Martyrs Of World War II: Sr. Stella And Her Companions
The story of Sr. Stella and her companions is a story of love, faith and sacrifice. In the Jubilee year 2000, Sr. Stella and ten fellow Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth were beatified by Pope John Paul II, and so were given the title of “Blessed”. These eleven Sisters lived together in community in Nowogrodek (now part of Belarus) during the World War II German occupation of Poland and surrounding countries.
The testimony of those who were witnesses to the disappearance of the Sisters from their home in August, 1943 and the discovery of their bodies in a common grave some time later, led to the process for their beatification being initiated and completed in a relatively short period of time. The stories associated with the Sister’s conversations with people of the area in which they lived, after Nazi soldiers had rounded up and imprisoned many family members from the area show the dedication of the Sisters to their faith and to the people whom they served. The Sisters were heard to say on different occasions that they would willingly give their lived in return for the safe return of the fathers, of the town, to their families. The death of the Sisters in the environment in which they found themselves in war-torn Poland was nothing unusual for that time…but the return of the men of the town to their families after the death of the Sisters was exceptional.
The beatification of the Sisters bears witness to the victory of the power and love of Jesus Christ in the lives of ordinary people. In their openness to remain with the people they committed themselves to serve and in their steadfast dedication to their religious commitment, Sister Stella and her companions have become a sign of challenge and hope for people of the twenty-first century. During the special papal audience after the beatification of Blessed Frances Siedliska in Rome in 1989, Pope John Paul II drew attention to the martyred Sister’s willingness to offer themselves for others, rooted in the spirituality instilled in the Congregation by their Foundress, Blessed Frances Siedliska.
One member of the group was not taken on the night of July 31, 1943. Sr. Malgorzata was away from the convent when the Sisters were taken and executed in the woods about 5 km from their home sometime early on the 1 August. Sr. Malgorzata was instrumental in discovering the fate of her Sisters and continued to live, by choice, in Soviet occupied Nowogrodek for 23 years, ministering to the people of Nowogrodek. Sr Malgorzata died on 26 April, 1966 and her cause for beatification was initiated in Poland in 2004. These twelve Sisters, together, lived and died for the building of God’s Kingdom of Love and for love of their brothers and Sisters in Christ…For this they are remembered and called “Blessed”.