Servant of God, Jacek Misiuta, O.P. – Martyr

 

“Your martyrs professed their faith by shedding their blood.  Give us a faith, O Lord, that is constant and pure.”  (Liturgy of the Hours, Common of Several Martyrs, from the Intercessions at Morning Prayer)

                                      

In 2005, the Vicar General of the Dominicans of Russia and Ukraine turned to His Eminence Marian Cardinal Jaworski with a request to start the process of canonization for the martyrs of Chortkiv.  The Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ukraine during their session of November 8, 2005, unanimously agreed to start the process.  On June 10, 2006, the Congregation for Saints gave official permission to start the process for the canonization of Fr. Justyn Spyrłak and seven brothers of the Dominican Order who were murdered in 1941. (Press Release of the Archdiocesan Curia in L’viv)

 

On Saturday November 18, 2005, Cardinal Jaworski presided over a Mass in the Cathedral of L’viv to begin the canonization process.  At the end of the Mass, the Diocesan Court was appointed and sworn in to determine that, as was strongly emphasized, the martyrdom of the eight Dominicans of Chortkiv was for the faith [and not for ethnicor political reasons].  In his speech, the Cardinal pointed out that the bullet holes in the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help are material evidence of hatred for the faith.  The ceremony was accompanied by the exhibition of two images that were brought from Chortkiv:  a portrait of the martyrs and the image of Our Lady with bullet holes.  Amid this group of eight martyrs was Fr. Jacek Misiuta, pastor of the parish in Chortkiv.

 

Fr. Jacek Stanisław Misiuta was born on August 17, 1909, in Dutrów, which belongs to the Roman Catholic Parish of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Żulice.  His mother, Wiktoria Zborowska, was first married to [a man by the name of] Pikuła, and they had two children.  But she was soon widowed so she married again: this time to Michał Misiuta, a native of Tuczap.  The family home was in that part of Dutrów that is now called Kryniczka – people often say Holy Kry-niczka.  Also living there was a Pikuła family [closely related to her first husband].

 

“The family home was characterized by ordinary, common piety, but Jacek was different: absorbed in prayer, he liked to kneel before the image of the Mother of God /... / He was polite, obedient, sensitive to injustice, even though the family did not always have it easy.  After all, there were five children to feed and educate.” (Fr. W. Malinowski, typescript)


Dutrów was quite a large village and had its own school with four grades.  The building was wooden and stood by a small stream in a deep ravine.  It was, as it were, the heart of the village.  Over on the hill stood a small wooden Uniate Church with a cemetery.  During Jacek’s childhood, [this] was an Orthodox Church, as [the village] was in the Russian Empire.  After graduating from the local school and after passing the entrance exam, Jacek continued his education from September 1921 on at the public Gymnasium in Żólkiew. [A Gymnasium is a liberal arts high schol; Żólkiew is now Zhovka, Ukraine].  For the last two years of the Gymnasium, he lived in a dormitory run by the Dominican Fathers; the prefect was Fr. Justyn Spyrłak.  Perhaps it was precisely this acquaintance that gave birth to his religious vocation.

 

After graduating from the Gymnasium, he entered the novitiate of the Dominican Friars in Kraków, arriving there on July 13, 1925.  The very next month, on the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, he received the religious habit at the tomb of St. Hyacinth [in Polish, Jacek] from the hands of the Provincial, Fr. Augustyn Peczek.  After a year’s stay with the Order [the novitiate year], he made his first vows at the hands of Fr. Marcolin Tomczak.  After passing his final examinations at an external studies student at the Adam Mickiewicz Gymnasium in Kraków, he went to Lwów [now L’viv, Ukraine] to study philosophy and theology.  Here he bound himself permanently [to the Order] by making perpetual vows on July 17, 1930, before the Vicar Provincial, Fr. Antonin Górnisiewicz.  During his seminary years, [Jacek] enjoyed the trust of his superiors and the respect of his classmates.  This is evidenced by the fact that he was for some time the “dean” of the seminarians and the “editor.”    [The dean of the seminarians organizes student projects and represents the studentate before higher superiors but is otherwise first among equals; the editor may be in charge of the seminary chronicle.]  On Novermber 26, 1933, [Jacek] was ordained to the priesthood in the chapel of the L’viv seminary through the laying on of hands by the newly consecrated Bishop Eugene Baziak.

 

On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1933, [Jacek] celebrated his first Mass in his family’s parish in Nabróż.  After a short stay with his family, he was assigned by his religious superiors  to work in Czortków [now Chortkiv, Ukraine] in 1934. There he worked as a catechist in the public school for girls.  Popular with the children and respected by the parents, he put his heart into leading the Living Rosary and the Eucharistic Crusade. [The Living Rosary is a prayer movement to support the foreign missions of the Church; the Eucharistic Crusade is a movement for children and young people who draw closer to Christ and, through their prayers and personal sacrifices, hope to bring others closer to Christ also.)

 

But he made a name for himself as a children’s catechist. “He knew how to win over the hearts of the children and remained in their memories, never to be displaced.”  Hence, the “children surrounded him on walks and [even] came into the sacristy to talk to their priest.” [emphasis mine]  “They all came eagerly to attend religious instruction (...) He had problems with his throat so he did not have a strong voice, but the people [used to] say that just his appearance and a few words sufficed for the best sort of sermon.”

 

As a pastor, “he especially fostered the veneration of [the image of] Our Lady of Chortkiv.” With this in mind, in the year 1940, he arranged for a solemn triduum with conferences [on the three days] preceding the solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady.  He placed the parish under her special protection and pledged undying allegiance to her with an oath he composed himself

 

He encouraged the faithful “to help one another, to share [even] the last thing [they have], because that [is something] that God repays with a double [blessing]. Often he placed quite a substantial sum of money into the hands of the Superior of the parish convent so that she might be able to help the poor.

 

In his funeral sermon, Fr. Paweł Boczar would call Fr. Jacek a “devotee of Our Lady of the Rosary, to whose particular care he entrusted the care of the parish and of the children he especially loved, whose hearts he so [often] won; from the elderly he gained their love and respect by providing [them with] advice and assistance.”

 

Recognizing his talent for teaching, his superiors assigned Fr. Jacek to be prefect of the dormitory at Zhovka, and so in 1937 he returned to the city of his youth.  This lasted but a short time: in 1938 this institution, along with its prefect, was moved to L’viv.  At this time, his passion for journalism returned, and Fr. Jacek published a magazine called Our Playing Field. But his stay in L’viv also turned out to be a short one.

 

The following year he was named pastor of the parish at Chortkiv, bereft as a result of the tumult of war.  Here he met once again his master from his school years, Fr. Justyn Spyrłak, [serving as] prior of the community there.  God would now join teacher and student forever. Living and working under the Soviet occupation was very difficult.  The Soviets breathed forth hatred for God, the Church, the clergy, and especially the Poles.

 

The morning of the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, July 2, 1941, a Wednesday, proved to be very painful for the faithful of the Chortkiv parish.  To the faithful gathered in front of the closed church came the news that [some of the] fathers lay murdered at Berdo on the dike over the [river] Seret.

 

Fr. Jacek Stanisław Misiuta, 32 years of age, with 15 years of relgious profession and 8 years of priesthood, laid down his young life on the altar of the Church and his homeland as a martyr for the faith.  Let us hope that the beatification process will proceed smoothly.  The faithful of the Żulice parish pray for a beatification soon.

 

 

Translated from the Polish text

on the website of the parish at Żulice:

www.zulice.parafia.info.pl

 

RZ – 8/10/16, rev 9/10/16

 

 

 

 

Żulice lies in southeastern Poland, about 20 miles to the east of Tomaszów Lubelski and only about 10 miles north of the Ukrainian border.  From Warsaw to L’viv by way of Tomaszów Lubelski is about 240 miles.  From L’viv to Chortkiv by way of Ternopil is about 125 miles. In a straight line, the  distance from L’viv southeast to Chortkiv is about 100 miles. Between World War I and World War II, all of L’viv province was part of Poland.

 

 

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