A Tale of Two Saints: Pope Canonizes Swedish Nun, Polish Priest

News: Investigations
by Richard Ducayne  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 6, 2016   

Pope Francis canonized a nun and priest on Sunday who both started religious orders

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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis is proclaiming two new saints: one, a Lutheran-turned-nun who hid Jews during World War II and re-founded the Bridgettine order in Europe and the other a Polish priest and founder of the first men's religious order dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

The Pope declared Sr. Elizabeth Hesselblad, a nun who saved many Jews during the holocaust, and Fr. Stanislaus Papczynski, a Polish priest and prolific religious writer who founded the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, "exemplary witnesses to this mystery of resurrection" during a canonization mass on Sunday in St. Peter's Square. Present at the ceremony were Poland's president Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda.

One of the canonized saints, Sr. Elizabeth Hesselblad, known as "the second Bridget," was born in June 1870 and was baptized into the Lutheran Church. In 1888, Elizabeth emigrated to the United States where she studied nursing at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. Her job at the hospital was home nursing. Seeing how many of the patients she cared for were Catholic, she decided investigate the Faith for herself. Following a period of prayer and study, she converted to Catholicism.

In August 1902, the Feast of the Assumption, she received conditional baptism from a Jesuit priest in the chapel of the Convent of the Visitation in Washington, D.C. She wrote of her baptism, "In an instant the love of God was poured over me. I understood that I could respond to that love only through sacrifice and a love prepared to suffer for His glory and for the Church. Without hesitation I offered Him my life, and my will to follow Him on the Way of the Cross"

Two days later, Hasselblad received her first communion and eventually left the United States for Europe where she made a pilgrimage to Rome to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. She also visited the House of St. Bridget of Sweden, which inspired her to spend her life to the work of Christian unity.

She appealed to the Vatican to re-found the Bridgettine order in Sweden, which had been flourishing until the Protestant Revolt that had taken place in the country. After bringing the order back in 1911, whose mission was to pray and work for the unity of Scandinavian Christians to the Catholic Church, Hasselblad went back home. There, she founded a community in Djursholm and worked to nurse the sick and poor; the same year, her congregation obtained the House of Saint Bridget in Rome.

During World War II, Hasselblad saved 12 Jewish members of the Piperno-Sed families by hiding them in her convent in Rome. She is Sweden's second saint in 625 years following Saint Bridget, who was canonized as a saint in 1391.

Near her death, as her health was declining and before she received last rites, Elizabeth raised her hands and murmured, "Go to Heaven with hands full of love and virtues."

Hasselblad died age 86 in Rome in 1957 on Easter Wednesday.

The other canonized saint, Fr. Stanislaus Papczyński, was born in May 1631, the youngest of eight children. Stanislaus had difficulty with his academics in the early part of his life but overcame them and eventually, at the age of 15, entered into the Jesuit College at Jaroslaw, the Piarist College of Podolinec and the Jesuit College of Lvov, which he eventually was forced to flee from due to an attack from Cossack soldiers.

At 23 years of age, Papczyński completed his philosophical and general studies at the Jesuit College of Rawa Mazowiecka.

In 1654, he joined the Piarist Order, which was newly established in Poland at the time, and was given the name "Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary." Due to disagreements with superiors when it came to the character of the order, he left the order and made an effort to create his own based on his advocated rigorous lifestyle.

In April 1679, Stanislaus' institute, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, was canonically constituted as an order of diocesan right. The community's stated goals were to spread devotion to the Virgin Mary, and to assist the poor souls in purgatory. King John III Sobieski of Poland, who was often known for his kindness towards the stricter communities, placed the order dedicated to the Immaculate Conception under his protection.

The Marians eventually received approbation as an order of apostolic right, which ridded them of any restrictions, and in 1701 they professed their vows and after 30 years of effort became the first men's religious order in Poland.

In his last will and testament, Stanislaus stated:

"Sons, you ought to have love for God and neighbor, devotion to the Catholic faith, and worship, love, and obedience to the Holy See, faithful preservation of the vows, humility, patience, support the souls in purgatory and be at peace with everyone."

Papczyński died at age 70 in 1701 and was buried in Gora Kalwaria at the Church of the Lord's Cenacle.

View Sister Hasselblad's order here and Father Papczyński's order here.


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