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Saint Józef Sebastian Pelczar (1842-1924)

It is not easy to set great goals and it is even harder to give them up when it turns out that we lack strength to pursue them. However, if we can admit it and humbly accept the other plans God has for us, we have a chance to fulfil works of which no one has previously dreamt.

In the month following his ordination, St. Józef Sebastian Pelczar found himself in his first parish in Sambor, where he is now remembered as a kind and hardworking priest, open and sincere toward people. Then he went to Rome, where he earned two doctorates and had the good fortune of meeting with Pope Pius IX and with masters of spiritual life. There he also began writing his first book, "Spiritual Life, or Christian Perfection." Despite his dreams of joining the Jesuits, he returned to his homeland, feeling that after another uprising (1863), his countrymen were in need of consolation and hope in the struggle for political and spiritual independence. He began his pastoral work in the poorest parish in the diocese – in Wojutycze. There he founded the congregation of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which cared for the poor in the city and the surrounding areas. He soon became prefect of the seminary of Przemyśl and wrote books about spirituality, but all that hard work caused his health to deteriorate. To regain his strength, he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, during which he came to terms with his limitations and dwindling physical forces. He regained his composure and decided to devote himself to work that would not aggravate his already tarnished health.

So he went to Krakow, where he became a professor of church history and canon law in the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian University. He lived in a Franciscan convent, where he celebrated daily Mass in the chapel of Our Lady Sorrowful Benefactress of Krakow – entrusting each day to Her. He also became a tertiary. His work influenced the flourishing department and had an impact on teachers and students, mobilizing them to independent thinking and intellectual pursuits. In the years 1882-1883, he was rector of the Jagiellonian University and saw to the construction of a new university headquarters – Collegium Novum.

He was president of the Society for Popular Education, which organized approx. 600 reading rooms and lending libraries. He helped the poor, including by giving a large portion of his professional salary to the student kitchen every month. His motto was: "All for the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the immaculate hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary," hence the name of the Congregation of the Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, founded by Pelczar in 1894. The Sacred Heart Sisters took charge of a center for poor girls. The mission of the Congregation, which is service to neighbors and spreading the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, gained momentum and in a short time, its efforts surpassed the borders of Galicia. Currently, the Sacred Heart Sisters serve the needy in France, Italy, USA, Ukraine, Libya, and Bolivia, among others.

In 1899, Fr. Józef returned to Przemyśl as an auxiliary bishop, and after the death of the Ordinary a year later, he became the shepherd of the diocese. Despite his poor health, he initiated further charitable actions and tirelessly visited parishes. On his initiative, orphanages for children, kitchens and shelters for the poor and homeless, and schools for girls arose. He encouraged the faithful to love the Eucharist and the Heart of Jesus. His legacy includes scholarly theological, historical, and legal works, as well as handbooks, prayer books, pastoral letters, speeches, and homilies.


The places associated with Saint Józef Sebastian Pelczar (1842-1924):

Collegium Novum
Jagiellonian University  Collegium Novum Bishop Józef Sebastian Pelczar worked here for twenty-two years as a professor of church history and canon law in the Faculty of Theology. Contributed to the department’s development, mobili... (read more)
Congregation of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Congregation of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, ul. Garncarska 24, Krakow Its founder was professor at the Jagiellonian University, bishop of Przemysl Józef Sebastian Pelczar. The name of the congregation came from... (read more)