The Martyrdom
of the Sisters
of the Holy Family
of Nazareth


Adam Styka (1890-1959) created the oil canvas of the execution, a copy of which is reproduced here.

This painting, which dates from the spring of 1948, was transferred to Rome, to the headquarters of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in 1965. A copy of it can be found in the provincial house of the Sisters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The year 1943 marked the dark night of Nazi occupation in war-torn Poland.

In Nowogrodek, a town situated in what used to be the northeastern section of Poland, twelve Sisters of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth shared the anxiety and fear of their neighbors. Unconcerned about their own safety, they sympathized with those who were under arrest and with those who were detained in concentration camps or doomed to cruel execution.

The Sisters were especially compassionate toward orphaned families in their tragic fate and destitution. Arrests followed one upon another. Fathers of families were cast into prison where they awaited trial and final sentencing. In the homes, desolate wives and children sobbed out their hearts in hopeless grief and utter terror.

The Sisters yearned to relieve the distress of the unfortunate. Their hearts were aflame with the charity of Christ, and they found an opportunity to give witness to their love of neighbor. Sister Mary Stella, the superior of the Sisters in Nowogrodek, expressed the desire of the Sisters in this prayer: (O God, if sacrifice of life is needed, accept it from us who are free from family obligations and spare those who have wives and children).

Sacrifice Offered—Sacrifice Accepted.

Suddenly, without cause or warning, eleven of the Sisters were imprisoned. After one night, a night that was shrouded in mystery, the facts of which were known only to God, they were packed into a van and driven beyond the limits of the town. During the early hours of the next morning, August 1, 1943, the Sisters were shot and buried in a common grave.

A member of the Nazi detachment, who had been present at the execution, later exclaimed: “How those Sisters went to their execution! How they went to their death!”

Meanwhile a tide of joy swept through the town when the most recently imprisoned men were released and permitted to return to their respective homes.

One of the twelve Sisters, Sister M. Margaret, who was engaged in hospital work at the time of the arrest of the other eleven, sought and found the grave. After the Nazis left Poland, the bodies of the Sisters were exhumed. The people of Nowogrodek, filled with sentiments of gratitude, paid honor to the Sisters who had been their deliverers in a solemn funeral service which was followed by burial in the cemetery adjoining the local church.

People in their various needs began to ask God for favors through the intercession of the Sisters. The many graces which have been received give evidence of the fact that the sacrifice of the Sisters was acceptable to God and is being rewarded by him.

The eleven Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth who were executed by the Nazis on August 1, 1943 were: (all Blessed) Sr. M. Stella (Adela Mardosewicz; Sr.M. Imelda (Jadwiga Zak); Sr. M. Kanizja (Eugenia Mackiewicz); Sr. M. Rajmunda (Anna Kukolowicz); Sr. M. Daniels, Eleonora Jozwik; Sr. M. Kanuta (Jozefa Chrobot); Sr. M. Sergia (Julia Rapiej); Sr. Sister M. Gwidona (Helena Cierpka); Sr. M. Felicyta (Paulina Borowik); Sr. M. Heliodora (Leokadia Matuszewska); and Sr. M. Boromea (Weronika Narmontowicz).


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