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Saint Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński

Archbishop of Warsaw & founder of Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary
Born on 1 November 19822, in Voiutyn (then in the Russian Empire, now Ukraine)
Died on 17 September 1895 in Kraków, Poland
Beatified in Kraków on 18 August 2002 by St John Paul II
Canonized in St Peter's on 11 October 2009 by Benedict XVI
His body now lies in a tomb in St John's Cathedral, Warsaw
Feast Day - 17th September

Vatican biography:
Blessed ZYGMUNT SZCZĘSNY (Sigmund Felix) FELIŃSKI (1822-1895), the son of Gerard and Eve Wendorff Feliński, was born in Wojutyn in the Volinia region, then part of Poland, but is now incorporated into Ukraine. Sigmund Felix was brought up in a devout and patriotic home. Even as a very small boy he venerated the Virgin Mary.
After studying mathematics at the University of Moscow from 1840 to 1844, Sigmund Felix went to Paris in 1847 to study French Literature at the Sorbonne and at the Collège de France. There he came to know many important Polish exiles.
In 1851 he accepted his religious vocation and entered the diocesan seminary of Żytomierz. He transferred to the Catholic Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, where, in 1855, he was ordained a priest. At the Academy he was known as a zealous lecturer and confessor. Blessed with a sensitive heart, he commiserated with the unfortunate children who had been abandoned in the Russian city by their Polish exile parents.
He also pitied the sad lot of sick and lonely old men. Sigmund Felix’s personal history predisposed him to empathize with orphans and with the destitute. His father died when he was just eleven years old. When he was sixteen his mother was exiled to Siberia because of her patriotic activities on behalf of poor farmers.
Thanks to the grace of God, Sigmund Felix established the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary in 1857, thus honoring both St. Francis of Assisi and our Holy Mother. The sisters dedicated themselves to the care of both children and of elderly and ill men.
In 1862 Pope Pius IX appointed Sigmund Felix as Archbishop of Warsaw. He brought about a spiritual revival in his archdiocese as he promoted religious and civil rights. Unfortunately, after sixteen months, Tsarist authorities exiled him to Siberia. There he suffered as an expatriate prisoner, but he provided a shining example of profound faith and unshakable trust in Divine Providence.
He lived in Jaroslav on the Volga River. There, for many years, people revered him as a saintly man. Those who passed his house would raise their hats and cross themselves, saying, “A saint lived here.”
After twenty years, thanks Vatican intervention, he was allowed to leave Jaroslav, but was forbidden to return to his archdiocese. Pope Leo XIII transfered him from the See of Warsaw to that of Tarsus. Archbishop Sigmund Felix Feliński went to Dźwinaczka in Galicia. Despite illness and his advanced years, he resumed all his priestly duties. He understood the importance of developing Polish education. He founded schools for rural children, entrusting the work to the Sisters of the Family of Mary.
When his life on earth was near its end, Providence took him from the tranquility of the countryside to Royal Cracow, where he died in the archepiscopal palace on September 17, 1895. The Polish nation honored him with a solemn funeral at Wawel. Archbishop Feliński provides us with an example of a life totally devoted to God and to God’s human children.
Today the body of Blessed Sigmund Felix Feliński lies in the Cathedral of St. John’s Warsaw. The great Primate Stefan Wyszyński characterized his restricted but fruitful life with the following words, “Enter the cathedral. ... There rests a man who was said to be a loser, but who is a victor”.
On August 18, 2002, Archbishop Feliński was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Blonia, Cracow. Through this event the Church gained a new intercessor and example to be followed by priests and nuns, by parents and teachers, and, particularly, by those who suffer and are persecuted.
The Grey Sisters of the Congregation of Mary’s Family devote themselves to service to the Church. Following God’s voice, the sisters worship God in prayer and by taking up apostolic activities in the spirit of evangelic love, and Fraciscan joy, in simplicity humility.

Benedict XVI's homily at the Canonization of Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński
St Peter's Basilica, Sunday 11 October - also in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The brief conversation we heard in the Gospel passage, between a man identified elsewhere as the rich young man and Jesus, begins with this question (cf Mk 10: 17-30). We do not have many details about this anonymous figure; yet from a few characteristics we succeed in perceiving his sincere desire to attain eternal life by leading an honest and virtuous earthly existence. In fact he knows the commandments and has observed them faithfully from his youth. Yet, all this which is of course important is not enough. Jesus says he lacks one thing, but it is something essential. Then, seeing him well disposed, the divine Teacher looks at him lovingly and suggests to him a leap in quality; he calls the young man to heroism in holiness, he asks him to abandon everything to follow him: "go, sell what you have, and give to the poor... and come, follow me" (v 21).

"Come, follow me". This is the Christian vocation which is born from the Lord's proposal of love and can only be fulfilled in our loving response. Jesus invites his disciples to give their lives completely, without calculation or personal interest, with unreserved trust in God. Saints accept this demanding invitation and set out with humble docility in the following of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Their perfection, in the logic of faith sometimes humanly incomprehensible, consists in no longer putting themselves at the centre but in choosing to go against the tide, living in line with the Gospel. This is what the five Saints did who are held up today with great joy for the veneration of the universal Church: Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Francisco Coll y Guitart, Jozef Damien de Veuster, Rafael Arnáiz Barón and Mary of the Cross (Jeanne Jugan). In them we contemplate the Apostle Peter's words fulfilled: "Lo, we have left everything and followed you" (v 28), and Jesus' comforting reassurance: "There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time... with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life" (v 29-30).

Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Archbishop of Warsaw, the Founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary, was a great witness of faith and pastoral charity in very troubled times for the nation and for the Church in Poland. He zealously concerned himself with the spiritual development of the faithful, he helped the poor and orphans. At the Ecclesiastical Academy in St Petersburg he saw to the sound formation of priests and as Archbishop of Warsaw he instilled in everyone the desire for inner renewal. Before the January 1863 Uprising against Russian annexation he put the people on guard against useless bloodshed. However, when the rebellion broke out and there were repressions he courageously defended the oppressed. On the Tsar of Russia's orders he spent 20 years in exile at Jaroslaw on the Volga, without ever being able to return to his diocese. In every situation he retained his steadfast trust in Divine Providence and prayed: "O God, protect us not from the tribulations and worries of this world... only multiply love in our hearts and obtain that in deepest humility we may keep our infinite trust in your help and your mercy". Today his gift of himself to God and to humankind, full of trust and love, becomes a luminous example for the whole Church. ...

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness which shines out in the Church today with unique beauty. While I greet with affection each one of you Cardinals, Bishops, civil and military authorities, priests, men and women religious and members of the lay faithful of various nationalities who are taking part in this solemn Eucharistic celebration I would like to address to all the invitation to let yourselves be attracted by the luminous examples of these Saints, to let yourselves be guided by their teaching so that our entire life may become a song of praise to God's love. May their heavenly intercession obtain for us this grace and, especially, the motherly protection of Mary, Queen and Mother of humanity. Amen."