Feast of St. Zygmunt Szcesny Felinski (September 17)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Zygmunt Szcesny Felinski

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Archbishop of Warsaw, Titular Bishop of Tarsus, and Founder of Recovery for the Poor and the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary


I am convinced that by keeping my heart uncontaminated, living in faith and in fraternal love towards my neighbor, I will not go off the path.  These are my only treasures and are without price.

–St. Zygmunt Szcesny Felinski


Polish nationalism was a defining feature of the life of St. Zygmunt Szcesny Felinski.  Poland did not exist as a nation-state, so Polish nationalism ran afoul of various governments.

Felinski was a subject of the Russian Empire.  He, born in Voyutin (now Wojutyn, Ukraine) on November 1, 1822, was one of six children of Gerard Felinski and Eva Wendorff, proud Poles.  Gerard died when our saint was 11 years old.  Eva was active in efforts to improve farmers’ economic conditions as well as in the realm of Polish nationalism.  For her trouble she became an involuntary resident of Siberia in 1838.  St. Zygmunt had numerous reasons to distrust the Russian imperial government.

Felinski’s early adulthood was a time of education and nationalist activism.  He studied at the University of Moscow, specializing in mathematics, from 1840 to 1844.  Studies in French literature followed in Paris in 1877.  In the “City of Lights” he gathered with other Poles.  Our saint participated in the failed Polish uprising against the Prussian government at Poznán.  In 1848-1850 Felinski worked as the tutor to the Brozowski family in Munich and Paris.

The priesthood beckoned.  He studied for the priesthood in 1851-1855, first in Zytomierz (now Zhytomyr, Ukraine) then at St. Petersburg.  Our saint, ordained on September 8, 1855, served first in St. Petersburg.  He was the pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church, from 1855 to 1857.  He also founded a charitable organization, Recovery for the Poor, in 1856, then the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary the following year.  Felinski was also Professor of Philosophy at the Ecclesiastical Academy, as well as a spiritual advisor.

Felinski was the Archbishop of Warsaw from 1862 to 1883, politically treacherous times in that city.  When our saint arrived in January 1862, Warsaw was under siege by Russian forces, and all the churches were closed.  He reopened the churches in February 1862.  Felinski also reformed the seminary curriculum, founded an orphanage and parochial schools, and worked to free incarcerated priests.  Agents of the Russian government sought to undermine our saint; they claimed he was a spy.  After Russian forces brutally crushed the January Revolt of 1863, Felinski resigned from the Council of State in protest.  He also wrote to Czar Alexander II, requesting an end to the violence.  On June 14, 1883, Russian authorities deported our saint to Jaroslavl, Siberia.  He lived his vocation as a priest and a bishop as a partner.

Protracted negotiations between the Vatican and the Russian government paid off in 1883.  Felinski was a free man again.  On March 15 Pope Leo XIII assigned our saint to Galicia (in modern-day Turkey), as the Titular Bishop of Tarsus.  Felinski ministered to Polish and Ukrainian exiles, built a church, founded a parochial school, and started a convent of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary.

Felinski died in Krakow (then in Austria-Hungary; now in Poland) on September 17, 1895.  He was 72 years old.

The Church recognized Felinski’s sanctity.  Pope John Paul II declared our saint a Venerable in 2001 then beatified him the following year.  Pope Benedict XVI canonized Felinski in 2009.





O God, our heavenly Father, who raised up your faithful servant Saint Zygmunt Szcesny Felinski

to be a bishop and pastor in your Church and to feed your flock:

Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit,

that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84 or 84:7-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 719


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