On December 13, 1981, Communist Party Leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared war on his own country.
The first weeks of martial law were dark days in Poland, and information was power. The authorities were rigidly censoring all reports of unrest, of resistance in the heavy industrial fortresses at the Gdansk shipyards, the Silesian mines and the massive steel mills in Warsaw and Katowice. Nine miners protesting martial law were shot dead at the Wujek mine. Many more anti martial law protesters were killed and injured all over the country.
Father Popieluszko’s priestly duty was to mix with the injured and the unemployed. In doing so he met with Solidarity fugitives who were planning to move their opposition network completely “underground.” Those men on the run and their families that were left behind in a Communist police state needed material assistance. They had to change apartments every night, had to be clothed, fed, given access to supplies like printing machines, paper and safe phones.
Father Popieluszko made his choice. He would try and make the Catholic Church a bridge between the underground and the daily life on the streets of Warsaw.His own church would be a meeting place of patriots: Poles who wanted to restore a sovereign, democratic nation. The pastor of St. Stanislaw Kostka church, Father Teofil Bogucki, had revived the tradition of the masses for the fatherland in October 1981, and his rough tongue and brassy phrasing had found an interested congregation.
When Father Popieluszko took over the masses after the imposition of martial law, a slightly different concept emerged. At his first mass on the last Sunday of January 1982, his sermon was confined to a single sentence: “As freedom of speech has been taken away from us by martial law, the state of war, let us, listening to the voice of our hearts and conscience, remember those brothers and sisters who have been deprived of their freedom.”
Nothing about the masses for the fatherland, from his first full sermon in February 1982, would ever be the same. As we witness, read month after month on our website, Father Jerzy’s sermons, we will witness how the masses, his writing and his following grows in sophistication and power.
Father Jerzy did not speak at the mass for the fatherland in March of 1982. So this month we would like to share with you excerpts from a letter written about Father Jerzy, by his pastor, Father Bogucki after his murder. (By:Paul Hensler)
An answer to your many questions about Father Jerzy.
People who did not know him ask, ‘what he was like in every day life, what was he like as a priest when among people’? He was a complete, true human being, simple and good. He was not seeking greatness, did not pretend to be a hero, did not like applause. He was ordinary, like all of us. Very friendly and warm. He was obedient with respect to Church authorities, ready to do anything, to go anywhere the bishops sent him but did not want to make these decisions himself. So neither the Primate or the bishops pressed him to leave the parish and move elsewhere. He had a lot of charm so people were drawn to him. He was very delicate, never offended anyone, never bore a grudge.
He was brave and unafraid. No threats, no threatening letters, no chicanery, none through the many police interrogations, none after being followed, none after being followed or attacked while he was traveling, none while he was imprisoned and unable to do his work for his fellow man and for “Solidarity.”
He was uncompromising about fighting evil and perseverance about doing good. He was everything to everybody. When he appeared people would shower him with flowers.
He was determined. He said that a priest cannot shy away from work for the Church and the nation, he cannot bury his head in the sand when so many people are suffering persecution and he never stopped his work. In Bydgozcz,, even though he did not feel well, he celebrated Mass and led the rosary with beautiful prayers. He lived till that last trip with the rosary in his hand. He could repeat after Christ: “It is done.” ~ Father Bogucki