Feast Day: 19 October
Blessed Jerzy lived his entire life under the brutal soviet regime that had occupied his home of Poland. Born in 1947, after he left school he felt a call to train for the priesthood. The staunchly anti-Catholic soviet regime made him serve his army duties in a special force, aimed to keep young people from becoming a priest. Despite this he persevered and, after becoming a priest, he became heavily involved with fighting for workers’ rights and opposing communism.
As Poland was experiencing a period of martial law, the Catholic Church was the only force that could voice protest comparatively openly, as the regular celebration of Mass gave opportunities for public gatherings in churches, something that could not be done elsewhere without people being arrested.
Fr Popiełuszko used this opportunity to speak out against the Communists’ cruel oppression of the Polish people, workers and Church. His sermons were routinely broadcast by Radio Free Europe, and became famous throughout Poland for their uncompromising stance against the regime. The secret police tried to silence or intimidate him. When those techniques did not work, they fabricated evidence against him; he was arrested in 1983, but soon released on intervention of the clergy and pardoned by an amnesty.
Soon after all this, the secret police decided the best course of action was to assassinate him and, after a failed attempt, they kidnapped him and beat him to death.
In 2009, Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko was given Poland’s highest honour, the Order of the White Eagle.
Why Jerzy Popieluszko inspires me
A reflection from someone in our young Catholic community
Blessed Jerzy was willing to give up his life rather than see people oppressed and his faith persecuted. He is a modern day martyr and his death shows how important the rights of workers and the Catholic faith are, as even under threat of death he would not back down from his beliefs on them.