By Father Stanley Plutz SVD
We rejoice that we Divine Word Missionaries have four martyrs!
On June 13, 1999, in Warsaw, Pope John Paul II declared Divine Word Missionaries Gregory Frąckowiak, Louis Mzyk, Aloysius Liguda and Stanislaus Kubista “blessed,” together with 104 other people who died for Christ.
During World War II, the Nazis martyred these four holy men in concentration camps.
Physical and mental suffering marked the days of concentration camp prisoners. A common thread in concentration camp life is what’s called a starvation diet, which often consisted of no more than a piece of bread and soup of a few green leaves and a small potato.
Despite malnutrition, the prisoners had to work hard, shoveling snow in winter. In the spring and summer, they raised the green leafy plants and potatoes for their soup and dug drainage canals in the camp, fields and gardens.
There was endless marching and constant singing of Nazi songs. Beatings occurred at the whim of the guards. The prisoners frequently heard themselves, especially the priests, cursed and degraded.
Gregory Frąckowiak, Louis Mzyk, Aloysius Liguda and Stanislaus Kubista had each come from large families and had Catholic upbringings. Three were ordained priests and one consecrated himself totally to God as a professed religious brother.
The priests studied in Divine Word seminaries. Brother Gregory worked as a professional book binder in a printing press of a mission house of the Society.
Louis Mzyk’s father died during his son’s seminary studies, so the young Louis worked during vacations in the coal mine where his father had labored both to help pay for his studies and help his mother.
Aloysius Liguda and Stanislaus Kubista had to interrupt their studies for military service.
Louis received priestly ordination in Rome where his superiors had sent him for his theological studies and where he obtained a doctorate in theology. Aloysius and Stanislaus were ordained in Poland.
Father Mzyk received an assignment to become the first novice master of newly established Polish Province. Father Liguda was assigned to the Polish Province, as was Father Kubista even though they had wished for assignments to a foreign mission.
All four future martyrs worked in and for the Polish Province but in different ways. All promoted the mission of the Society of the Divine Word not in a foreign mission but in and from their home base in Poland.
We celebrate their feast day on June 12. This Holy Week, we offer their selfless examples for meditation. Tomorrow, we’ll feature Blessed Father Aloysius Liguda SVD.
Father Stanley Plutz SVD served as vice postulator for the Cause of the Canonization of St. Arnold Janssen. A native of Wisconsin and a missionary in the Philippines for decades, Father Plutz is the author of four books: “Our Founder: A Glimpse into the Inner Working of Our Founder’s Mind” (2002), The Sacred Heart of Jesus, Arnold Janssen Ardent Devotee” (2002), “Spirituality of Saint Arnold” (2004) and “St. Arnold Janssen Memories” (2004). This series of meditations is based upon one of Father Plutz’s earlier compositions.