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A portrait of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, who is pregnant, and their six children hung near the altar during their beatification Mass Sept. 10 in Markowa, Poland.
A portrait of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, who is pregnant, and their six children hung near the altar during their beatification Mass Sept. 10 in Markowa, Poland.
Photo Credit: Justyna Galant | Catholic News Service

Recently beatified Ulma family hailed as ‘ray of light in the darkness’

Family, all killed in 1944 for sheltering a Jewish family, was beatified Sept. 10 in Markowa, Poland

MARKOWA, Poland — In one of the most significant moments in Polish post-war history, the Ulma family was beatified in Markowa Sept. 10.

“I think it will only get me at night, when I come back home, because now I still can’t believe it,” Jerzy Ulma, nephew of Blessed Józef Ulma, said.

His uncle Józef, along with wife Wiktoria and seven children: Stanislawa, Barbara, Wladyslaw, Franciszek, Antoni, Maria and a child without a name born during the martyrdom of their mother were declared blessed by papal envoy Cardinal Marcello Semeraro in Markowa, where the Ulma family lived and died March 24, 1944. They were killed by German occupants of Poland for giving shelter to eight Jews in their house.

Father Roman Chowaniec, parish priest from Markowa, Poland, carried the reliquary of the Ulma family to the altar during the beatification Mass Sept. 10.
Photo Credits: Courtesy Polish Bishops Conference
“It would be a mistake if the day of the Ulma beatification would be used only to remember the terror and atrocities committed by the perpetrators,” Cardinal Semeraro said in a homily. “We would like this day to be a day of joy,” he said.

In 1942, Wiktoria and Józef accepted a Jewish family into their home. “Today, along with the new blessed, we would like to remember their names,” Cardinal Semeraro said. They were: Saul Goldman with sons Baruch, Mechel, Joachim, Moses as well as Golda Grünfeld and Lea Didner with little daughter Reshla, he listed.

“The gesture of Józef and Wiktoria was a sign of obedience to God’s commandment,” the cardinal said. “It was a ‘yes’ to God’s will,” emphasizing that a man “despised, rejected and mortally wounded” was welcomed to their home.

During the Angelus prayer Sept. 10, Pope Francis praised the new blesseds, “an entire family exterminated by the Nazis on March 24, 1944 for having given shelter to some persecuted Jews.”

“They opposed the hatred and violence that characterized that time with evangelical love,” the pontiff said. “May this Polish family, which represents a ray of light in the darkness of the Second World War, be for all of us a model to imitate in the zeal for goodness and service to those in need,” he said before asking the faithful to applaud for the newly blessed.

In Markowa, the families of Wiktoria and Józef accompanied Father Roman Chowaniec, parish priest at Markowa’s St. Dorothy Church, when he carried relics of the Ulma family.

For U.S. priest Father Michal Niemczak, being in Markowa for the beatification of his family members was something he was “very grateful for.”

Along with Cardinal Semeraro, Cardinal Gerhard Müller and Cardinal Robert Sarah arrived from the Vatican, accompanied by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, longtime personal secretary of St. John Paul II, Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw and Cardinal-designate Grzegorz Rys of Lódz. Over 70 bishops and 1,000 priests concelebrated Mass.

A separate ceremony conducted Sept. 10 by Cardinal Semeraro, Archbishop Adam Szal of Przemysl and Rabbi Schudrich accompanied the beatification at the nearby Jagiella-Niechcialki war cemetery, where the eight murdered Jews lie buried.

Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich participated in the outdoor Mass, celebrated at the football stadium in Markowa.

He said the Ulmas are “mentors.”

“We ask ourselves, what does God want from us? How do we know what we should do?” he said in an interview with Vatican News. “Of course we have many verses in the Bible that are clear. But it’s very helpful to see someone who lives the way God wants us to live,” he said.

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