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Martyrs of Nowogródek

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Martyrs of Nowogródek
The Eleven Nuns of Nowogródek by Adam Styka
Died1 August 1943, Novogrudok, Generalbezirk Weissruthenien, Reichskommissariat Ostland
Martyred byThe Nazi Gestapo during The Holocaust
Means of martyrdomExecution by firing squad
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church[1]
Beatified5 March 2000, Vatican City, by Pope John Paul II
Feast4 September

The Martyrs of Nowogródek, also known as the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogródek, the Eleven Nuns of Nowogródek or Blessed Mary Stella and her Ten Companions, were a group of members of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, a Polish Roman Catholic religious congregation, executed by the Gestapo in August 1943 in occupied Poland (present-day Novogrudok, Belarus). They have been declared Blessed by virtue of martyrdom by Pope John Paul II on 5 March 2000.[2]



The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth had arrived in Nowogródek, then part of the Second Polish Republic, in 1929 at the request of Zygmunt Łoziński, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pinsk. The Sisters became an integral part of the life of the town. In 1939, Nowogrodek, located at that time in the Kresy-part of interwar Poland (nowadays central Belarus), was annexed by the Soviet Union and incorporated into the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1941, the town was occupied by the German army as part of the Operation Barbarossa.

During the Nazi and Soviet occupations of Nowogrodek, the Sisters invested great effort in preparing the residents of the town for religious services – as liturgical prayer became a beacon of hope amid the hopelessness of the occupation.[2]

The Nazi terror in Nowogródek began in 1942 with the extermination of the town's Jewish population as part of Operation Reinhard. Of the town's pre-war population of 20,000, approximately half were Jews. The Germans murdered about 9,500 of the Jews in a series of "actions" and sent the remaining 550 Jews to slave labor camps. This was followed by a surge in Polish arrests, then the slaughter of 60 people, including two Catholic priests. This situation was repeated on 18 July 1943, when more than 120 people were arrested and slated for execution.[2]

The women of the town turned to the Sisters to pray for the prisoners' release. After discussing the matter, the Sisters unanimously expressed their desire to offer their lives in sacrifice for the prisoners. The Superior of the community, Sister Maria Stella, C.S.F.N., shared the Sisters' decision with their local pastor, Father Zienkiewicz, telling him: "My God, if sacrifice of life is needed, accept it from us and spare those who have families. We are even praying for this intention." Almost immediately, the plans for the prisoners were changed to deportation to work camps in Germany, with some of them even being released. When the life of Zienkiewicz was threatened, the Sisters renewed their offer, saying, "There is a greater need for a priest on this earth than for us. We pray that God will take us in his place, if sacrifice of life is needed."[2]



Without warning or provocation, on 31 July 1943, the community was summoned by the local Gestapo commander to report to the local police station, where they were held overnight. The next morning, 1 August 1943, they were loaded into a van and driven beyond the town limits.[3] At a secluded spot in the woods about 3 miles from the town, the eleven women were machine gunned to death and buried in a common grave. Before reporting to the police station, Sister Stella had asked one member of the community, Sister M. Malgorzata Banas, C.S.F.N., who worked as a nurse in the local public hospital, to stay behind at the convent, whatever happened, to take care of the church and their pastor. She was the best candidate for that among the community as she wore civilian clothing due to her job. It was days before she and the townspeople knew that the Sisters had been killed. Eventually, Banas located their grave, quietly tending to it and the parish church during the war years and during the post-war Soviet occupation, until her death in 1966.[2] The Church of the Transfiguration, known as Biała Fara (or White Church), now contains the remains of the eleven Sisters.[2]



The eleven murdered Sisters are listed below, along with their birth names, dates of birth, and ages at the time of their deaths.[2][3][4]

Religious Name Birth Name Birth Date Age at Death
Sister M. Stella of the Blessed Sacrament, C.S.F.N., Superior marAdelaide Mardosewicz 14 Dec 1888 54 years old
Sister M. Imelda of the Eucharistic Jesus, C.S.F.N. zakJadwiga Karolina Żak 29 Dec 1892 50 years old
Sister M. Rajmunda of Jesus, C.S.F.N. kokAnna Kukołowicz 24 Aug 1892 50 years old
Sister M. Daniela of Jesus, C.S.F.N. jozEleonora Aniela Jóźwik 25 Jan 1895 48 years old
Sister M. Kanuta of the Agonized Jesus in the Garden, C.S.F.N. chrJózefa Chrobot 22 May 1896 47 years old
Sister M. Gwidona of Divine Mercy, C.S.F.N. cieHelena Cierpka 11 Apr 1900 43 years old
Sister M. Sergia of Our Lady of Sorrows, C.S.F.N. rapJulia Rapiej 18 Aug 1900 42 years old
Sister M. Kanizja, C.S.F.N. macEugenia Mackiewicz 27 Nov 1903 39 years old
Sister M. Felicyta, C.S.F.N. borPaulina Borowik 30 Aug 1905 37 years old
Sister M. Heliodora, C.S.F.N. matLeokadia Matuszewska 8 Feb 1906 37 years old
Sister M. Boromea, C.S.F.N. narVeronika Narmontowicz 18 Dec 1916 26 years old



The beatification process for the eleven Religious Sisters was officially opened on 18 September 1991, and, on 28 June 1999, it was announced by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints of the Holy See that Pope John Paul II had confirmed that they were martyrs, having died for others in the name of the Catholic faith. Pope John Paul formally beatified them, along with a group of thirty-three others, on 5 March 2000.[3][5]

See also



  1. ^ Fatima Network (8 March 2000). "Holy Family of Nazareth Martyrs Offered Their Lives to Save Others". Fatima Centre News Reprint. Vatican: L’Osservatore Romano. Archived from the original on 23 September 2016. Retrieved 23 July 2016. Blessed Maria Stella of the Most Blessed Sacrament and 10 Companions, Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Nazis on August 1, 1943, in Nowogródek, Poland (today Navahrudak, Belarus).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Holy Family Province (20 April 2006). "Sept. 4: Feast of the Nowogródek Martyrs". Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Lapomarda, S.J.; Vincent, A. (22 February 2000). "The Eleven Nuns of Nowogrodek". College of the Holy Cross. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  4. ^ Górska, Sr. Maria Teresa, CSFN (2000). "Męczennice z Nowogródka" (in Polish). Fundacja Opoka. Retrieved 13 April 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Omelia del Santo Padre Giovanni Paulo II". Vatican News Service (in Italian).