WOMEN’S RELIGIOUS ORDERS IN SLOVAKIA BEFORE OPERATION R
Following the 1948 communist coup, the communists in 1950 set about liquidating male and female monasteries in Czechoslovakia. At that time there were less than 170 women’s religious houses/monasteries of women’s religious orders in Slovakia. At such places religious orders lived, and worked as health and social sisters, teachers, nurses, doctors, and other services with over 4,250 nuns and their religious youth.
In the summer of 1950, teacher sisters and educators were expelled from schools. Over 3,100 nuns worked at hospitals and social institutes. They were targeted by the first phase of Operation R – the liquidation of women’s monasteries and the internment of 1,100 nuns. In the subsequent Operations R1 – R7, hundreds more were forced into manual work, social institutions, or factory work in Bohemia or in “socialist” agriculture. The regime concentrated older nuns at charity homes. Their activities and services were forbidden in at least 200 towns, villages, and institutes in Slovakia. In some larger cities – such as Bratislava, Košice and Žilina – several orders operated simultaneously during the same period.
Their value, service and sacrifice was negated by the communist regime since 1950 – or rather 1945 – and after over 40 years of devastating communist rule, such qualities could not be fully restored even after November 1989.
Sisters of Elisabeth – Order of St. Elisabeth
The Order of St. Elizabeth was dedicated to the sick in hospitals, sufferers, and the abandoned. In religious spirituality, they follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi. The order and first monastery in Aachen was founded in 1626 by Apolonia Radermacher, according to the example of St. Elisabeth of Thuringia/Hungarian, Franciscan tertiary. The monastery of Elisabeth and church of St. Elisabeth Uhorská in Bratislava was founded in 1738 by the Archbishop of Ostrihom Imrich Eszterházy – helper of the poor – and this monastery was unique in Slovakia. The church was completed in 1743, and the monastery and hospital two years later. In 1879 the monastery and church burned down, but had been rebuilt by 1948. After World War II, the Elisabeth monastery was used for the Institute of Clinical Oncology, and the monastery’s land was given to Charite. By 1950, the sole Elizabeth monastery in Slovakia had 55 sisters (other sources cite up to 70).
During Operation R, these sisters were relocated to institutes in Bratislava-Prievoz and Podunajské Biskupice. By 1960 they were travelling to work at their former St. Elizabeth hospital, and then interned at Kláštor pod Znievom and put to work on agricultural state property and forests. In the 1960s, the regime dispersed them across various social institutes, and some returned to hospital work. Retired sisters were sent to various charity homes across Slovakia. By 1988, 10 more sisters worked at the hospital in Bratislava. During the communist regime, members of the Order of St. Elizabeth were not imprisoned.
English Virgins – Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This order was founded in the 17th century by Englishwoman Maria Ward, whose spiritual basis was the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The aim was care for youth, especially girls, and the establishment of schools for girls. Ward was among the first to establish a religious house in Pressburg (today’s Bratislava) in 1628. With the dissolution of the institute in 1631, this house and others were abolished and, despite the order’s subsequent restoration, no longer operated. The order re-emerged in Slovakia in Prešov, where from 1882 it founded a kindergarten, primary schools, and secondary schools for girls, which subsequently became grammar schools and business schools. Other schools were founded by the English Virgins in Považská Bystrica, Piešťany, Lučenec, Varín and Giraltovce. The order belonged to the Prague Apostolic Nunciature, and they founded a Slovak province in Prešov in 1941. In 1950, there were 82 English Virgins in Slovakia, 161 sisters including young adepts.
The regime removed them from monasteries and interned them at various places in Slovakia and Bohemia during Operation R from 29 August 1950. They were put to work in fields, farms, forests, or as seamstresses. In the 1960s the regime moved the sisters to social care institutions, a factory in Báč, or a charity home in Bohemia. After being released in 1968, the sisters could be openly accepted into the novitiate, but then from 1972 only secretly – a status that continued until the late 1980s. One nun was imprisoned for nine months.
Basilians – Sisters of St. Basil the Great
The order’s founder is St. Basil the Great, while the female branch was founded by his sister St. Makrina who thus became the spiritual mother of the Basilian Sisters. As one of the few orders of the Eastern Rite, it also spread in Hungary. Its aim is to spread Christianity, apostolate, religious education of youth, and work in hospitals and social institutes. The Basilians arrived in Slovakia in 1922 upon the invitation of the Vicar General of Prešov Eparchia THDr. Nicholas Russnák. They founded a monastery in Prešov as their maternal home, where they devoted themselves to youth and, in particular, Greek Catholic girls. The Basilians did not have their own province in Slovakia, they were spiritually managed by the Greek Catholic Ordinariat. Since 1938 there was a Basilian monastery in Medzilaborce, where members worked as teachers. In 1945 the Basilians opened a house in Sečovce, took over a children’s home in Stropkov, and similar in Svidník, while they also taught in Sečovce and Stropkov. Later they set up a house in Teplá (Podhorie) near Banská Štiavnica. By 1950, 47 Basilians were serving at such places along with 82 youth.
The regime had begun to liquidate the Basilians even prior to Operation R: in February 1949, Prešov’s Basilian monasteries were raided. In addition to 11 religious members, seven Basilians from Prešov were detained and then deported to Nováky forced labour camp (FLC) . Because of such persecution, the Basilians sent young sisters to other religious institutes. They also resisted pressure from the regime to convert to Orthodox. Many were interned during Operation R or relocated to various social institutes around Czechoslovakia, while retired sisters were placed into two charity homes. Basilians were sentenced to a total of three years in prison during communism.
Saviours – Congregation of Sisters of the Divine Savior
The Congregation of Sisters of the Divine Savior order came to Slovakia in the late 19th century, and the sisters began working at a children’s clinic. A separate congregation for Hungary was established. Their mission was nursing and teaching. The main monastery, postulate, and novitiate was in Bratislava, while others were founded in Rača and Pruské where they also taught. Since 1942, the Slovak province was based in Pruské and the novitiate moved to Suchá nad Parnou and then in 1946 also to Pruské where there was also a charity house for sisters. The monastery in Bratislava expanded until 1940 with over 20 people living and working there. In the 20th century these monasteries, along with schools and kindergartens, had increasing promise and new monasteries/houses were added. In Horné Orešany the Saviors had a house, in Rožňava they worked at a small seminar, Piešťany’s state hospital had almost 50 sisters, at Dolny Smokovec they worked in the State Children’s Institute, and in Kvetnica near Poprad in the State Medical Institute. Before Operation R, over 260 Sisters of the Divine Savior lived and worked in these monasteries and institutes. Including aspirants, a total of 302 nurses provided needy services to the sick and children.
During Operation R, all the sisters were interned at Pruské monastery. In 1952, the regime began discharging sisters from hospitals and sent them to various institutes, industrial workplaces, and state agricultural land in Czechoslovakia. Post-1968 the Saviours could at least assist in teaching religion, but in 1970 the normalization regime forbade even that. In 1969, some nurses were allowed to rejoin health care in Bratislava. The order was officially placed in Kláštor pod Znievom, where more than 110 sisters were confined. Other sisters continued to serve at several social institutes. The regime imprisoned eight Sisters of the Saviour for 11 years and three months in total.
Salesians – Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
This female order of the Salesian family was established by Don Bosco in 1872 with his co-worker Maria Dominika Mazzarella, following the call of Pius IX. The order aims to follow the spirituality of Francis de Sales to care, educate, and teach girls from underprivileged social backgrounds. In the early 1920s, the first girls from Slovakia went to the order’s institutes in Italy and worked at various establishments. At the invitation of Bishop Pavel Jantausch, the first Slovak Salesians from Italy returned in 1940 to work at a small seminar in Trnava. In 1943 they opened an institute in Trnava (Kopánka) where they were devoted to educating girls and teaching religion at schools. In 1943 they opened an institute and oratory in Nitra, where they also had a girls’ dormitory, later they set up their novitiate and lived there. In 1947 they opened their institute in Dolny Kubín, where they devoted themselves to the catechetisation of girls, domestic skills, and music education. This institute was liquidated by the communist regime two years later, i.e. before Operation R. In 1950, 25 Salesian sisters served in the rest of the institutions, which including aspirants totalled 59 people. During Operation R, the regime interned these sisters at the monastery in Bratislava-Prievoz, and then transported them to work at collective farms (JRDs), factories, and forests. The regime imprisoned two Salesians for five and a half years, including Sister Stefania Bokorová for five years.
Franciscans – Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi
This congregation was founded in the late 19th century in Budapest by Anna Margaréta Brunnerová. Its mission is nursing, charity, apostolic and nursing service in accordance with St. Francis of Assisi. In Slovakia, Franciscan sisters subsequently began at Palárikovo (the-then Slovensky Meder) in the hospital near the count’s mansion, and in Spišská Sobota. Since 1906, the congregation took over hospitals in Humenné and Nové Zámky. In 1925 they set up a temporary maternity home in Nové Zámky and then from 1947 a nursing school. In 1925, a separate Slovak province was approved. In 1931 they transferred their novitiate to Palárikovo. The Franciscan’s established their definitive main provincial monastery in 1933 in Bratislava-Prievoz. As the Franciscans showed signs of growth in Bratislava, they opened a hospital near the main office of their province in 1939, and also provided services at the State Epidemiological Hospital in Bratislava. In Bratislava there were approximately 100 sisters and candidates. They also started working at hospitals in Žilina and Zvolen, at institutes in Sered and Pezinok, and schools in Trebišov, Parchovany, Sečovská Polianka, and Sered. They also extended their activities to two hospitals in Bohemia. In 1949, the community of Franciscans in Slovakia had over 230 sisters and candidates.
During the liquidation of women’s monasteries during Operation R, the Franciscan Sisters from Nové Zámky were put to factory work in Bohemia from the summer of 1950. The regime interned sister teachers in Bratislava-Prievoz, and retired sisters were concentrated in Jasov. During the 1950s, the Franciscans were moved from hospitals to various institutes across Czechoslovakia and put to work as cleaners, building lackeys, and gardeners. Even in the early 1960s, many Franciscan women from social institutes had to leave to work on collective farms and state land. Another group was recirculated to work at various social institutes where the regime had no other workforce available. Even by the late 1980s, they were still working at some social institutes. Four Franciscans were imprisoned for 38 months.
Dominicans – Congregation of Dominican Sisters
The congregation has its foundation in the 13th century, when contemplative monasteries of Dominican sisters were created alongside the Dominican male order. After great upheavals during the Jozephin interventions in Hungary, Dominicans in Europe in the 19th century began to focus on teaching and the education of youth, founded schools, boarding schools, and social institutes, and devoted themselves to catechetisation, charity, and care for the sick. In 1903, a Dominican monastery was established in Košice. The sisters devoted themselves to working class children, while earning enough to build a monastery, kindergarten, grammar school, and two teaching institutes. There they worked successfully until 1938. After the occupation of Košice by Miklós Horthy’s Hungary, several Dominicans fled to their homes in Humenné and Petrovany. After the Czech sisters had left in 1939, the Bishop of Košice Jozef Čársky took charge of the Dominicans. In 1943 the Slovak Province of Dominicans was established, although the sisters directly owned only one house in Trebišov. Nevertheless, the Dominicans bravely worked at institutes and schools in Humenné, Trebišov, and Petrovany. The province’s head office had been in Petrovany, and was then relocated to Košice convent after the end of World War II. After the restoration of Czechoslovakia, the number of sisters grew from 15 to 83 and 24 teenage girls. The main religious house was restored in Košice, and a site was added in Mlynský Sek where they worked in the social institute and taught religion.
During the communist-controlled Operation R on 30 August 1950 in Košice, Trebišov and Stropkov the regime took Dominicans away from the pupils and disabled children in their care, and placed them in a concentration monastery in Kostolná near Trenčín. After 12 months they were put to manual work in factories in Bohemia. But due to their refusal to work on Sundays, they were fired in 1954. The sisters were scattered across over 15 social institutes in the Republic, often being relocated or dismissed from their jobs, making do without earnings, and having to work part-time. Even in 1988, the last Dominican girls were still working at two institutes and the bishop’s office in Banská Bystrica, while others were in a charity home. During communism, three Dominicans were sentenced to several months in prison.
Canons of Notre Dame – Canons of the St. Augustine Order of Notre Dame
This order was founded in the late 16th century in France by St. Peter Fourier and Blessed Alix Le Clerc, and was approved by Pope Urban VIII in 1628. Its main goal was to teach poor girls the basis of family and society, as well as the choral recitation of the Roman breviary. Canons of Notre Dame also started working in social institutes. They came to Slovakia in 1747 with the support of Maria Theresa as part of her school reforms, and settled in Bratislava where they opened the Theresa school and boarding house. There were 32 sisters, 50 girls of religious youth, and the religious complex employed 26 laymen. In 1941, the church founded an extension in Nováky and then in 1948 in Liptovské Lúčky. The three locations had 122 people in total.
In 1950 during Operation R, Canons of Notre Dame in Slovakia had at least 75 sisters. They were concentrated in Nové Zámky and worked at the Makyta plant. In 1951 the older sisters were put into a charity home, and others were sent to work in the Bohemia textile industry. From 1961 they were dismissed from factory work, and instead worked as carers at the social institute in Čižkovce until 1985. In 1968, some sisters began working at a children’s home in Malacky, and others began teaching religion in Galanta and Bojna. Yet this was short-lived due to the regime’s hardening stance. Gradually, the Notrdames settled in a charity home in Slovenská Ľupča and Ruban. Several sisters worked at the bishop’s office in Rožňava until November 1989. The Canonists were not put on trial by the communists.
School Sisters – School Sisters de Notre Dame
In the mid-19th century, sisters from the original order of Canonists de Notre Dame were singled out who were mainly engaged in school work, children’s care, kindergartens, and refuges. The founder of the new congregation was Gabriel Schneider. They arrived in Hungary in 1860. In Slovakia in 1920 they took over the school and orphanage in Kláštor pod Znievom (in 1949, 65 orphans) and in 1921 began teaching at the folk and burgher school in Trnava. A year later, at the request of Bishop Karol Kmeťko they came to Trenčín, where in 1928 they built a new monastery building, set up a boarding school, and in 1939 a grammar school for girls. They also successfully settled in Nové Mesto nad Váhom, where from 1927 they adapted a new monastery, town school, children’s care, established a novitiate, and in 1939 established the head office of their new Slovak province. In that year they took over the orphanage in Beckov, and then an orphanage in Spišská Nová Ves in 1944. In 1939 they also set up a study house in Modra for trainees of the State Women’s Teaching Institute. From 1945, the school sisters de Notre Dame taught or raised youth in Bratislava, Spišská Nová Ves and Trenčín. After World War II they also taught at Oravské Veselé, Liptovská Lužná, Topoľčany, Tvrdošín, Poprad, and managed the Savoy Slavia home in Trenčianske Teplice. The order’s head office was in Czech Horažďovice. Prior to Operation R there were 129 sisters and 60 girls of religious youth in Slovakia.
During the school holidays of 1950, the communists dismissed them from education. They were interned at Kláštor pod Znievom and also in Beckov, where they worked for the Merina Trenčín plant or on farms and forests. In 1951 the regime transferred them to work in Bohemia textile factories. In 1957 they began working at social institutes in Bohemia too. In 1968, some returned to Slovakia to teach and work at social institutes or charity homes – where they later retired. The last sisters returned from Bohemia only in 1986. In 1988 there were over 100 in Slovakia. Two School Sisters de Notre Dame were sentenced under communism – to one year and three months, respectively.
Sisters of Maria – Congregation of Daughters of Divine Love
This order was founded in 1868 in Vienna and spread across Europe. Its spirituality honoured Our Lady Maria Predivna, hence the name Sisters of Maria. The order cared for the education and faith of poor children, as well as the elderly and sick. The order’s founder Mother Franziska Lechner founded a kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, and higher education institutions with boarding schools. She also set up a refuge for women, a free Marianka Institution for housewives, the abandoned, the sick, the homeless, and factory workers. The sisters also worked in Slovakia, the oldest monastery Hubertínum was founded in Veľké Leváre in 1892 and Mother Lechner founded a higher school for poor and orphans. Until Czechoslovakia’s founding, the sisters settled and established monasteries in Spišská Sobota, Prievidza, Pruské, and Salka – although the latter two soon closed. In 1925 they settled in Trnava and founded a central monastery where in 1928 the Slovak province was established. Here the Sisters of Maria also had a novitiate, worked in the orphanage, led the shelter of St. Joseph, and helped households.
Sisters of Maria taught at schools, worked in social and charitable institutes, children’s care, and managed societies. Their activity successfully grew. They added monasteries and houses in Dolna Krupa, where the sisters taught at school in addition to social work, in Spišská Sobota the Institute for Religious Adolescence and set up a folk school, at Michalovce monastery children’s care, and a girls’ boarding school in Smolenice, in Ivanka pri Dunaji charity work, nursed children, and led associations. The sisters also worked in Krupina where they taught music, Podolie and Prievidza where they worked at a state children’s home, Nitra where they led training for over 200 people, Malženice where they taught religion, and Krušovce and Galanta where they taught religion and music. Prior to the liquidation of women’s religious orders during Operation R, the Sisters of Maria had 144 sisters and 25 girls of religious youth in Slovakia.
During Operation R, the regime interned the sisters to concentration monasteries in Ivanka pri Nitre, where they sewed and farmed. The monastery of the Daughters of Divine Love in Spišská Sobota, where 16 sisters originally lived, became a concentration monastery. There regime placed 60 nuns from eastern Slovakia, who cooked for guests. There were subsequently up to 90, but in late 1951 the monastery was liquidated and assigned to the army’s use. The sisters were then placed in Bohemia textile factories, where they suffered under trying conditions. The regime later moved some sisters to social institute work in Slovakia, where many remained until the late 1980s. Sisters of Maria were not imprisoned under communism.
Sisters of the Cross (Crusaders) – Congregation of the Merciful Sisters of St. Cross
The congregation in the mid-19th century was founded by the Swiss capuchin Theodosius Florentini and Blessed Mother Theresa Scherer. The congregation, along with the first female helpers, helped orphans, the abandoned and sick, and raised children. Hence its first adepts did not live at secluded monasteries. Their spirituality comes from the surrender to the Crucified and from there to his fellow men.
In Slovakia, the Sisters of the Cross settled in the state hospital in Chyzerovce near Zlaté Moravce in 1865, where they looked after the old and sick. From there they spread throughout Slovakia, with a separate Slovak province established in 1927 in Podunajske Biskupice where they had a novitiate, charity shelter, and accommodation for over 60-member religious youth. Over 110 people lived there.
They started working in Bratislava in 1875, when they set up a monastery and worked at several social and hospital institutes. In 1902, the Sisters of the Cross entered the county hospital – their largest place of work. Their work and medical education was a high standard, e.g. Medical Faculty of Comenius University staff gave lectures at their nursing school. Thus the order in Bratislava alone grew to over 175 (excluding Podunajske Biskupice), and the sisters worked at five institutes. The order’s development continued in Slovakia throughout the early twentieth century settling and working in Košice and Skalica, where they established workhouses. In Trnava from 1917 they worked in a hospital and founded a children’s guardianship in the town district of Tulipán. After the founding of Czechoslovakia, they also worked in hospitals in Lučenec, Levice, Humenné, Skalica at the Brothers of Mercy, children’s care in Sväty Jur, a health facility in Tatranská Kotlina, and a sanatorium in Vyšné Hagy. More than 61 Sisters of the Cross worked in health and social services until Operation R. Other sisters taught at folk schools from the time of the monarchy. Until 1941 over 60 sisters settled and studied in Haniska, Zavar, Pečeňady, Dunajská Lužná, Jelka, Salka, Nitrianske Hrnčiarovce, Krivá, Krásno nad Hornádom, Jarovnice, Široké, Preseľany, Hermanovce and Strážky. Prior to Operation R, over 680 Sisters of the Cross were active in Slovakia.
During Operation R, the regime first dissolved the postulants, then invited sister teachers to Podunajske Biskupice. Young sisters worked on farms, while the elderly and sick were placed in charity homes. In 1951, the sisters were sent to Moravia to work in textile factories where they were punished by the regime for refusing to work Sundays. In 1952, four hundred sisters were transported to work at a wool processing factory in Karlovy Vary. The regime treated sisters from other monasteries and social institutes in a similar manner. Since the communists did not replace the health work sisters, many continued working in hospitals until 1952 before being sent to Bohemia for work. The communist state sentenced 13 Sisters of the Cross to approximately 100 years in prison.
Premonstratensian – Congregation of Premonstratensian Sisters
The congregation was founded by Rev. Vojtech Frejka in the early 20th century. Its spirituality stems from the spiritual heritage of St. Norbert, founder of the order of Premonstratensians as a service to the sick and school children. The Premonstratensian Sisters came to Slovakia in 1930 at the request of the-then Bishop of Trnava Pavel Jantausch to work at the Trnava seminar. The bishop settled them and gave them a monastery to develop in Vrbov, where the religious novitiate was established. They subsequently also had a folk school and children’s home. From there, the order broadened its scope and the sisters worked at schools in Vrbov and Borsky sv. Mikuláš, at seminars in Trnava and Banská Bystrica, hospitals in Likier and Šahy, and led the households of three bishops’ offices. For some time, the Premonstratensian Sisters worked in Dvorníky and a priest seminar in Bratislava, where they also attended a nursing school, in Trnava they led a children’s home, in Nitra they assisted verbists, in Bernolákovo (Čeklís) they worked in a nursing institute, in Kysucké Nové Mesto they taught religion and led a kindergarten. In 1939, the Slovak province of Premonstratensians was established, of which there were about 50 in Slovakia in that year. In ten years, their number more than doubled to over 110 and 30 girls of religious youth.
During Operation R, the communists forced the novitiate girls and candidates to leave the order. The other sisters were taken to a concentration monastery in Vrbovo and worked in hospitals until 1960, then the sisters from Likier were sent to Bohemia textile factories, and in 1961 the sisters from Šahy worked at a social institute in Lipová. The Premonstratensians established a charity home in Vrbové. The sisters from Vrbovéh and Slovenská Ľupča were deported to work in Bohemia textile factories and farms. From the mid-1950s, some nurses worked at social institutes. In 1988 there were over 80 sisters in the region, some worked at the bishop’s office in Nitra and at the priest seminar in Bratislava. Provincial Superior Sister Vojtecha Polakovičova was imprisoned for six years, where she fell seriously ill and died at just 56 years old in 1978.
Satmárky – Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of St Vincent
At the end of the 17th century, the congregation of St. Paul was founded in France, and set up a maternity home in Strasbourg in 1832. The order was called the Sisters of Mercy of St Vincent. They also settled in Vienna, from where in 1842 the Bishop of Szatmár summoned them to his diocese (Satu-Mare in today’s Romania), where he had them build a monastery. From there the order’s popular name of ‘Satmarky’ originated. The sisters devoted themselves to raising girls, nursing in a hospital, managing a boarding school, and teaching at school. In 1857 they took over a children’s clinic in Bratislava. That year they founded their monastery in Banská Štiavnica, led three schools and a boarding school, and also worked in a hospital. They were also active in Komárno, Levice and Pavlovce nad Uhom, where they taught. In 1885 they went to Ružomberok where they led three schools, and in the 1930s an orphanage and retirement home. At the request of bishops, they opened schools in Tvrdošín and Spišské Vlachy. In Rožňava they then taught, had a novitiate, and until 1938 the Mother Superior resided there.
After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, they started working in Rimavská Sobota, where they had a school with a boarding school, Tekovské Lužany, where they had schools near the monastery, and expanded their activities in Bratislava where from 1928 they had a house for religious adolescents. They set up other houses after 1939 in Brezno, where they worked in a hospital, in Uhrovec, where they worked in a children’s home, and in Bánovce nad Bebravou, where they worked in the dormitory of the teaching academy. After the occupation of southern Slovakia by Horthy’s Hungary, they worked at social institutes in Ružomberok. In 1939 the Mother Superior resettled there and a religious novitiate was established. After 1945, the Satmarky extended their activities to Humenné, where they taught, Žabokreky, where they worked in a kindergarten, and Trstená, where they worked in the state hospital. In 1949, this branched congregation had over 250 sisters.
During Operation R they were taken to Rožňava where they worked as machinists. Sisters were left in hospitals because the regime could not replace them. In 1951 most were deported to a textile factory in the Czech border region. Older sisters were sent to a charity home. Sisters were gradually dismissed from health care to work on farms and charity homes, again being moved on by the regime after 15 years. The Satmarky kept their provincial house in Ružomberok until the end of the 1980s. Three sisters were imprisoned for three years during communism.
Sister Servants – The Congregation of Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate
The congregation was founded in Ukraine at the end of the 19th century by Jeremiah Lomnický, Cyril Selecký, and Sister Jozafáta Hordaševská. In 1928, Bishop Peter Pavol Gojdič invited the sisters to Prešov, where they worked in the bishop’s residence, the Greek Catholic seminar, and the cathedral temple, and established their juvenate there. In 1934, the Bishop gave the sisters a new monastery building and Institute for Orphans in Prešov. Prešov became the seat of the Slovak viceprovince in 1937, and a novitiate was established in the monastery that year. In 1938, the sisters founded a new monastery in Michalovce, where they also set up a kindergarten and boarding school for girls. In Ľutina in the 1940s, the sisters set up a house and taught at schools. Similarly in Trebišov where they lived and taught youth. After the war in 1945, 28 sisters left Slovakia to work for the hospital in Uherské Hradiště. The regime released them in 1957 to work in retirement homes in Bohemia. Before Operation R, there were about 50 sisters in Slovakia.
After the liquidation of the monasteries, the regime sent the sisters to Kostolná, Jasov, Mučeníky (Sládečkovce), and Modra. In 1968, some sisters returned to Slovakia and worked in social institutes. Older sisters settled in Petrikovce, where Vicar Ján Hirka provided a parish building. During communism, two sisters were sentenced to six years in prison.
Cyrillic – Congregation of Sisters of St. Cyril and Methodius
The congregation was founded by Mária Ružena Nesvadbová in Moravia, the church was approved on 8 September 1928. The congregation considers its spiritual initiator to be Cyril Stojan, the Archbishop of Olomouc. Its goal is to apostle for the unification of Slavic Christians in faith, focusing on the European East, as well as respect for St. Scriptures brought to the Old Slavonic by Constantine and Methodius. Moravian Velehrad became the centre of the Order and then Brno. In Slovakia, the initiative came from Nitra when Bishop Karol Kmeťko called the first sisters there in 1933 to spread this unionist and ecumenical Christian spirituality. Sisters of St. Cyril and Methodius were devoted to education and charitable apostolate. In 1933 they founded the Institute for Disabled Children in Považské Podhradie, and in 1936 in Turzovka an orphanage, kindergarten, and retirement home. A year later, the congregation founded a home for mentally ill children in Žilina-Bôrik. After 1945, the sisters worked at the children’s health care facility in Dolný Smokovec, in the retirement home in Pohorelská Maša, and the children’s treatment institute in Bratislava. In 1950 there were 52 sisters from Slovakia in the congregation.
During Operation R, the regime forcibly relocated the Sisters of St. Cyril and Methodius to various social institutes. But in 1957 they were sent to institutes in the Czech border region, where, apart from a short period in 1968, they remained until the fall of communism, when there were about 100 of them in Czechoslovakia, 25 of which were from Slovakia. Sisters of this congregation were not imprisoned under communism.
Missionaries (Verbists) – Missionary Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit
After the founding of the Mission Society of the Word of God (Verbists) in the mid-19th century in Holland, young girls were interested in the ideas of missionary service. So the founder of the Verbists Most Holy Priest Arnold Janssen with Helena Maria Stollenwerk and Hendrina Jozefa Stennmans founded a female branch order as a missionary in 1899. The order also had final sisters devoted to constant worship. The order’s spirituality is respect for the Holy Spirit developed in missionary work at schools, hospitals, and social institutes. In Slovakia, the first Mission House of Verbists was founded by Spiš Bishop Ján Vojtašák in 1931 in Spišský Štiavnik, where a religious novitiate was founded after a year’s postulate. A home for women and young girls was added later. In 1939 Slovak Verbists had 24 sisters and 28 girls of religious youth, and could run the girls’ moral-education institute in Bytčica. Two years later they started working in a children’s home in Mokraď in Orava, and set up a house with a juvenate in Vidina. From 1943, the Verbists worked at Kežmarok Hospital and began teaching in Tužin, Nemecké Pravno, Kežmarok, and Lendak. In 1946 the number of addepts grew, so the Sisters opened a house in Ivanka pri Nitre, where they based the leadership of the order and novitiate. The ideal of working in missions was developed at this time. So ten sisters initially went overseas, before the state intervened in 1947. Prior to Operation R, there were over 100 Sisters Verbists in Slovakia and religious adolescents.
The communists expelled Verbists from education in 1945. During Operation R in 1950, the Verbists moved to Báč, Pezinok, St. Beňadik, Jasov, and Podolínec, and later to Slovenská Ľupča, Rúbaň and Bílá Voda in Bohemia. In 1951, over 50 Verbists were working in the northern Bohemian border in factories, where many languished until the late-1950s. In 1959, the sisters were dismissed from the hospital in Kežmarok and with sisters from factories were assigned to work at six social institutes in Bohemia. In 1968 they returned and bought a house in Zlaté Moravce, where they sewed and embroidered paraments. They kept the house until the regime’s fall. They acquired a similar house in 1969 in Levoča, where they taught religion and took care of the parish and church, but in 1972 the communists forced them to Slovenská Ľupče. From 1969 four Verbists taught religion in the village of Maňa, but three years later the regime banned them. With other sisters they were transferred to work in a newly-established social institute. Other sisters worked until the mid-1980s at two social institutes in Bohemia. One Verbist was sentenced to seven years in prison during communism, being released after 12 months.
Social Sisters – Society of Social Sisters
The Society of Social Sisters was founded in 1923 in Budapest by Margita Šlachtová, a native of Košice, inspired by the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, which appealed to social justice. It aimed for Social Sisters to provide social assistance to children, women and families, operating in simplicity and Benedictine spirituality. The Order is known for some sisters not wearing habits, working in parishes, public, and apostles. In 1927, the Social Sisters went to Košice where they later set up a province. Eleven Social Sisters managed the guesthouse there, worked in a parish charity, ‘railway mission’ – helping passengers, teaching children religion in the working district, and leading women and girls in the movement. From 1932 they also worked in Komárno, where they mainly managed the city orphanage, from 1938 in the Podunajské Biskupice, from 1940 in Topoľčany and from 1948 in Ilava where they had a novitiate. In addition to social work, they made collections to help the poor, taught religion, and devoted themselves to prisoners and their families. It is a religion founded in the 20th century, so the Social Sisters’ work reflected the problems of the time: the women’s movement and employment, helping young mothers, broken marriages, and various courses and spiritual exercises. They connected this work with spiritual service in their chapels.
After 1949, several Social Sisters with Hungarian citizenship were deported from Czechoslovakia. The communists tried to liquidate the Society in 1949. After Operation R, the sisters from Ilava moved to Košice, but partly continued in Komárno and Topoľčany. They numbered 31, including religious youth. As they wore civilian clothes, they avoided internment, but four were deported from Czechoslovakia. Two Social Sisters were imprisoned during communism.
School Sisters – Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis
With the permission of the Pope, this congregation was founded by Francis Antónia Lamplova in Graz, Austria in the mid-19th century. As a follower of St. Francis of Assisi, it wanted School Sisters to spread his ideals through the apostolate, and the upbringing and education of children, especially girls. The order successfully expanded in Bohemia and then to Slovakia, when Andrej Hlinka invited the first sisters to Ružomberok in 1919 to teach girls. This is how this order’s ‘region’ was created in Slovakia. Sisters in Ružomberok taught at two schools, later opened a teaching institute, and began working at an orphanage. The Sisters’ numbers increased, and thus they began to teach in Lisková, Liptovská Teplička, and Poprad. After 1945 they also entered Humenné, Prešov, Podolínec, Svrčinovec, Čemerné, Vranov nad Topľou, and Malcov. From 1939 they founded a parent monastery, Slovak province, novitiate, and charity home in Žilina. There they taught at the Institute for Education of Kindergarten Teachers and at two boys’ high schools. Before Operation R, Slovakia had about 100 School Sisters of St. Francis.
The communist regime interned the sisters at Kláštor pod Znievom, they then worked on collective farms and in state forests, and in winter as machinists. In 1951, the regime sent them to Moravian flax factories in the Šumperk district, where they were persecuted for refusing to work on holy days. In 1955 they were sent to social institutes in Bohemia and Moravia intended for mentally/physically disabled children and retirees. In 1968, several sisters returned to Slovakia. Together with the Franciscans, they developed secret activities that allowed young people to follow the path of St. Francis, and – in addition to civil employment – experience a community of religious life, prayer, apostolate, and service. Four School Sisters of St. Francis were imprisoned under communism.
Immaculate Sisters – Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady of the Order of St. Francis of Assisi
The congregation was founded in the mid-19th century in Moravská Třebová and Přerov, its founders were Sr. Romana Paulína Marschnerová and Sr. Klára Rosina Willertová. Originally members of the Third Order of St. Francis took over Franciscan spirituality at the founding of the new congregation. They chose conciliation for special charisma, especially for insiders, in activities they focused mainly on the education and teaching of children and youth. They arrived in Slovakia in 1921 at the invitation of the Bishop of Spiš, Ján Vojtaššák. In Levoča, he entrusted them with girls’ education from kindergarten to teacher pedagogical institute, from which more than 500 Catholic teachers had graduated by 1946. In Spišské Vlachy they managed an orphanage and taught at a folk school. After the nationalisation of church schools, the general representative recalled all sisters from Slovakia to Moravia, although they were still forbidden from teaching. Two years before the fall of communist totalitarianism, the sisters began building a family house in Ľubica. This became a new monastery and seat of the Slovak community of the congregation after the Gentle Revolution in 1989.
Ursulines – The Roman Union of the Order of St. Ursula
This religious order was founded by St. Angela Merici in 1535 in northern Italy. St. Ursula was adopted as patron as a protector of youth. The aim of the order is the apostolate, the upbringing and education of young girls, and the renewal of family and society through women. The Ursulines spread from Liége monastry (in today’s Belgium) at the request of Esztergom Archbishop Juraj Szelepchényi – Pohronec (Szelepcsényi, Selepčiansky, Slepčiansky) from the Czech Republic and Austria, and settled in Bratislava in 1676. At the end of the 17th century they set up a monastery in Košice and led a primary school for girls. In 1724 they founded a new monastery in Trnava, built a church, set up a boarding school, and led a teaching institute and two schools. In neighbouring Cífer, they set up a kindergarten with the Angelinum Institute for the education of child carers, a school, and since 1933 a novitiate. In 1903 they set up a monastery and municipal school in Modra and subsequently in Suchá nad Parnou. In Košice, the Ursulines had two monasteries, and ran a girls’ school and boarding school. They set up the Angelinum recreation centre for teachers and sick nurses. In the late 19th century they opened a teaching institute, kindergarten, two schools, and a religious grammar school in Bratislava. In Bratislava there were nearly 80 Ursulíne sisters at that time. In 1914, their local monastery became a provincial house. In 1922, the Czechoslovak province was established and in 1933 the Slovak vice-province of Ursulines was established. In 1939 they moved their novitiate to Batizovce. In 1950 there were over 260 sisters at Ursulíne monasteries in Slovakia.
During Operation R, the regime forced several Trnava and Bratislava Ursulínes to a small Vincent monastery in Dolné Semerovce. Other sisters was concentrated in Modra, working in fields or sewing hospital linen. In 1951 the Ursulines were sent to Bohemia textile factories, and adepts mainly to Tanvald where they worked until 1958 in difficult conditions. In 1963 the first consignment of sisters, and in 1966 the second, was relocated to work at social institutes. The regime placed older sisters in charity homes in Bohemia. Sisters who stayed in Slovakia were moved around nine concentrating monasteries after 1950. In 1969 several sisters returned to Slovakia and took over the monastery in Kostolná near Trenčín and three churches, yet during the ‘normalization’ period their activities became isolated. Two Ursulíne sisters were imprisoned for a total of nine months during communism.
Sisters of St. Vincent – Society of Daughters of Christian Love of St. Vincent
This order was founded in 1633 by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac in France to help people suffering from material and spiritual distress. It firstly comprised rich virgins who wanted to help the poor in Paris. As an open order, outside monasteries they looked after those in need, the old, the sick, orphans, soldiers, convicts at home and later in hospitals and institutes, and taught poor children. In the 19th century they also spread in Hungary, Slovakia (Banská Bystrica, Trenčín, Nitra, and Trnava) and Brno, so that in 1922 the Czechoslovak province could be established. A central house was established in Slovakia (Ladce) with the help of co-sisters from the USA in 1925, where in 1942 the Slovak province of Vincent was established. The spiritual report of the Sisters of St. Vincent was led by the Lazarists. Their activity grew strongly – up to 1950 they had about 100 sisters in Ladce, and over a thousand in over 50 locations in Slovakia.
From the mid-19th century, they worked in several places in Slovakia. In 1893 they led the Protection of the Virgin Mary orphanage in Bratislava, then hospital, and Svoradov dorm. They also took care of the elderly at Dolné Semerovce. They worked in Košice from 1877, leading a religious school of child carers with lodging and for laymen. They worked at schools in Malacky since the early twentieth century. In Mučeníky (also known as Močenok and Sládečkovce) they had a kindergarten and taught at a school. In Moravský Svätý Ján, they worked in schools. In Nitrianske Pravno at the Venantinum Institute they had a kindergarten, and later led a workout house for the diocese of Banská Bystrica, Bôrik. In Štiavnické Bane (Piarg) they served at an orphanage and children’s home. In Rimavská Sobota, Topoľčany, Nitra, and Trenčín they worked at state hospitals. In Trnava they served at a retirement home, urban workhouse, and boys’ orphanage. In Urmin they worked at a children’s home and taught at a folk school. The Sisters of St. Vincent worked there until 1950.
After the establishment of Czechoslovakia, Slovak Sisters of St. Vincent’s teaching, nursing and social services expanded to Ilava, the hospital in Kremnica, Levoča, Michalovce, and a children’s home in Kynek village. In Nitra they managed the city orphanage, worked in the priest seminar and bishop’s dormitory, led the religious educational institute, and taught at schools. In Pezinok, they worked as nurses in the state institute for the mentally-disabled, as well as in Považská Bystrica (hospital), Ružomberok (hospital), Radvaň (state orphanage), Smolnícka Huta (social work and teaching), Špania dolina (religious house with nursery), Trenčianske Teplice (Institute of Therapy), Martin (catechesis in the house of St. Louise and hospital), Výčapy — Opatovce (kindergarten), Zvolen (children’s home), Žilina (old age, bishop’s orphanage, and workhouse). At the central house in Ladce near Ilava, they had a novitiate and charity home for sisters.
But their impressive work aggravated the communist power. The regime began to liquidate the order by removing Sisters of St. Vincent from education even before Operation R started. The sisters were put to work in farms and factories. After being taken to Ladce monastery, they were sent to Pruské, Beckov, Báč, Jasov, Podolínec, Hronský Beňadik, Mučeníky, Slovenská Ľupča, Rúbaň, Číž, Modra, Ivanka pri Nitre, Pezinok, and Kláštor pod Znievom. In 1951 some were sent to Bohemia textile factories, where they were also persecuted for refusing to work on holy days. The nuns worked there until 1956, when the regime placed them in social institutes. In 1951, the Beckov sisters were taken to the former Nazi concentration camp in Úpice. Even in 1961, the regime sent more Sisters of St. Vincent to Bohemia factories where they worked until 1967. Other sisters from 1953 worked in agriculture, while, for example, in Voderady they lived in former shepherd huts and elsewhere worked on hen farms or forestry.
But until 1955 most worked in hospitals in Trenčín, Levoča and Martin (together over 350 nuns), but then the regime sent them to Bohemia where they adapted social institutes and then worked there. From the largest hospital in Martin, the regime distributed Sisters of St. Vincent to around 10-15 locations. In 1956, the communists moved the last sisters from more than six hospitals to several centres, but then sent most to Bohemia to work at over 25 social institutes. In 1968, the Sisters of St. Vincent set up the Central Provincial House in Mendryka, but the communists transferred it to Czech Catholic Charity property. Before November 1989, there were still about 260 Sisters of St. Vincent in four locations in Slovakia. The St. Vincents was the most persecuted order in Slovakia under the communist regime. During show trials across the republic, the communists sentenced 37 Sisters of St. Vincent to 170.5 years in prison, of which 126 years were served.
Redeemers – Congregation of Sisters of the Divine Redeemer
This congregation of papal law was founded in the mid-19th century in France by Mother Alphonse-Marie Eppinger. As the order’s name suggests, the sisters aim to participate in the work of redemption with their sacrifices according to the model of Redemptorists, service to their fellow men, and suffering. The charisma of the congregation is care for sufferers, simplicity and spirit of prayer, and the primary mission was to nurse the sick and teach poor children and orphans. The first Redeemers arrived in Slovakia in 1875 in Nové Zámky, and the Slovak province was established in 1924. After the Vienna Arbitration of 1938, the seat was in Spišská Nová Ves. Until 1950, Redeemers had 36 communities in Slovakia with 445 nurses in six hospitals, four retirement homes, four seminaries, two training houses, and several schools and kindergartens.
In 1949, all Redeemer religious educational institutes were seized by the state. In the summer of 1950, all sister teachers were dismissed. As part of Operation R, the sisters were deported and concentrated in factories, and the elderly in internment monasteries – which since 1952 the communists called ‘charity homes’. After their factory work finished, the Redeemers were transferred to the Institute of Social Welfare in Velegrad. Here in 1963, Sister Oktávia Majzonová – who had been Provincial Redeemer for 25 years – died. Since 1975, the new seat of the province became Vrícko village in the Martin district (in 1994 it returned to Spišská Nová Ves). Although at the time of ‘normalization’ new members were officially forbidden, 129 candidates nevertheless entered the congregation by the secret formation of religious adolescence during the period of persecution and oppression (1968-1989).
Women’s orders and congregations without a province in Slovakia
The Daughters of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary were active in Starý Smokovec with four sisters. The Sisters of Mercy of St. Charles Borromeo had four sisters in Piešťany. The Merciful Sisters of the Order of the Crusades of Our Lady had seven sisters in Častá and Bratislava. The Sisters of the Holiest Eucharist had five sisters in Bučany.
New female orders after 1950
After 1950, despite the liquidation of male and female orders and the on-going oppression of the Church, some new orders reached us.
In 1964, Sister Magdaléna Hutinová, founder of the Fraternity of the Little Sisters of Jesus (the Little Sisters) came to Czechoslovakia for the first time. This French order had established its fraternity in 1939 amidst poor Saharan nomads, drawing on the spirituality of Charles de Foucauld with the mission of leading a contemplative life in a civilian community. The Little Sisters make a living with their own work, their apostolate is friendship, goodness and respect, and they live in a civilian environment in small communities (without a monastery). Sister Magdalene (Fraternity of the Little Sisters of Jesus) began to work permanently in Czechoslovakia from 1969, and since 1972 the first Little Sisters entered her fraternity to illegally establish the first community of Little Sisters ten years later. In 1982 they bought two small houses for the fraternity, one in Bratislava-Prievoz, and the other in Prague. In 1985, the first three Little Sisters took their eternal vows in Sereď. Two years later, they also have new members in Žilina.
Similarly, another female religious order came to us, the Church of the Capuchins. Although they formed in the 16th century during the Capuchin reforms, they only had a monastery in Slovakia in 1950. The Church of the Capuchins is part of the religious family of St. Francis as a second order. The essence of their lives is the original order of St. Clara – extreme poverty, papal clause, communal life, and contemplative prayer. They secretly founded their first community in Slovakia in 1982.
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