memory of the Catholic Church to this day.
And what happened to his work ? A lot has changed since those years. Working and living conditions in the countryside have improved. And children today have better parental care, also in various nurseries, orphanages, boarding schools etc.. The Congregation of the Servants, however, still exists, develops and works. From those times, when the division of the country among the partitioners hindered free activity, the division of these sisters into four separate families has remained to this day. Although they differ slightly in terms of their clothes and names, the spirit remained the same. They remember to this day, what their founder Bojanowski taught them : serve people in imitation of Jesus and Mary by undertaking any work, even the most difficult, and do it willingly and with love. So we see them everywhere today : they work with churches caring for their purity and beauty, they gather children for catechesis, etc..