Photo: Marian Archives

A Marian's Perilous Journey

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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.

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Edwin U. Copingco - Jun 3, 2011

History of the Divine Mercy Devotion in St. John the Baptist Church, Jimenez, Mis Occ, Philippines.
Jimenez, Misamis Cccidental: The year was 1994, while working in Manila; I attended a Chapter Formation Seminar organized by Bro. Don de Castro, national promoter of the Divine Mercy Devotion in Tagaytay City. It was a three-day affair–October 21 to 23.
Of the 34 participants from around the country, only me came from Misamis Occidental, in Mindanao.

In my recollections during those three-day seminar about the message of God’s mercy handed down by then blessed [now Saint Faustina], I was touched. There, I decided to quit my job and help propagate the devotion in our parish back home.

I approached Archbishop Jesus Dosado and our parish priest and I was granted permission.

During the Divine Mercy Sunday in April 23, 1995, the first unofficial declaration of my propagation began.

In August 10, 1995, as the foundation stone of the Divine Mercy Devotion, we started to reach out a mission to the Ozamiz City Reformatory Center (OCRC) in Ozamiz City. We called it “Comfort the Imprisoned.”

There, we taught them about the Mercy of God, gave the prisoners foods and drinks and distributed rosaries to them.

All in all, 98 inmates benefited from our visit, which brought them the banner of the Divine Mercy Devotion.

On April 14, 1996 the second Sunday of Easter, we celebrated the Divine Mercy Sunday in our hometown. Archbishop Jesus Dosado was the main celebrant.

In his homily, Dosado told the faithful that he has no opposition to the devotion. “Wala koy pagsupak sa debosyon andam ko modawat ini apan walay naglihok.”

The archbishop’s words inspired me. So I made an effort promote the devotion. On October 5, 1996, we had a simple mass celebration of the Apostle of Divine Mercy Sister Faustina of Poland.
Since then, a perenial celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday every second Sunday of Easter and the feast day of Saint Faustina every October 5 was done.

Blessed Sister Faustina was canonized on Mercy Sunday April 30, 2000, by the late Pope John Paul II. During that day, we made a special contribution to honor of the saint.

I documented everything that happened during the celebration and I took photos and write ups pf my affairs with regards to the devotion and its propagation and sent them to the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow, Poland on August 13, 2001. In one of my letters to them, I requested for a first-class bone relic of St. Faustina.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Krakow granted my request. On April 7, 2002, Feast of The Divine Mercy Sunday, I read to the faithful the message from the sisters. We felt the welcome grace, the connection we have now with the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland, the guardianship of the Divine Mercy Devotion worldwide and the homeland of John Paul ll.

Archbishop Dosado endorsed me to the Vatican Ambassador to the Philippines, Most Rev. Antonio Franco, to secure my visa for me to travel Krakow, Poland to get the relic of Saint Faustina.

My visa was granted and I arrived in Krakow in October 31, 2002 at John Paul ll International Airport (Balice). I only had with me the clothes in my body and a borrowed winter jacket. The money in my pocket is only $230.

The Divine Mercy Shrine, Lagiewniki, is almost 10 kilometers away from the airport. I arrived at the Shrine at 3:00 O’clock in the afternoon. I prayed and knelt down in their outdoor chapel, thanking God for my safe arrival.

When I saw the Saint Faustina, I venerated and kissed it. I stayed in Krakow for three days. The sisters were very hospitable and accommodated me with food and lodging.

My flight back to Manila was news to the faithful.

Monday, November 4 was my arrival and people were eager to see and venerate the relic of St. Faustina. Before coming home to my province, I toured every parish and chapels in the diocese of Manila.

My itinerary included that of Radio VeritaS DZRV in Quezon City, Our Lord of Divine Mercy, Novaliches Quezon City, Holy Family Parish, Kamuning Quezon City, Buklod ng Pag-ibig Foundation Chapel in Cubao, Center for Peace Asia Chapel, Mandaluyong City ; ST. Peter and St. Paul Parish Quezon City.

From Manila, I boarded a ferry boat for Iligan City and traveled by land to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Ozamiz City.

I arrived at St. John the Baptist Parish in Jimenez on November 11, 2002. A concelebrated Mass was presided by Archbishop Jesus Dosado with eight other priests. There I read the message from Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, Poland to Parishioners of St. John the Baptist Parish.

In the year 2003, constant communication the development of the Divine Mercy Devotion and the relic of St. Faustina reported in Poland.

On Divine Mercy Sundays and the Feast Day of St. Faustina, they always give us a message through electronic mail. We were also happy when we celebrated the centenary Jubilee of the birth of the Saint (August 25, 1905 – August 25, 2005), One Hundred Years Birthday of St. Faustina because she was with us.

One Christmas, December 24, 2005, Sr. Salwatricze, a member of European parliament and one of the nuns in the congregation of the Sisters of our Lady of Mercy, sent me an email with words like “We are like Bethlehem, and unknown place but a chosen place where Christ is born.”

Like St. John the Baptist Church in Jimenez, an unknown church in this part of the country, we were blessed that that we were chosen to have a religious diplomatic relation with the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady in Krakow.

Saint Faustina is loved and venerated by us through her precious relic.

Her message to us is a priceless spiritual treasure.