Father Julian Leszczyński

Julian Leszczyński was born May 17, 1818 in Brzozów, near Sanok, Poland. Having completed his high school education in Przemyśl with highest distinction, he began his studies at the local seminary. He entered the Order of Bernardines at the beginning of the second year, but had to return to the seminary after only a few months due to his feeble health. He was ordained priest in 1842. Well-versed in French, Italian, Spanish, German, and English, he collected an extensive library of theological works which greatly contributed to his ongoing education. In 1848, he became a delegate to the parliamentary session of Habsburg Austria, originally in Vienna, and later in Kromieryż. As a deputy, he fought for Catholic Church’s rights and for freedom of religion. While in the office, he made friends with Count John Tarnowski. In the Tarnowski’s opinion, Fr. Leszczyński was an exceptional person. He was an expert in such fields as literature, science, the arts, and, particularly, in spirituality. Count Tarnowski testified that he radiated “the purest love of God.”

1860 saw a new beginning in Leszczyński’s life. He was appointed pastor of the parish in Wielowieś near Dzików (what is now the outskirts of Tarnobrzeg, Poland). That year, during his visti in Przemyśl, Leszczyńki met Columba Białecka. At the request of Fr. Jandel, the General of the Order of Preachers, she had returned just a few months earlier from France. Her resolve was to found an apostolic Dominican community of sisters. Faced with multiple difficulties from the very start, she stayed with the Benedictines in Przemyśl where she worked on the Constitutions for the new congregation. It was in the midst of this foundational work when Bialecka and Leszczyński providentially crossed their paths.

Leszczyński represented a very narrow fraction of clergy of the time who understood the need for a charism of active religious women. Thus, when the occasion arose, without further due, he invited Mother Columba and her new community to Wielowieś. The sisters’ task was to minister to parishioners in desperate need of education, evangelization, and health care. To express his utmost support, he rendered himself at the disposal of the new foundation. He first focused his expertise, enthusiasm, and connections to facilitate the construction of the convent and chapel. To accomplish this, he requested an architect from Vienna to design both. He took stewardship of the entire construction enterprise. When free from his ministerial duties, he was found overseeing the progress which involved most of the villagers. He sued his numerous contacts in affluent circles to raise money and support for his Dominicans. It was no surprise that Leszczyński was appointed Episcopal Vicar for the Congregation by Bishop Adam Jasiński at the personal request of Mother Columba. For many years, Leszczyński served as spiritual director and confessor to the community. He even became a tertiary of the Dominican Order in 1869, and made his vows in the hands of Fr. General Vincent Jandel during his visit to Wielowieś.

The final years of Leszczyński’s life were marked with intense suffering. Facial cancer slowly weakened his stamina. The physical pain greatly affected him psychologically and spiritually. Two years prior to his death, Leszczyński left Wielowieś to join his only brother, Stanislaus Leszczyński from Jabłonica, who invited him to stay in Orzechówka, a leased village. Sister Markolina Wojtowicz and Sister Ludwika Wittstock, both from the Congregation, accompanied him, carefully watching over him until he passed away on August 5, 1882. Mother Columba sent the two sisters to express the tremendous gratitude of the Congregation for Leszczyński’s many years of dedication to the young community.