September 4, Bl Maria Stella and Companions

September 4
BLESSED MARIA STELLA and COMPANIONS, VIRGINS and MARTYRS
Optional memorial

Maria Stella (Adele Mardosewicz) was born on 14 December 1888 in a village called Ciasnówka. She took perpetual vows in the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth on 1 May 1921. From 1939 she was Mother Superior in the house of Christ the King in Nowogródek, where along with 10 companions she was murdered by the Nazis during World War II. The nuns offered their lives for the arrested inhabitants of Nowogródek, fulfilling the Nazarene charisma of serving families. God accepted the sacrifice of eleven sisters: Stella Mardosewicz, Imelda Żak, Raymonda Kukołowicz, Daniela Jóźwik, Canute Chrobot, Sergia Rapiej, Guida Cierpka, Felicity Borowik, Heliodora Matuszewska, Canisia Mackiewicz and Boromea Narmontowicz. Arrested on 31 July 1943, after having spent their night of Gethsemane in prison, they were shot on 1 August 1943. All the arrested inhabitants were spared. Since their beatification on 5 March 2000, the Church has held them up as an example of love and protection against attacks of manifold evil that threaten the contemporary family.

Common of Several Martyrs.

SECOND READING

From the speech of John Paul II upon the beatification
(“L’Osservatore Romano”, 6-7 III 2000, 6-8)
They unanimously offered their lives to God

“I praise you, O God my saviour! I will make known your name, refuge of my life; you have been my helper against my adversaries. You have saved me from death.”

You, O Lord, were my help! I hear in my heart the echo of these words from Sirach when I contemplate the miracles that God worked in the lives of our brothers and sisters in faith who were given the palm of martyrdom. Today I am blessed to elevate them to the altars, presenting them to the whole Church as bright testimony to God’s power, revealed in human weaknesses.

I will praise you, God my saviour! The new blesseds, the first ones in the year of the Jubilee, claim with their lives given up as a a sacrifice in the name of Christ that God is the Father. God is the support and help. He is our saviour who listens to the pleas of those who trust him with all their heart.

In commemorating these heroic Nazareth Sisters, Jesus’s words come to mind: “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” They perfectly confirmed the truth of these words by their lives filled with devotion and by their death. Before the war and during the occupation, they zealously served the inhabitants of Nowogródek, participating actively in pastoral care and education and engaging in various works of charity. Their love for those among whom they fulfilled their mission took on special significance during the horror of the Nazi invasion. Together and unanimously they offered their lives to God, asking in exchange that the lives of the mothers and fathers of families and that of the local pastor be spared. The Lord graciously accepted their sacrifice and, we believe, abundantly rewarded them in His glory.

God was the true support and strength for the Martyrs of Nowogródek: Blessed Maria Stella Mardosewicz and her ten Companions from the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. He was their support throughout their lives, especially during the time of the horrible trial, when at night they waited for death and later on the way to the place of execution and finally when the shooting took place.

From where did they take the strength to offer themselves to God to save the lives of the arrested inhabitants of Nowogródek? From where did they derive the courage to peacefully accept such cruel and unjust death sentence? God made them prepared step by step for this moment of the greatest trial. The seed of grace sown in the soil of their hearts during baptism and then tended to with great care and responsibility, rooted deep and bore the most incredible fruit that is the gift of one’s own life.

We thank you, blessed martyrs of Nowogródek, for this testimony to love and for the example of Christian heroism and the trust in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Christ chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain.” Your are the most precious heritage of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. You are the heritage of the entire Church of Christ for ever, especially in Belarus.

Today, together with the entire Congregation of Nazareth Sisters, let us praise God for this grace, through which the religious charisma and human zeal were able to yield such marvellous fruits of martyrdom. May the blood of these Blessed Sisters be the seed of new religious vocations and support for many on the ways to holiness.[1]

RESPONSORY 2 Corinthians 4:11; 16

We who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus,
So that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
So that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

CONCLUDING PRAYER

O God, the power of the humble,
during their martyrdom you miraculously supported Blessed Virgins Maria Stella and her Companions who shed blood for faith.
Grant through their intercessions that we may also stay faithful to you and your Church till our death.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum. Probatum seu confirmatum, die 3 maii 2002, Prot. 794/02/L.

[1] Translated by DChojnacki (2014).

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