An uneducated, simple woman who became the co-founder of the Congregation of Albertine Sisters, as well as the author of its constitution and its general superior. A sensitive girl who came in contact with the frightening poverty of the poorest of the poor. She longed to contemplate, yet her life at the time was filled with hard work among cripples, the homeless, and the poor. There are so many paradoxes in the biography of the blessed, whom Brother Albert Chmielowski himself chose, seeing in her "mind and heart."
She was born into a peasant family in the village of Pizuny. She did not attend school, receiving only basic education at home. Even as a young girl, she knew that her vocation is religious life, but the real breakthrough was a meeting with Brother Albert in the Franciscan church in Horyniec. Eighteen-year-old Maria joined the new congregation of the Albertine Sisters, taking the name Bernardyna. She became superior of the Krakow House for the Crippled and a few years later, at barely 20 years old, became general superior of her order. When she joined the order, there were about 41 sisters in 6 houses, and when she was dying – there were already approx. 600 in 56 houses. She cared deeply for the sisters, knew all of them by name, and understood their dilemmas and problems.
It was not easy for her. She loved nature, open space, air, and light, but she came to live in the darkest recesses of human misery, among those forgotten by all. Good and sensitive by nature, she came into contact with immense suffering, difficult to sustain and accept.
“My neighbor’s pain is my pain,” she would say. Together with St. Brother Albert, she established shelters for the sick and for homeless veterans. The love she had for beggars, those forgotten and repelled by people, matured in prayer. She did not have much time for it because every day was filled with hard work, so she spent many hours in the night at adoration. With goodness of heart, patience, and love, she won over even the greatest derelicts, whom she helped to endure physical suffering, but mostly restored dignity to their lives.
She died on 23 September 1940 in Krakow, passing onto the sisters a recommendation: "Do good to all." Her relics are found in the Ecce Homo Sanctuary in Krakow, and the room in the local General House of the Albertine Sisters where the blessed co-founder of the order lived, prayed, and suffered has been preserved. Pope John Paul II beatified the spiritual daughter of St. Brother Albert in 1997 in Zakopane at the foot of Wielka Krokiew, near the Albertine hermitage on Kalatówki, a place that has witnessed Bernardyna’s long prayers.