The Congregation of the Resurrection began in France on Ash Wednesday of 1836. Bogdan Janski, Peter Semenenko, and Jerome Kajsiewicz, regarded as founders of the Congregation, were the first three members.
Bogdan Janski must be recognized as the one who planted the seed. Born of Christian parents, and educated in Catholic schools, he went on to the University of Warsaw, where he received degrees in law and economics. However, at the university he became caught up in student movements and as a result began to lose his faith. His faith was further weakened when he was granted a scholarship and was sent to study economics in France, England, and Germany. Ever the dreamer, he drifted from one social movement to another, seeking ways of establishing an ideal society. Disenchanted with various solutions that were offered to him, he finally returned to the Catholic Church. His firm conviction was that truth is to be found only in the Catholic Church and that the only real solution to social problems is to be found in the Gospels.
Janski became an apostle among Polish exiles living in France. A convert himself, he was bent on converting others. What little money he earned as a tutor and as a contributor to encyclopedic dictionaries was soon dispersed to poor Polish exiles throughout France. He was a one-man bureau offering not only material assistance, but secretarial as well.
Janski was full of ideas. His plans and projects cover many pages in his diary. A lay man himself, he was deeply committed to involving the laity in the work of the Church. Janski was a visionary with a vision as wide as the Gospel itself.
Janski knew how to look with a critical eye on the posture of the contemporary Church in relation to human society. “Present-day ecclesiastical authority is not in touch with the present time,” he wrote. The Church needed updating. It would be the task of an enlightened laity, not only in Poland, but throughout the world, to dispel misconceptions about the Church. “It will be necessary to act in various closely linked ways to unite in order to introduce Christian principles into politics, education, literature, sciences, arts, industry, customs – the entire public and private life of a modern, increasingly pagan society.”
Janski was also deeply committed to providing a well educated clergy to instruct and lead the people. At the time this need was sorely felt in Poland, weakened by Russian oppression. For this reason he sent two of his closest associates and protégés, Peter Semenenko and Jerome Kajsiewicz to Rome to establish closer contact with the Holy See and ultimately to found a Polish college in Rome to educate priests for Poland.
In Rome the seed of the Congregation began to blossom and bear fruit. Peter Semenenko and Jerome Kajsiewicz established a small community in Rome where they were ordained in 1842. At Mass in the Catacombs of St. Sebastian on Easter morning of that year seven members of the Roman House professed vows as religious of a community that was yet without a name. However, Divine Providence which had guided them to this moment was with them that morning, for on emerging from the catacombs they heard the bells of Roman churches announcing the Easter Alleluia, and they were moved to adopt the name of the feast: They would become the Congregation of the Resurrection.
Father Semenenko composed the preliminary Rule whose thirty-three paragraphs were an elaboration of the thought of Bogdan Janski. Father Kajsiewicz described the sentiments of the first members: “We feel the need of living in a family, bound together by spiritual ties. We desire to undertake works which require continuity and order and workers on whom we can rely. And therefore we desire to become a religious Congregation.”
At a General chapter in 1850, the members set out to follow the advice of Pope Pius IX – “Organize yourselves in a way that will do the most good for the Church” – The Pope also predicted: “You all will not write a new Rule, for this is not the work of many, but the work of one, and that one must have the Spirit of God.” Father Kajsiewicz was quick to admit that “The principal merit for all our work on the Rule belongs to Father Semenenko.” Father Semenenko became leader and guide in matters of the Rule and of the spirit of the Congregation. He, more than anyone, formulated, elaborated, and defended the original thought of Bogdan Janski.
The General Chapter of 1857 was very important for the Congregation for it was there that Father Semenenko clarified the specific apostolate of the Community, namely, the care and administration of parishes and the education of youth. The Rule presented to the Church for approbation in 1887 was almost entirely based on the Rule of 1850, the original thought of our Founders.
The most recent revision of the Constitutions is merely an adaptation of the Rule to accord with the spirit of the Council, and retains the guiding principles and the spirit of the Rule of 1850. At the General chapter of 1981 a Charism statement, was included as a preface to the constitutions. We regard this as a clear statement of our identity and our call.
“We desire to be faithful to the grace received by our founders, a grace we now share by our call to the Congregation of the Resurrection. We recognize certain truths to be especially important for our life and work as Resurrectionists because they give expression to the grace and this call.
We believe that God’s love for us is merciful and unfailing. We have not earned his love. We are nothing, have nothing, and can do nothing without God. We are attracted to evil. We are sinners. Yet God continues to draw us to himself.
We believe that in his love the Father calls us to conversion: to personal resurrection in union with Jesus, to a new life filled with the power of his spirit. With Jesus we die to ourselves when we surrender our lives to the Father, renouncing anything that separates us from him. The power of the Spirit forms Christ in us, and moves us to respond with love to the Father’s great lover for us.
We believe that God calls us to live together as brothers, sharing the gifts that we have received, supporting one another, praying and working together for his glory. He has called us to be a community which is a living sign of the Gospel values of justice, truth, and love.
We believe that God calls us to work together for the resurrection of society, bringing his live and love to all: through our personal witness, through the witness of our life in community, and through our community apostolates, primarily through parish work and teaching. This also requires that we build, and teach others to build, a Christian community in which wall can experience the hope, joy, and peace of Christ’s Resurrection.
We believe that Mary is our model for all that we are called to be and do as Resurrectionists.”
The Congregation has developed into an international Community, serving the Church in Australia, Austria, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Tanzania, Ukraine and the United States. The Congregation is organized into three administrative provinces (Ontario-Kentucky, United States of America, and Polish) and one region (South American), with the General Headquarters located in the city of Rome, Italy.
by Father Francis Grzechowiak, CR