HE ATTRACTED CROWDS OF PEOPLE
MAGDALENA KOWALEWSKA – WOJTAK
Pope Francis confirmed a decree of the Canonization Congregation acknowledging heroism of virtues of Fr. Władysław Korniłowicz, a co-founder of Laski and an apostle of the highly educated. It means that only a miracle via his intercession is needed for his beatification
A centre for the Blind in Laski near Warsaw, whose spiritual father and one of its founders was Fr. Władysław Korniłowicz, is a bustling place. Here the blind have had a lot of support since their early years. In dormitories and educational institutions, there are about two hundred mentees. Among the green there is the heart of Laski – a chapel. In this place Fr. Korniłowicz, called by everybody ‘Father’ used to pray. In the Retreat House one can visit a room of this God’s servant. There are also a lot of souvenirs left by this priest.
A friend of Fr. Wyszyński
‘Among priests to whom I owe the biggest influence on my life, in the first place there is Fr. Władysław Korniłowicz(…). I owe a lot to this priest’ – cardinal Stefan Wyszyński said so in the arch-cathedral in Warsaw in August 1974.
The to-be primate met Fr. Korniłowicz in the years 1920 – 21 in the military garrison in Włocławek. The Father was invited there to give liturgical lectures for the alumni of the Higher Seminary. It was when Fr. Korniłowicz impressed cleric Wyszyński. ‘You have always come to us to every request, giving your advice and raising the spirit of community in us’ – said Fr. Stefan Wyszyński in his speech given during a jubilee ceremony on the 25th anniversary of priesthood of Fr. Korniłowicz, who was the closest cooperator and spiritual leader of the Franciscan Nuns the Servants to the Cross, serving in the Centre for the Blind in Laski. The Primate of Millennium pointed that fatherhood of Fr. Korniłowicz had supernatural features. He called him a ‘God’s activist’ and ‘envoy of God’s powers’ who ‘gave a lot not from himself but from Christ, from the One in whom he was, in whom he somehow changed’. – They were in great friendship. The Primate often said that Father Korniłowicz always sent his interlocutors with all their issues to God. A particular relation between them began in Żułów where Father Korniłowicz had a refuge during the Second World War – sister Radosława from the Congregation of the Franciscan Nuns the Servants to the Cross emphasizes in an interview with ‘Niedziela’. Together with Fr. Wyszyński hiding in Lubelszczyzna Father Korniłowicz was giving lectures to nuns and laymen and also to those who were getting prepared for priesthood.
A lecturer and a chaplain
The Congregation of the Franciscan Nuns the Servants to the Cross and the Society of Care of the Blind, founded by a blind mother ELżbieta Róża Czacka, became a pastoral priority for Father Korniłowicz. He settled down for ever in Laski in 1930, after he had returned from the Catholic University of Lublin, where he had been a director of Theologian Dormitory for Priests. His lectures from liturgics and ethics were listened to, among the others, the to-be bishop of Lublin and the Primate of Millennium cardinal Stefan Wyszyński.
After death of the first spiritual leader of the Congregation of the Franciscan Nuns the Servants to the Cross – Fr. Władysław Krawiecki mother Czacka was looking for a chaplain who would support the nuns and the work being created and done till today by the Society of Care of the Blind. The apostolic nuncio of that time in Poland Achille Ratti, the to-be pope Pius XI, confirmed the election of mother Czacka. After years in Laski, Father Korniłowicz easily made contacts both with serving nuns, and with blind people. The Retreat House built in this place was visited by people of various religions and worldviews. The Father rejected nobody. He showed a lot of respect to everybody. He was teaching about God to those who were looking for Him. He was an appreciated confessor. There were always long queues of penitents to the confessional in which he was giving confessions. Being often changed and converted, they often became volunteers in Laski. Retreats which he was giving, were attended by many priests, laymen, including representatives of the Polish highly educated people. – Father Karniłowicz can be compared to St. Francis. He did not intend to attract enormous crowds but a lot of believers were impressed by him – says s. Radosława.
He was appreciated for his direct contact with another man and his serving to others, which he treated as the most important task in his life. He used to say to his spiritual sons and daughters: ‘My child’. He was helpful, full of love to God, giving himself to others and sharing his good with others. The centre of his life was the Holy Mass which he was experiencing in great reflection and silence every day. He attracted believers to the altar and became a kind of a precursor of the conciliar renewal. He was sensitive to the beauty of Gregorian singing. Laski became a place bustling with liturgical life. He showed his delight with the nature. And the inside of his room was characterized by the Franciscan simplicity.
A religious mother
Władysław Korniłowicz did not have such an easy childhood. He was born in the Russian partition as the third son of Wiktoria Poll and a known Warsaw psychiatrist and neurologist dr. Edward Korniłowicz who was known as one of the most influential representatives of the Warsaw Positivism. Faith was taught to Władysław by his religious mother. As a teenager he could respect different opinions of his father and brothers. But he also showed his great patriotism and fervency in defence of mother tongue during the growing russification. Having graduated from secondary school, he decided to go to seminary. However, his father opposed to this decision, and he sent his son to Zurich to study sciences there. The to-be priest stopped his studies and in 1905 he joined a Warsaw Seminary. Later he went to Switzerland to study philosophy and theology there. In 1912 in Cracow he was ordained a priest by bishop Adam Sapieha with whom he made a journey across Europe later, in order to get to know various pastoral centres. Fr. Korniłowicz met prominent representatives of Thomism abroad – cardinal Desire Mercier and Jacques Maritain. He applied spirituality ofSt. Thomas from Aquin in his life. He followed this saint in his life and had a thorough knowledge of all his works.
He was a spiritual father who organized a lot of retreats for the landowners, among the others, in Warsaw, Poznań, Cracow or in Lvov. He attracted also the youth. The outbreak of the First World War took place when he was on holiday in Zakopane. It was where he got engaged in pastoral ministry for the youth. He returned to Warsaw in 1916 where he was a vicar in Góra Kalwarii first, and then an archivist and a censor of books and school textbooks for religion education and a notary of the curia. He taught catechesis and was a chaplain of soldiers on the Lvov frontier. During the war with the Bolsheviks he was a priest for his students who belonged to the Academic Legion. In trenches he gave them confession and consoled them. He was also a chaplain of the Cadets’ School in Warsaw and a priest for the garrison in Włocławek. Before death of Józef Piłsudski he was asked to come to the dying Marshal in order to give him the last anointing sacrament.
It is years since the Franciscan Nuns the Servants to the Cross have prayed with novena through intercession of Father Korniłowicz who died in Laski on 26 September 1946 in the opinion of holiness. – They receive lots of grace for others, like: conversions, getting free from addictions, acceptance of suffering or recovery from illnesses – says s. Radosława.
Priest Korniłowicz was buried on the local graveyard in Laski, where there are buried mentees and workers of this place, priests, befriended doctors, professors, artists or insurgents. The funeral ceremony was presided over by bishop of Lublin Stefan Wyszyński. 32 years later the Primate of Millennium opened the beatification process of Fr. Korniłowicz, whose body debris were moved to the Warsaw church of St. Marcin in 1981. – We feel a spiritual connection with the Father and we are grateful to him that he got engaged in the work of Laski which has been continued till today. At that time one had to be really brave to cooperate with the blind nun Elzbieta Czacka and the work for the blind on the body and soul, created by her – s. Radosława emphasizes. The Franciscan Nuns the Servants to the Cross hope that soon we will enjoy beatification of the two great priests: cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Fr. Władysław Korniłowicz.
We are praying for their imminent beatification – says s. Radosława.