LADISLAUS FINDYSZ (1907-1964)
Ladislaus Findysz was born on 13th December 1907 in Krościenko Niżne, near Krosno (Poland) to Stanislaus Findysz and Apollonia Rachwał, peasants of long-standing Catholic tradition. The following day, 14th December 1907, he was baptised in the parish church of the Holy Trinity in Krosno, and so began for him the life of grace.
In 1919, on concluding four years of study in the elementary school run by Felician Sisters (CSSF) in Krościenko Niżne, he entered the state-run grammar school. As a young pupil, Ladislaus joined the Marian Solidality. In May 1927 he sat the school leaving exams and joined in a retreat organised for school leavers. In the autumn of that year he moved to Przemyśl and entered the major seminary, beginning studies in philosophy and theology at the Institute there. His preparation for the priesthood was guided by the Rector, Blessed Father John Balicki. The high point of this formative period was priestly ordination, which Monsignor Anatol Nowak, Bishop of Przemyśl, conferred on Ladislaus on 19th June 1932, in his cathedral. After a month’s leave, on 1st August, Father Findysz took up his posting as assistant curate in the parish of Borysław (today in the Ukraine). On 17th September 1935 he was appointed curate in the parish of Drohobycz (also in the Ukraine), and on 1st August 1937 he was transferred to the parish of Strzyżów, again as curate, where on 22nd September 1939, he was appointed as parish administrator. Following this, on 10th October 1940, Ladislaus was appointed as curate in Jasło, and then on 8th July of the following year as administrator of the Parish of SS. Peter and Paul Apostles in Nowy Żmigród. A year later, on 13th August 1942, he became parish priest of this same parish.
Three years as pastor of Nowy Żmigród were marked by unfailing commitment to pastoral work and the painful experiences of the War. On 3rd October 1944, along with the rest of the town’s inhabitants, Father Ladislaus was expelled by the Germans. On his return, on 23rd January 1945, he committed himself to reorganizing the parish.
Father Ladislaus’ service continued after the War through the hard times of the communist regime. Father Findysz continued with the work of moral and religious renewal in the parish, giving his all to protect the faithful – especially the young – from the systematic and intensive atheism imposed by Communism. He also helped the inhabitants of the parish with material aid, regardless of their nationality or denomination. He saved numerous (Greek Catholic) families who were severely persecuted by the communist authorities, and threatened with expulsion from their place of residence without the slightest chance of reprieve, from Łemki. Father Findysz’s pastoral work proved most discomforting for the communist authorities. From 1946 onwards he was placed under surveillance by the secret service. In 1952 academic authorities suspended him from teaching the Catechism in the secondary school. He was prevented from continuing his activity throughout the parish because, on two occasions (in 1952 and 1954), the district authorities rejected his request for permission to live within the border area where part of the parish was situated.
As far as the ecclesiastical authorities were concerned Father Ladislaus was considered a zealous parish priest, receiving recognition as an honorary canon in 1946 and subsequently being accorded the privilege of the rochet and mantelletta in 1957. In the same year he was appointed as vice-dean of the Nowy Żmigród deanery, being appointed dean in 1962.
In 1963 he began the pastoral activity of the “Conciliar Works of Charity” (a sort of Vatican Council spiritual support). He sent letters of exhortation to parishioners living in irregular religious and moral situations, encouraging them to reorder their Christian lives. The communist authorities reacted very severely to this activity, and accused him of forcing the faithful to participate in religious rites and practices. On 25th November 1963, after being interrogated by the Procurator of the Voivodeship of Rzeszów, he was arrested and imprisoned in Rzeszów Castle. From 16th to 17th December 1963 his trial took place in the Voivodeship tribunal in Rzeszów, and he was condemned and given a custodial sentence of two years and six months. The motivation for the investigation, the accusation and the subsequent condemnation of Father Findysz was rooted in the Decree “Protection of the Freedom of Conscience and Denomination” of 5th August, 1949. This, however, was simply an instrument in the hands of the communist authorities to restrict, and ultimately eliminate “faith” and the Catholic Church from public and private life in Poland. Father Findysz was also publicly discredited, libelled and condemned through specially edited publications in the press. He was kept in the Rzeszów Castle prison where he suffered from malnutrition as well as being subjected to physical, psychological and spiritual humiliation. On 25th January 1964 he was transferred to the central prison in Montelupich Street in Cracow.
Just before being arrested in September 1963, Father Ladislaus underwent a serious operation in Gorlice hospital to remove his thyroid gland, the state of his health remained uncertain due to the risk of complications. He convalesced under the care of the medics whilst waiting for a second surgical intervention planned for December of the same year – this time to remove a cancerous growth in the oesophagus. Without doubt the interrogation, trial and imprisonment had serious implications for the state of Father Findysz’s health, and he had to be cared for in the prison hospital. Due to a lack of proper care and the requisite medical expertise his health did not improve. The planned surgery to remove the cancerous growth of the oesophagus and a blockage of the stomach was postponed. In reality, he was condemned to a slow death. The illness ran its course as the results of medical examinations undertaken in the prisons of Rzeszów and Cracow attest. Indeed, the very first clinical examination undertaken by the prison doctor on 9th December 1963 revealed an abscess in the throat with a suspected tumour of the oesophagus.
From the outset of Father Ladislaus’ condemnation to a custodial sentence his lawyer and the diocesan curia of Przemyśl sought recourse to the Procurator and the Tribunal of Rzeszów, petitioning for the suspension of his arrest on the grounds of the precarious state of his health and the risk of death. The requests were refused. They were, however, accepted by the Supreme Court in Warsaw as late as at the end of February 1964.
Given the serious state of his health, Father Ladislaus returned to Nowy Żmigród from prison on 29th February 1964. Manifesting great patience and submission to God’s will he remained in the presbytery, bearing the sufferings of his illness as well as exhaustion. In the April he was admitted to the specialist hospital in Wrocław. In spite of the treatment clinical tests confirmed the diagnosis of a cancerous growth between the oesophagus and the stomach. Further medical examination confirmed that Father Findysz’s tumour, given its advanced state of growth, was no longer operable. Suffering with his pulmonary emphysema, and a relapse into severe anaemia which meant that death was close at hand, he returned home.
During the summer months he took part in the spiritual retreat for priests in the major seminary of Przemyśl. This was to be his last retreat in preparation for death.
On the morning of 21st August 1964, after having received the Sacraments, he died in the presbytery of Nowy Żmigród, and on 24th August was buried in the parish cemetery. Monsignor Stanislaus Jakiel, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Przemyśl, presided at the funeral, together with 130 priests and many faithful.
On 27th June 2000, following numerous requests from the faithful, Monsignor Kazimierz Górny, Bishop of Rzeszów, began the diocesan process for the beatification of the Servant of God Ladislaus Findysz. The acts of the diocesan inquest were sent to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome on 18th October 2002.
During the Roman stage of the cause for beatification the theological consulters and then the members of the Congregation – Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops – recognised that the Servant of God, Father Ladislaus Findysz, was arrested and condemned by the authorities of the Communist regime on account of his proclamation of the Gospel. What’s more, his imprisonment and the physical and spiritual suffering he endured were directly responsible for his death. This being the case, it is necessary to recognise Father Findysz as a Martyr for the faith. This proposal was presented to the Holy Father and was duly approved by him. Then on 20th December 2004, in the presence of His Holiness Pope John Paul II, the decree of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints was promulgated, recognising Father Ladislaus Findysz as a Martyr for the faith.
This is the first successful cause for beatification, based on the martyrdom of a Servant of God who was the victim of the Communist Regime in Poland. What’s more, this is the first cause for beatification in the Diocese of Rzeszów.