Patriot, scholar, bishop, social worker. He knew prominent Poles, including Juliusz Słowacki and Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, but history mainly remembers him for the works of mercy he performed and for his unbending, uncompromising stand in defense of the most important values, for which he paid with exile.
He became a priest in order to devote himself to the spiritual revival of his Fatherland, because he saw in it a source of inner freedom for Poles. His priestly life was filled with charitable works. He undertook the care of the Family of Mary institute, where he met with the unimaginable misery of orphaned children. He took care of orphans in a shelter for the poor, and also looked after a new congregation, as its founder.
As archbishop, he had to face the reluctance of the Warsaw clergy, who suspected Feliński of being a candidate of the tsar, not of the Church. So he clearly expressed his intentions: "My doctrine is not mine, but His who sent me, it is of the Catholic Church, the guardian and minister of the religion established by Christ." The archbishop opened the closed churches, visited the archdiocese, hospitals, shelters for the poor and homeless, monasteries, as well as a shelter run by Jews in Warsaw's Wola district. He pardoned many priests exiled to Siberia. He brought the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and the Sisters of the Family of Mary to Warsaw to care for the education of poor girls.
After the outbreak of the January uprising, the repression of invaders intensified, and the archbishop felt responsible for the Church entrusted to him. He defended Poles against the tsar and wrote him an uncompromising letter in which he urged him to restore Poland’s freedom. The letter was published in the French magazine "Journal." Feliński was exiled to Yaroslavl on the Volga for 20 years. Mourning prevailed in the archdiocese: organs and bells fell silent and singing ceased.
During his exile, the archbishop continued his apostolic and charitable works. He surrounded Polish exiles with his care.
Upon being released from exile, he could not return to Warsaw. He settled down in the village of Dźwiniaczka in Podolia: he heard confessions, preached retreats, wrote, founded a school, and began the construction of a church.
He died in Krakow on 17 September 1895. John Paul II beatified him, also in Krakow, in 2002. The first tomb in which the archbishop was laid to rest, as well as his image and relics, are located in St. Joseph's Church in Podgórze. Also located here is the provincial house of the Sisters of the Family of Mary. The canonization of the heroic pastor took place in 2009.