By Tony DeGol
Denise DelGrosso Gilliland remembers when her late father, Fred DelGrosso, got the call for a liver transplant more than 20 years ago.
Immediately, Mother Amabilis Debicka, a beloved friend of the DelGrosso family, gathered others in the community of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus to pray the Rosary for Fred.
“For Christmas that year, I put together a video for dad and drove to Cresson and filmed a beautiful message from Mother Amabilis to my father,” Gilliland recalled. “Then several of the sisters sang a song in Polish for my dad. It was so special.”
Gilliland is one of many individuals with cherished memories of Mother Amabilis, who passed on July 16 at Saint Joseph Convent in Portage. She was 94 years old.
Besides being remembered for her personal holiness and contagious personality, Mother’s story of faith, perseverance, and leadership is remarkable.
Born Urszula Wanda Maria Debicka in Puck, Poland, in 1926, she was abducted during World War II by the Nazis while she was in eighth grade and was subjected to slavery in Germany. Mother managed to escape from her captivity and walk back to Poland. Due to conditions as a fugitive, she acquired tuberculosis, and, at a sanatorium for treatment, met a nurse who recommended entering the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Mother Amabilis entered the congregation on July 2, 1950, making her First Profession of religious vows on August 2, 1953, and Perpetual Profession on August 2, 1959, in Krakow, Poland. She was sent to Czestochowa, Poland, to study organ music and Gregorian chant. She served for several years as an organist in Poland until 1961 when her superiors sent her to serve in the congregation’s fledgling foundation of Sacred Heart Sisters in the United States.
Mother became the first Superior and formator for the Americans entering the congregation in the United States and longtime financial administrator for the Sisters in America. When the American foundation became a province in 1986, Mother became the first Provincial Superior, a position she held for a decade. Because of her unique role in establishing the congregation of the Sacred Heart Sisters in America, she was accorded the title “Mother” in perpetuity.
In addition to her service in administration in the community, Mother Amabilis also served as an organist, kindergarten teacher, catechist and sodality director.
Bishop Mark celebrated a funeral Mass for Mother Amabilis on July 22 at Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Cresson.