KRAKOW, Poland (CNS) — The head of one of Poland’s oldest religious orders said her nuns were “filled with happiness and joy” when the pope paid a private early morning visit to their convent.

“The Holy Father expressed his own joy, and thanked our order for its joint common prayers — our hearts are full of huge gratitude,” Sister Olga Maslanka, superior general of the Congregation of the Virgins of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI.


“He went to some of our sisters who are terminally ill in their invalid carriages and gave them his blessing. He also signed our visitors’ book, thanking us for our work in the education field and service to the young.”

Pope Francis had stopped off at the Presentation Sisters’ St. John Street complex early July 28 before making the journey to the Jasna Gora national sanctuary.

The Presentation Sisters run schools, children’s homes and care facilities in Poland and Ukraine, as well as teaching religion in state schools. Members also work in the Vatican, cataloging and storing gifts offered to the pope, and sending them on his behalf, as well as maintaining the pope’s vestments and preparing rosaries and memorabilia for him to dispense at meetings.

Sister Olga told KAI the pope had thanked the nuns for “nurturing the seed of goodness, beauty and truth, which God sows in each generation.”

“This event has filled us with happiness and joy. It was a sign to me that it’s worth being holy, and a gift from heaven for our congregation.”

A statement from the order said the private meeting mostly included Polish Presentation Sisters, as well as by a group of students, parents and nuns from the order’s schools in Krakow and Rzeszow.

The statement said the Presentation Sisters were one of many female orders offering free accommodation and food to pilgrims attending the church’s World Youth Day and had also lent their church for catechesis sessions during the festival.

“In paying this private visit to the Presentation Sisters, the pope seeks to thank all religious sisters in the Polish church for their life witness, work in education, and their devotion to the sick and poor, and for those in need, as well as to repeat and recall the Year of Consecrated Life, which ended in 2015,” the statement said.

Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish bishops’ conference, told Catholic News Service the main reason for the visit had been the pope’s wish to thank the Presentation Sisters for their Vatican service.

He said the pope’s decision to visit the order should not be taken as suggesting it was “model or ideal religious congregation,” among the 130 female orders ministering in Poland.