By Jessica Easthope
It’s a recognition they weren’t given in their lifetime. Ten nuns are now Blesseds, martyrs, killed by Soviet soldiers in Poland during the last months of World War II.
“The Soviets were brutal, in many ways more brutal than the Nazis and it’s a great gift for the church to have the witness of these women finally recognized,” said Msgr. Thomas Machalski, the pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Bayside, Queens.
This summer, the group of Sisters of St. Elizabeth were cleared for beatification. Msgr. Machalski said the women showed immense bravery: they died protecting each other and children as they faced rape and brutal torture.
“It shows the depth of their faith that there was nothing that was going to shake their faith in the Lord that even if it meant their life they were not going to give up or give in,” he said.
There aren’t many pictures of the women because sadly their story isn’t uncommon. In 1945 as the Nazi party was moving out, the Soviet army was moving in and more than 100 nuns were killed by Soviet soldiers. Msgr. Machalski says a Communist regime was part of everyday life when he lived in Poland, more than 40 years later.
“It was very difficult in many ways to be a religious be it a priest or a consecrated religious in Poland,” he said. “The authorities made it very difficult for you.”
But the sisters’ courage and faith can still resonate among Catholics today.
“Ask for their intercession, we never know when God’s going to use through their intercession that occasion to work a miracle in somebody’s life,” Msgr. Machalski said.
Like a miracle, a true test of bravery can happen when you least expect it.