of the Most Blessed Sacrament
August 20, 1913 – July 8, 2005
Immaculate Heart of Mary Province
“Whatever may befall me: life or death, suffering or consolation, health or infirmity- everything will come from God and his love, and will have as its purpose, to bring me closer to him.” (Journey with Her, p. 31,)
There is a touching Christian song with these beautiful lyrics: “In his time, in his time – God makes all things beautiful, in his time.” This is a contemporary translation of the Old Testament teaching of Ecclesiastes: that each human life has value and purpose precisely because of the divine plan which engenders it, guides it, and brings it to fulfillment. Reflecting on the life of Sister Antonia, we enter the reality of this mystery.
In God’s time, John Zdrodowski and Anna Mocrzycka left Poland, came to Brooklyn, New York, married, and welcomed seven children to their family. Victoria, the eldest, was born August 20, 1913. Tragically, the unexpected early death of their mother, and soon after, their father, separated the siblings, who were entrusted to different relatives. Victoria was taken in by her father’s sister, with whom Victoria remained only about a year – for, on July 16, 1927, having graduated eighth grade, young Victoria entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth at Torresdale, Pennsylvania. From her investiture on August 21, 1928, she would be known as Sister Mary Antonia, and two years later to the date, on August 21, 1930, she professed first vows. On August 19, 1936, Sister Antonia was admitted to perpetual profession, and took as her mystery, the Most Blessed Sacrament.
In spite of, and perhaps because of, her early separation from family, Sister Antonia sincerely loved her relatives. To them she was a fantastic communicator, and with her incredible memory for names, she always managed to remember them on birthdays and holidays. A visit with effervescent Wikcia guaranteed fun and laughter for all.
In 1930 as a newly professed, Sister Antonia began a ministry in education which would span the next sixty years. In God’s time and plan, she would find herself preparing future generations at various elementary and high schools: in Ambler and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; in Brooklyn, Glen Head, Southampton and Utica, New York; in Derby, New Haven, Norwich and Stratford, Connecticut; in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. During these years, Sister Antonia exercised her gifts not only as teacher – she was further called upon to serve several years as principal, and seventeen years as local superior.
A good education was important to Sister Antonia, who herself possessed an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and time in the classroom proved her to be an efficient educator. Strict and firm, respectful and respected, she was loved in turn by her students. Her career included teaching English to children recently arrived from Poland. In Puerto Rico, Sister Antonia was asked to initiate a parish high school by taking on the first class of freshmen and teaching them all subjects in a self-contained classroom. Conscientious and committed as she was, and supported by God through her prayer, Sister Antonia successfully took up the challenge.
Ever a lady, Sister Antonia was gracious and gentle, a good friend. Soft-spoken and of quiet disposition, Sister Antonia was a peaceful person, and was not given to raising her voice or showing displeasure. Her words were kind, encouraging and supportive. In her own unobtrusive way, Sister Antonia showed concern for other Sisters, and performed many acts of kindness for them. Simple and unassuming, she avoided the limelight. She was both hesitant to impose on others by asking their help, and openly grateful for the smallest kindness done for her.
Among her Sisters, Sister Antonia was known as a happy and devout religious, trusting in her God, and a woman of prayer. As long as her health permitted, she participated in common prayer, and was faithful to daily adoration and rosary. As sacristan, her love for the Blessed Sacrament was expressed in lovely arrangements of vigil lights for feast days.
Sister Antonia delighted in life’s offerings. She welcomed new experiences and loved to travel. Car rides and visits to her family in California were especially enjoyed by her. Sister Antonia took particular pleasure in the multiple forms of beauty – in museums and works of art, in opera and classical music. All the ordinary nice things were just as much appreciated by Sister Antonia: daily walks in the schoolyard, a big bowl of ice cream, and summer fruit were among her favorites. Every month, her nephew Bob Portale in California would send her a box of fruit which she generously shared with the Sisters. The mangos, however, were set aside just for Sister Antonia.
In God’s time, age and infinity took their toll, and Sister Antonia retired to Monroe in 1992. If she learned anything at all from her diverse experiences, she learned to accept whatever life offered, and to work along with it the best she possibly could. When failing eyesight limited her vision, she took advantage of a special machine which enlarged the pages of her prayer book – and when even technology could no longer help, Sister Antonia would ask another Sister to pray aloud with her.
About seven years ago, Sister Antonia suffered a stroke from which she recovered remarkably well. Later, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appeared and gradually increased. Sister Antonia, always the proper, well-educated lady, felt confused by her inability to communicate with the appropriate vocabulary. Since spring of this year, Sister Antonia’s weakening condition forced her to become bedridden. Totally dependent on others, her eyes bespoke her sincere gratitude for all the care and visits she received.
On the quiet, rainy morning of July 8, 2005, accompanied by the fervent prayers of her Sisters, Sister Antonia peacefully returned to her God. At that moment of home-coming, the words of Isaiah came true for her:
“Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down, and do not return there until they have watered the earth and made it fertile and fruitful ... so shall my word be – it shall not return to me void ...but shall achieve the end for which I sent it.”
Indeed, Sister Antonia, God has made you beautiful in his time. May you rest in peace.
Digitized by S. Brendan O'Brien, CSFN
School of Arts & Sciences
Holy Family University
9801 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19114
Last updated: November 2006