A Martyr Friar in Byelorussia

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A MARTYR FRIAR IN BYELORUSSIA – 100 years after his birth in Łódź, Poland

“where there are sheep, there needs to be a shepherd”

At Łódź – Krecia, on October 17, 2010, the Friars Minor Conventual of Poland commemorated one of their Friars who gave his life for his “sheep”. They recalled Blessed Herman Stepień, who after having obtained two Doctorates in Rome, and then sent to a parish in Pierszaje (Byelorussia today), the Lord asked this youth to give his life for others at the age of 33 (July 19, 1943). The death of this Friar saved the people of the village from the same fate.

In June, 1943, at Iwieniec (which was part of Poland, but is in Byelorussia today) when the population opposed the Nazis, a patrol arrived in Pierszaje. Friar Herman, together with the community, had been advised by supporters that the Nazis were approaching the village, and that they had to opportunity to leave. However, the two Friars, Herman and Achilles, did not want to abandon their people, saying that “where there are sheep, there needs to be a shepherd”.
Thus, on July 19, the two Friars were arrested, tortured, shot, and their bodies burned outside of Borowikowszczyzna. After the killing, the Germans decided to spare the lives of the villagers, thinking the sacrifice of the two Franciscan Friars was sufficient.

The two Friars, Herman Stępień and Achilles Puchała, were part of a group of 108 martyrs of World War II, beatified by John Paul II at Warsaw in 1999.

The Eucharist of commemoration and appreciation, celebrated in the newly build church, was presided over by the Ordinary of Łódź, Archbishop Władysław Ziółek, and concelebrated by the Assistant General for AFCOF, Friar Tadeusz Świątkowski (who is serving as the General Visitator for the Province of Warsaw), the Minister Provincial of Warsaw, Friar Mirosław Bartos, and a number of Friars. The church was filled with many people of the parish and beyond, for the celebration of the first blessed born in the city of Łódź.