Venerable Jerzy Ciesielski

Saint of the Month:

March 2020

When John Paul II was a local parish priest, he taught and guided a group of university students in Krakow. One of them was engineering student, Jerzy Ciesielski.  He was born in Krakow in 1929. He was 9 years younger than John Paul II. Jerzy spent much of his university life attending meetings at the Basilica of St. Florian’s Church with the circle of students that met regularly with Fr. Karol. Jerzy had been a scout as a youngster and shared two great passions with Wojtyla: the mountains and canoeing. It was in this Catholic group that Jerzy met his wife Danuta whom he married in 1957. John Paul II was the priest who married them. “Fr. Karol came with us on trips, to concerts, to the theatre and the cinema”, Mrs. Danuta explained a while back, recalling the atmosphere of that group. “We talked during excursions, around the fire and at organized meetings which took place in our homes.”  In one of these discussions, John Paul II said that Jerzy spoke about the fact that regular Catholics were also called to become saints. Jerzy became a professor at the university and he had 3 children with his wife.  By that time, Fr Karol had become the Archbishop of Krakow. But the bond between him and the Catholic students remained the same as ever. In 1968 Jerzy decided to join a catholic movement called the Focolare. Jerzy was offered the opportunity to teach young engineers for a semester at a university in Africa. He gladly accepted. In fall of that year Jerzy’s family went to visit him, and they decided to take a boat ride on the Nile River. The boat capsized and only his wife Danuta and their elder daughter survived. Jerzy and his two boys died in 1970, when he was only 39 years old. John Paul II was there at his funeral and expressed the extreme sadness at the passing of his friend. Jerzy’s beatification process began in 1985 and Pope Francis has recognized his heroic virtues in 2014.