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Raising a Martyr (Part 2)

Interview With the Mother of Polish Blessed Jerzy Popie?uszko

ROME, May 08, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Here is the second part of an interview with Marianna Popie?uszko, the mother of Blessed Jerzy Popie?uszko. She was interviewed (in Polish) by W?odzimierz Redzioch. ZENIT is publishing a translation of the interview in parts. Part 1 was published Tuesday.

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In the communist times such a religious devoutness among children was not well-perceived...

It is true. Once one of the teachers called me to come to school. I was surprised because my son was a good student. And she told me that my son attended the church too often and she would lower a mark of his behavior. But maybe the Holy Spirit inspired me, because I answered that in Poland there is freedom of religion. And that was that.

Father Jerzy was characterized by great patriotism. Was he taught to love Homeland in his family home as well?

At our home children knew the history of family and Poland. They learnt to love Poland from patriotic literature. Apart from that, my brother was of the partisan army in the National Army and was killed by the Soviets in 1945. Children knew this history and understood what freedom of homeland meant.

When did your son confess to you that he wanted to go to a seminary?

I will tell you that when I was pregnant with him, I was praying for the grace of the vocation for him. I was praying to God, so that if the child was to be a son, he would become a priest, or a nun if the baby was to be a daughter. All in all, I had sacrificed my child to God even before his birth. However, I never told him about it. But he found his way on his own and he discovered his vocation, because he was attracted by books and God. He did not tell anyone about it till his secondary school graduation exam. Probably he kept this all in secret, because in the communist times young people who intended to go to a seminary were harassed by the Security Services. Not earlier than June 1965, when he returned from a school farewell prom, he said that he was going to a seminary, got on a train and went to Warsaw, where he was accepted to the High Metropolitan Seminary.

Why did he go to the diocesan seminary and just to Warsaw?

When he was a little boy, he used to read 'A Knight of the Immaculate' at his grandma's, edited by St. Maximilian Kolbe, therefore he dreamt of joining the Franciscans. However, later he decided to go to a seminary in Warsaw, because his colleagues from Suchowola were studying there, and besides, in Warsaw there was Primate Wyszy?ski who impressed him a lot.

Did you experience any emotions when your son left home?

Certainly, but nobody has a child for themselves. He had to leave for the world, in order to fulfill God's will. However, I was worried how he would adapt to living in Warsaw. He was brought up in the countryside and he never traveled far. It was the first time for him to travel by train. Besides, I knew it was not as difficult to make the decision as to endure in the vocation. Therefore, I prayed a lot for him.

Was he doing well with studies in the seminary?

He did not have any difficulties with studies and he passed all exams. After the first year of his studies, he came home on holiday. He helped us on the field a little and attended the Holy Mass regularly. And, first of all, he told about what was happening in the world and in the Church.

The year 1966 was very important for Poland, because it was the time when the 1,000th anniversary of the baptism of Poland was celebrated...

My son told us about sermons preached by Primate Wyszy?ski on this occasion, about millennium celebrations at Jasna Góra monastery, and about the fact that the authorities did not allow for the arrival of Pope Paul VI in Poland.

In the communist times, clerics had to undergo a hard, two-year military service, during which they underwent not only indoctrination, but they were also bullied physically and psychologically. And this all was in order to force them to reject the seminary. Did you know how much Jerzy suffered in the army?

Jerzy said nothing to me about it. Only later I found out from his colleagues how he had been bullied in various ways. Among other things, they used to throw him into a swimming pool, although he could not swim; they ordered him to stand bare-feet on snow as a punishment that he had been saying rosary, he was chased up and down stairs in full gear. And his health was destroyed, and after the military service he had to go to hospital.

Jerzy was ordained a priest on 28 May 1972 in the cathedral in Warsaw. What emotions were you experiencing on that day?

I was proud that I am the mother of a priest. Especially a moment was emotional for me, when the ordained priests were lying on the floor, especially that the priestly ordination were given by Primate Wyszy?ski - it was the first time I had seen him close. The Primate asked for a continuous prayer for our sons - priests. And I fulfilled this request, I always supported him in prayer. After the ceremony, I, my husband and Father Jerzy went to the seminary for dinner.

And later there were the first Holy Masses celebrated in family villages...

There is a custom, that after priestly ordain, a priest celebrates the first Holy Mass in his family parish church. It was a great day for family, all people from the parish and acquaintance priests. At that time, I gave Father Jerzy a bouquet of flowers, which I have kept at home till today. After the ceremonies, Father Jerzy left for his first parish in Z?bki. I gave him to the Church and from that time on we met very rarely, because I had to look after the household and he had his duties. He did not even have time during summer holidays because he went on summer camps with altar boys.

In 1975 it was decided that father Jerzy would move to the parish in Anin near Warsaw, and then to the parish of Infant Jesus in Warsaw...

I did not go to him, but when he was in these parishes. I visited him, when in 1978 he started working in the academic church of St. Ann.

Work with students, the future intellectuals of the country, must have been very demanding...

Jerzy did not tell me about it, but one of the priests told me then that if he worked in the academic church, he must have been very clever.

His former protégés from the academic group remember that Father Jerzy was not only a spiritual leader for them, but also a confidante and a friend...

He was a good pastor, because he wanted to bring God close to everybody, he enjoyed hearing confessions and he was also open to people and he liked giving small gifts to everybody.

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