Wednesday, December 2, 2015


The beatification of the Polish Franciscan martyrs Friar ZBIGNIEW SRZALKOWSKI (33) and Friar MICHAL TOMASZEK  (31) (as well as Father ALESSANDRO DORDI) will take place in Chimbote, Peru, on Saturday, December 5, 2015. The Pope's representative, Angelo Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, will preside.

What caught my eye at first was this martyrdom took place not far from the mountains where I birded on 2 occasions when in Peru.  Upon reading the story I decided these men  merited mention for their charity to the poor of Peru.

The two friars were living in Pariacoto, on the western side of the Cordillera Negra, a mountain range which runs perpendicular to the Andes in an east-west direction from Mocho-Choshuencovolcano to Cerros de Quimán. Pariacoto is perched at an altitude of 3,000 feet in an idyllic natural landscape bathed by a perennial sun.

The area is inhabited by a poor, indigenous population deeply rooted in Christianity. For over forty years, the people of Pariacoto had gone without the assistance of a local priest until, in 1989, three Polish friars from the Conventual Franciscan Order arrived and established a vibrant Christian community.

Pariacoto, Peru
This, however, did not go down well with the Communist revolutionaries, who in those years, infested much of Latin America. In particular, the three friars were despised by the Communist revolutionary movement known as Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), which saw religion as the greatest enemy of humanity.

On the evening of August 9, 1991, a commando of some 20 guerrillas stormed into the mission and kidnapped two of the friars, Zbigniew and Michal. Through an extraordinary coincidence, the superior of the mission, Father Jarek Wysoczanski, was in Poland at the time for the wedding of his sister, and for the arrival of Pope John Paul to his country. The two prisoners were taken to the center of the town, subjected to a sham trial, sentenced to death, and then taken to a secret location where they were shot and killed.

Their bodies are buried in the parish church, which has become a place of pilgrimage where people also come to beseech graces

Frs. Zbigniew & Michal
According to Father Jarek Wysoczanski  (the superior) they were full of enthusiasm and love for God, and were burning with zeal for their mission of evangelizing the indigenous people of Peru.
Friar Zbigniew was a man of few words, but very active. He was fond of studying and had great love for the natural world, being a passionate ecologist. In the mission he  acted as an engineer, a worker, a medical doctor, a nurse, an architect and even as a brick-layer.  His generosity is still remembered in Pariacoto.

Michal  loved community life and attended to the day-to-day running of a community. He also educated the children and young people. He was patient, helpful, friendly and cheerful. He was liked by everyone and, as a consequence, the young attended Mass in great numbers. Shortly before his death there were over 200 young people in his group.
 Father Alessandro Dordi was an Italian priest whose work of evangelization with the poor also cost him his life at the hands of the Shining Path. Fr. Sandro, as he was known, came to Peru in 1980, the year in which the Shinning Path launched its violent campaign to bring Communism to power in the country, killing thousands.  Today, the indigenous people still suffer the effect of that dreaded group. At the time, Peru was also experiencing a severe economic crisis.

Born in 1931 and ordained in the Italian city of Bergamo at the age of 23, Fr. Sandro fell in love with the people of Santa in Peru. He worked to increase literacy, defend the dignity of women, teach catechism, and built chapels and parish buildings. His work drew the ire of the Shining Path, which relied upon hatred and discord among the people in order to recruit and maintain power.

Father Sandro
In August 1991, Fr. Sandro learned of the killing of the Polish priests in a nearby town. In a letter to a priest friend, the future blessed wrote, “We are particularly anxious and concerned these days. You have certainly learned that the Shining Path killed two priests of the Diocese of Chimbote on August 9. They were two Polish Franciscans who worked in a valley like mine.”

He was riding in a pickup with two seminarians on his way to celebrate Mass when masked men from the Shining Path surrounded the vehicle and forced the two seminarians to get out. Fr. Sandro was shot three times and died.

May these new saints intercede for the People of Peru, that here be justice, hope and a deepening love of Christ.

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