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When Blessed George Matulaitus-Matulewicz joined the Marians with special permission from Pope Pius X on Aug. 29, 1909, he began a renovation that has blossomed into today's vibrant Congregation of more than 500 priests and brothers serving in 19 countries.
By Dan Valenti (Aug 25, 2009)
On Aug. 29, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception observe the centennial anniversary of their renovation by Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz.
On that date Blessed George became a Marian priest. Incredibly, there was but one other Marian in the entire Congregation: his superior general, Fr. Vincent Senkus, MIC. Father Vincent had received special permission from Pope Pius X to accept Fr. George into the order without the usual novitiate requirement.
The Marian Fathers were literally dying off — and dying out. State authorities had banned Marian novitiates since 1864, leaving Fr. Vincent literally alone. The situation seemed hopeless, but that's often the time God gets involved.
George was born on April 23, 1871, in Lugine, Lithuania. The gifted young man entered the seminary and became a diocesan priest on Nov. 20, 1898. Friends and colleagues remembered him as a brilliant thinker, a tireless worker, and a man of indomitable faith. Father George may have been content to remain a parish priest or an academic the rest of his life, but in 1904, God "told" him He had other plans.
That year, Fr. George was hospitalized for exhaustion and tuberculosis of the bone, a painful condition that would dog him for the rest of his life. On his sickbed in Transfiguration Charity Hospital in Warsaw, Poland, the ailing priest resigned his suffering to God's will.
Then his own transfiguration began. He became aware of a burning desire — no doubt put in his heart by the Holy Spirit — to help win salvation for souls, but how? Father George contemplated the matter into his next assignment as professor of sociology at a school in St. Petersburg, Russia, from 1907 to 1909.
Father George then heard about the dwindling Marians' plight. He loved the Marian Fathers, who had taught him in school and church in Mariampole, near his hometown. He contacted Fr. Vincent. Father George was an answer to the general's desperate appeal to God to rescue the Marians.
Father George immediately began formulating a plan to revive the community, rewriting its constitution. He retained the fundamental tenets of Marian Founder Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski (love of Mary Immaculate, prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, support of diocesan clergy) and brought them into the 20th century.
As Superior General, Father George founded Marian houses and novitiates in Europe and the United States and revived the Congregation as a relevant spiritual community.
One hundred years later, the Marian Fathers number 500 priests and brothers serving in 19 countries. These men continue the works Blessed Stanislaus had in mind with the founding of the Marians, which Blessed George resurrected in the renovation.
The Marian Renovator stands as a living reminder of one of life's great lessons: One person can make a difference.