Father Stanislaw Szulminski SAC
Martyr for the Faith and Unity
Fr. Szulminski was born on the 10th of July, 1894, in Odessa on the Black Sea. For some time he lived there with his parents, Alexander and Helen (nee Wykowska). In the Szulminski house there reigned an atmosphere of faith, prayer, work and respect for one's fellow man. Fr. Szulminski completed his studies at the High Commercial School of Kamien Podolski. It was at this time that he discovered his vocation to the priesthood. With the help of a spiritual director, he learned to have faith in God and to persevere on the road he had chosen.
In 1918 he entered the Major Seminary in Zytomierz. However, in the year 1919 the Bolshevik Revolution broke out and he was transferred to the Seminary in Tarnow. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Piotr Mankowski on the 8th of July, 1923, in Buczacz.
During the time of his Seminary studies he felt the need to devote his life to the great cause of Unity between the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Churches. For this reason immediately after his ordination, and even at the risk of his own life, he desired to begin his pastoral work in the territory of the Soviet Union. However, as it was impossible to go there because of a great persecution of the Church, his Bishop directed him to take up Oriental Theological Studies in the Catholic University of Lublin. He remained there from 1923-27. During this time he endeavoured to awaken in his contemporaries an interest in the work of Unity. He also renewed his request to the Apostolic See for permission to undertake missionary work in the East.
In the year 1927, by decree of Bishop A. Szelazka, he was made Professor of Oriental Theology at the Seminary of Luck. However in order to realize his first ambition, he entered the Novitiate of the Pallotine Fathers in Oltarzew on the 15th of August, 1928, after being assured by the Director of the Association of Catholic Apostolate that he would be allowed to work for the unity of the Church. In 1930, immediately after his novitiate, he took on the function as Spiritual Director in the Pallotine Gymnasium at Wadowice. During the years 1932-39 he was a Professor and Confessor at the Senior Seminary of the Pallotines in Suchary and Oltarzew, There he lectured on Oriental Theology.
Fr. Szulminski founded an organization called 'The Apostolate of Unity" in 1937, with the idea of increasing number of representatives of clergy and laity with an active interest to the work for Christian Unity.
In 1939 he was directed to work at a new Pallotine establishment in Okopach of the Holy Trinity, which was very close to the Soviet frontier, but the outbreak of war prevented him from undertaking this assignment. In October 1939, in order to increase the attendance at Holy Mass he went East. He was also convinced that the hour of his realization for unity had arrived. He was able to go only as far as Novgorod. There he was arrested by the Soviet authorities and put in prison in Baranovic. After a year of interrogations, starvation, beatings and humiliations, he was accused of being a "Vatican Spy" and sentenced to five years at the "Lagra" as a person dangerous to the Soviet Union. At the end of August 1940, together with other prisoners, he was transferred to the cruel work camp of Uchci on the White Sea.
As a prisoner Fr. Szulminski had a motive of his own. The heavy work, hunger and humiliations he offered as a sacrifice to God for the intention of Unity between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. He served other prisoners heroically, tried to obtain their release, secretly confessed them and said Holy Mass. He was their Good Samaritan and tried always to lift their spirits. After the outbreak of the German-Soviet war in 1941, an amnesty was declared. As chaplain, he said Mass for those being set free but he, himself, remained voluntarily with the others left in the camp in order to serve the suffering. He died on the 27th November 1941 due to conditions in the camp where he was often humiliated and given over to torture. His remains rest there in that inhospitable land.
Fr. Szulminski willingly offered his life as a sacrifice for the Unity of the Church of Christ. He realized in a heroic manner the desire of Christ: "That all may be One" (Jn. 17:20). Some thoughts from his "Spiritual Diary":
"In order to perfectly fulfill my vocation, O God, I wish to love You not just with an ordinary love, but one that is deep and full."
"A priest should offer himself as a sacrifice daily".
"Everyone going to work in Russia should be ready to die. But it is not a tragedy to give one's life for Christ and the Church...martyrdom if it eventually comes, purifies the soul."
(written by Fr. Henry Kietlinski (SAC)