Martyrs of Nowogródek
|Martyrs of Nowogródek|
The Eleven Nuns of Nowogródek by Adam Styka
|Died||1 August 1943, Nowogródek, occupied Poland / occupied Belarus, Nazi German District of Reichskommissariat Ostland|
|Martyred by||The Nazi Gestapo during The Holocaust|
|Means of martyrdom||Execution by firing squad|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church |
|Beatified||5 March 2000, Vatican City, by Pope John Paul II|
The Martyrs of Nowogródek, also known as the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogródek and 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 Navahrudak, Belarus). They have been declared Blessed by virtue of martyrdom by Pope John Paul II on 5 March 2000.
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 in West Belarus (then Poland), was annexed by the Soviet Union and incorporated into the Belarusian 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.
The Nazi terror in Nowogródek began in 1942 with the extermination of the town's Jewish population as part of Operation Reinhard. Of the 20,000 inhabitants of the town before the war, 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.
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."
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. 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. The Church of the Transfiguration, known as Biała Fara (or White Church), now contains the remains of the eleven Sisters.
|Religious Name||Birth Name||Birth Date||Age at Death|
|Sister M. Stella of the Blessed Sacrament, C.S.F.N., Superior||Adelaide Mardosewicz||14 Dec 1888||54 years old|
|Sister M. Imelda of the Eucharistic Jesus, C.S.F.N.||Jadwiga Karolina Żak||29 Dec 1892||50 years old|
|Sister M. Rajmunda of Jesus, C.S.F.N.||Anna Kukołowicz||24 Aug 1892||50 years old|
|Sister M. Daniela of Jesus, C.S.F.N.||Eleonora Aniela Jóźwik||25 Jan 1895||48 years old|
|Sister M. Kanuta of the Agonized Jesus in the Garden, C.S.F.N.||Józefa Chrobot||22 May 1896||47 years old|
|Sister M. Gwidona of Divine Mercy, C.S.F.N.||Helena Cierpka||11 Apr 1900||43 years old|
|Sister M. Sergia of Our Lady of Sorrows, C.S.F.N.||Julia Rapiej||18 Aug 1900||42 years old|
|Sister M. Kanizja, C.S.F.N.||Eugenia Mackiewicz||27 Nov 1903||39 years old|
|Sister M. Felicyta, C.S.F.N.||Paulina Borowik||30 Aug 1905||37 years old|
|Sister M. Heliodora, C.S.F.N.||Leokadia Matuszewska||8 Feb 1906||37 years old|
|Sister M. Boromea, C.S.F.N.||Veronika 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.
- Fatima Network (8 March 2000). "Holy Family of Nazareth Martyrs Offered Their Lives to Save Others". Fatima Centre News reprint. Vatican: L’Osservatore Romano.
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).
- Holy Family Province (20 April 2006). "Sept. 4: Feast of the Nowogródek Martyrs". Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- Lapomarda, Vincent A., S.J., Father (22 February 2000). "The Eleven Nuns of Nowogrodek". College of the Holy Cross. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
- Górska, Sr. Maria Teresa, CSFN (2000). "Męczennice z Nowogródka" (in Polish). Fundacja Opoka. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
- "Omelia del Santo Padre Giovanni Paulo II". Vatican News Service (in Italian).