MARTYROLOGY OF THE POLISH CLERGY
- Saint martyrs are for us a great example of faith – said archbishop Józef Kowalczyk in the sanctuary of St. Joseph in Kalisz on 29 April 2015, on the 70th anniversary of the concentration camp liberation in Dachau and on the Day of Martyrology of the Polish Clergy
The Eucharist which was presided over by archbishop Józef Kowalczyk – the senior primate of Poland, was concelebrated by: senior bishop Stanisław Stefanek from Łomża, the bishop of Kalisz Łukasz Buzun, and the senior bishop Stanisław Napierała – the first Ordinary of Kalisz and also a few dozen priests from Polish dioceses. There were also priests from the parish church of St. Nicolas in Chełmża – a home town of blessed priest Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski, a martyr and a prisoner of Dachau – with the parish priest Krzysztof Badowski. The Holy Mass was attended also by: Eugeniusz Bądzyński – the former prisoner of the Dachau camp, members of the Secular Institute of Consecrated Life of the Holy Family, founded by archbishop Michał Kozala, representatives of the family of blessed bishop Michał Kozala, combatants, youth and flag-bearers of schools named by martyrs’ names from Dachau, including delegation with the flag of the Junior High School no 1 in Chełmża named blessed priest Stefan W. Frelichowski with the head teacher Sławomir Wierzbicki and Fr. Łukasz Otremski and Fr. Marcin Nowicki.
Testament of prisoners of KL Dachau
KL Dachau was the Golgotha of the West for Poles and the Polish clergy. Among 1030 murdered priests, 868 of them were Poles. There, in the camp, they were to strengthen their vocation. Their life was full of prayer which was often said with painful mouths, and gave hope despite hatred from outside. In every act of sacrifice for another man, there was stronger defeat of those who considered themselves as rulers of the world. We only have a testament of those priests who spoke about their steadfast faithfulness to God in their priestly life. The Testament speaking about a duty of guarding holiness of marriage, life protection, responsible upbringing of young people and gaining a lot from our vocations given to us by the Creator. Their martyrdom was a sacrifice for individual saved lives, for Homeland and the Church – said the late bishop Janiak in the beginning of the Holy Mass.
Hope despite hatred
In the homily archbishop Kowalczyk reminded about events which took place in Dachau 70 years ago and led to miraculous freeing many prisoners. All of them were to be murdered before their getting to the camp of American armies. Facing the fatal danger, prisoners launched a prayer to St. Joseph. Thanks to his interference, the camp was protected from death. The archbishop also mentioned blessed bishop Michał Kozal from Włocławek and blessed priest Stefan W. Frelichowski from Chełmża, who gave their life for Christ, and are an example for every Christian to follow. According to the example of Christ, their life and death became a propitiatory sacrifice for sins of the whole world, also their culprits’.
On the liberation day, in the camp there were 856 priests. From the year 1948 they made thanksgiving pilgrimages to Kalisz, and in 1970 they funded a chapel of Martyrdom and Gratitude in the underground of the sanctuary. When in April 2013, Fr. Leon Stępniak died at the age of 100, the last one from saved people, thanksgiving was continued by members of families, school youth, associations and institutions.
Speaking about martyrdom of priests, archbishop Kowalczyk used definite words to refer to wars and bloody persecutions of the Christians, especially, to a constantly endangered life from conception to natural death. – They lived in captivity, and we live at the times of not always well-used freedom. Today the man wants to decide for God, about someone’s death or life. With neglecting fundamental Divine rights, the human life is endangered, especially where it is the weakest before the birth and at its end. It is accompanied by hypocrisy. Evil is not called by name. Murder of the unborn is defined abortion and killing the incurably ill or elderly people is given a false name of ‘dignified dying’ – said the senior primate.
Before the blessing at the end of the Holy Mass, participants went to the Chapel of Miraculous Image of St. Joseph of Kalisz where Fr. Tadeusz Kosecki from Gdynia, a former prisoner of KL Stutthof camp, read the Act of Entrustment to St Joseph, written in 1945 in Dachau.