Photo: Marian Archives
A Marian's Perilous Journey
Father Joseph Jarzebowski, MIC, shown here working among Polish exiles in Mexico.
By Dan Valenti (May 19, 2011)
The story of the arrival of Divine Mercy to America 70 years ago is not a simple, straightforward tale. It has more intrigue than a spy novel, more complications than a labyrinth, and more mystery than quantum physics. Of course, that's often the case when God intervenes in the affairs of humankind.
The pilgrimage of the message of and devotion to The Divine Mercy from Poland to America used a most unlikely vehicle, a young Marian priest in Poland who initially heard about Divine Mercy and was lukewarm and hesitant. God used this man, however, to bring Divine Mercy to the United States and entrust it to the Marian Fathers as official keepers.
God's plan begins on Aug. 25, 1905, with the birth of Helen Kowalska in the village of Glogwiec, Lodz Province, Poland. This girl is destined to become St. Faustina, to and through whom Jesus makes himself known as The Divine Mercy. On the surface, Sr. Faustina would seem the most ill-suited of divine messengers: uneducated, sickly, humble, and unassuming, and yet these are often the simple souls to whom God entrusts personal revelations.
Divine Mercy: a Worldwide Vision
So it was with Sr. Faustina. She dutifully recorded her mystical experiences in what has since become a classic of spiritual literature: The Diary of St. Faustina. From her death on Oct. 7, 1938 to today, we have seen Jesus' wish fulfilled: that The Divine Mercy be made known to the entire world.
We owe that in large part to the work of the Marian Fathers on Eden Hill, through the Association of Marian Helpers and its action arm, the Marian Helpers Center. In short, if the message doesn't get to the United States — the communications capital of the world — who knows what would have happened?
God saw that it got to the U.S. He did so through Fr. Joseph Jarzebowski, MIC.
Father Joseph was a young Marian priest living in Poland during World War II. In this precarious place, he found himself in 1940 facing dual threats from Nazi Germany and the communistic Soviet Union, then in the midst of a brutal occupation of Poland.
The Marian priest knew that he had to escape Poland, and he made a promise to God: If God would see to his safe escape to freedom in the United States, Fr. Joseph would propagate the message of The Divine Mercy. God took the priest up on his bargain.
Bordering on the Miraculous
Leaving without proper papers and certain to face a number of perilous border crossings, Fr. Joseph was able to pass from Poland and through Lithuania, the Soviet Union, and into Japan before arriving by ship in the United States in May of 1941. His experiences of being undetected by border guards and undercover agents bordered on the miraculous.
Many times, Soviet guards searched him person and belongings. Reason says they should have seen that Fr. Joseph's papers were not in order. Reason says that search of his bags should have discovered the picture of the image of The Divine Mercy that he had liberated from St. Michael's Church in Vilnius, Lithuania. Reasons also dictates they would have discovered the manuscripts he had pertaining to the message and feast of the Divine Mercy.
However, as God often works, divine mystery conquered human reason. The guards never discovered Fr. Joseph's precious cargo.
The exact day of Fr. Joseph's arrival in San Francisco is lost in the mists of history. We know for certain it was "Mary's month," the month of May. We also know that after his safe arrival in America with the Divine Mercy materials intact, Fr. Joseph lived up to his word. He began preaching and writing about The Divine Mercy message and devotion.
Father Joseph made his way to Washington, D.C., to the Marian House there, and eventually to Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Mass., which is today home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, the Association of Marian Helpers, and the Marian Helpers Center, which each year produces more than 15 million pieces of literature, audio, and video — plus websites — devoted to Divine Mercy. To this day, the Marian religious who directs the Association bears the honorary title of "Fr. Joseph, MIC" in honor of Fr. Jarzebowski.
From the humble beginnings of Helen Kowalska's birth to the present day's worldwide flourishing of Divine Mercy, God has accomplished miracles.