On Wednesday, March 25, 2009, the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciade Sisters were given a solemn welcome at the Marian Shrine in Licheń. The nuns traveled from France to Licheń to permanently establish themselves. The Ordinary of the Diocese of Włocławek, Bishop Wiesław Mering welcomed them on behalf of the Marian Fathers.
The solemn Mass of welcome was celebrated at St. Dorothy Parish Church at six in the evening. The Ordinary presided.
“Prayer is the main reason for the Sisters’ presence in Licheń. We hope that their fervent and beautiful prayers will support our apostolic work,” said the Shrine’s Rector, Fr. Wiktor Gumienny, MIC.
The Annunciade Sisters from the suburb Paris convent of Thiais are connected to the Marians in many ways. The Order of the Virgin Mary is more than a 500-year history. A profound Marian spirituality links this French Order to the Congregation of Marian Fathers. The Marians are the first and only male order in the world, founded in 1673 by St. Stanislaus Papczyński, which has the Rule of the Ten Virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, taken from the Annunciades, as its rule of life.
Attempts to have a contemplative order permanently at the Licheń Shrine began several years back. The two communities began continual contact at the early 1980’s, and in a short time they experienced good fruit from their constant cooperation. In the early 1990’s the Marians, who were going to the African missions, studied in France and there made and retained contact with the Annunciades. Sisters of their coterie underwent an intensive two year course in Polish at the Catholic University of Lublin (CUL).
“Initially four nuns have arrived for permanent habitation,” said the shrine rector. “In due time, there will be around ten. Consequently, this spring we shall start the construction of a convent in the Grąblin Forest – the place of the Marian apparition. The first efforts have begun in this place. For the time being the Sisters will live on the top floor of the Licheń Center of Assistance” added Fr. Wiktor Gumienny. “On Wednesday, March 25, we blessed the Sisters’ quarters and the chapel, where the Sisters of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary will live and pray until their convent is ready.”
This is the third cloistered order in the Włocławek Diocese, but the first at the Shrine. “The nuns from these Orders offer their prayers for us and we offer them our gratefulness and assurance that in difficult times, they will not be alone” said Bishop W. Mering at the end of the Mass. “I call this a breath of fresh air, a light for this entire parish and the diocese,” continued the Ordinary of Włocławek. “The Sisters have heard the voice of the Lord telling them — go. For today evangelization is truly needed here just as much as in Western Europe, we need the word. Just like prayer and the presence of witnesses is needed in the European society,” added Bishop Mering.
The nuns of the Annunciade wear beautiful colorful habits. Each color has its meaning. The gray signifies poverty and penitence; the red – the Passion of Christ, charity and joy; the white – Mary’s purity. Around their necks the Sisters wear a medallion of the B.V.M. on a blue ribbon. Their habits, after the manner of the Franciscans, are tied with a cord with 10 knots, which symbolize the rule of the 10 evangelical virtues of the Blessed Mother, upon which the Order was founded. The Sisters also attach to the cord a white-beaded chaplet of the Ten Evangelical Virtues. The Marians formerly wore these beads when they were wearing the white habit. The Annunciades (the name is derived from “the Annunciation”) wear black veils on their heads.
The initial construction of the convent for the Annunciade
On May 27, 2009, the groundbreaking ceremony for the future convent and chapels of the Annunciade Sisters took place in the Grąblin Forest – the site of the apparitions of our Lady of Licheń. For the last several months, four nuns of the French women’s Order of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary have been living at the Licheń Shrine and praying for pilgrims and the apostolic works of the Marian Fathers. In addition, the Sisters are taking an intensive course in Polish. In about three-years time, because this is how long the construction work is expected to last, the Sisters will be able to move to the Grąblin Forest.
The construction site looks very much like a military training ground. After the recent rain showers the clearing turned into a marshy puddle. Having recited a prayer for the success of the construction and safety of the builders, the Marian Fathers and Annunciade Sisters, equipped with helmets and spades, walked on boards to the center of the lot and dug out the first spade-full of earth. These were: Sister Marie de Jesus, OVM, Mother Prioress; Fr. Paweł Naumowicz, MIC, Superior of the Polish Province; Fr. Eugeniusz Zarzeczny, MIC, Vice-Provincial; Fr. Wiktor Gumienny, MIC, Shrine Rector, and Fr. Leszek Czeluśniak, MIC, missionary from Rwanda. Then the Sisters residing in Licheń also put the spades to the ground, while reciting “Hail, Mary” in Polish. The Sisters are very pleased with the location their future residence and the project of their convent. The entire complex will include a small modern-looking church with a separate chapel for the nuns called “the religious choir” and traditional buildings for rooms or cells. The church will be open to pilgrims. Its capacity is 300 people. The convent will have three stories, a basement and an attic. The building will be divided in two: the enclosure and guest quarters.