Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate

Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (Сестри служебниці Непорочної Діви Марії; Sestry sluzhebnytsi Neporochnoi Divy Marii). A congregation of Ukrainian Catholic nuns established in 1892 in Zhuzhil, Sokal county, Galicia, by the local priest, Kyrylo Seletsky, under the spiritual guidance of Y. Lomnytsky of the Basilian monastic order. The first charter was approved by Metropolitan Sylvester Sembratovych in May 1892, and in September of that year a novitiate was opened in Zhuzhil, with nine novices. The first prioress was Sister Y. Hordashevska. In 1894 the novitiate was moved to Krystynopil.

The congregation’s aims were to educate children; to perform acts of charity; and to run nurseries, orphanages, schools, hospitals, and homes for the aged and infirm. Members of the order also assisted in various church work. Convents of the congregation were established in Canada (1902), Yugoslavia (1906), Brazil (1911), Czechoslovakia (1928), the United States (1935), and Argentina (1965).

The constitution of the Sisters Servants was revised at its first congress, held in 1907 in Galicia, and again in 1929. In 1932 the Congregation for Eastern Churches raised the status of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate to that of a congregation of papal law, thereby standardizing its rules and administration, and in 1934 divided it into three provinces (Europe, Canada, and Brazil). Each province was to govern itself but accepted a common constitution and the authority of the general curia, which was initially in Zhuzhil, then in Krystynopil, and after 1934 in Lviv. After the Second World War the general curia was moved to Rome. At the same time the congregation was suppressed in Galicia by the Soviet authorities, and many of its members who did not flee the Red Army were imprisoned or exiled.

Before the Second World War the Sisters Servants had 107 houses in Ukraine, all of which were closed after its abolition by the Soviets. They also maintained 15 orphanages for approximately 380 orphans (1938) and provided religious instruction for over 4,200 children. The next largest province was Canada, where by the end of the First World War there were 100 members in 20 houses. Today the Sisters Servants are organized into seven provinces (Ukraine, Canada, Brazil, United States, Poland, Slovakia, and Serbia) and one delegature (Argentina) and have over 700 members in approximately 120 houses. The liberalization in Ukraine in the late 1980s permitted the congregation to re-establish itself there after almost 50 years.

Velykyi, Atanasii. Narys istoriï zhromadzhennia SS Sluzhebnyts’, PNDM (Rome 1968)

Ivan Khoma

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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