Beatification process

Over the years, the sense of Białecka’s holiness was spreading in a very natural and unrestricted way. At some point, many, including her spiritual daughters, wanted to formalize her cult and thus to start pursuing the official beatification process. As expected, it was to bring this long-lasting spiritual phenomena to a new level. In time we learnt, that it took about 93 years since the death of Mother to effectively initiate the diocesan beatification process due to insurmountable problems rising in different intervals. Nonetheless, the very first attempt was undertaken right after the Second World War, that is, in 1948-51 out of the commission of Francis Barda, the Bishop of Przemyśl. Unfortunately, postwar financial scarcity, personal deficiencies, and, finally, the tragic death of the postulator, Fr. Efrem Gliński, O.P., rendered these first attempts void.

Next, the time of the Congregation’s 100th anniversary in 1961 seemed to be a prime time to renew beatification efforts. Mother Cherubina Schreiber, O.P., the then general, directed an official request to the Primate of Poland Venerable Stephan Wyszyński to reopen the process. The required biography along with two detailed descriptions of miracles were attached. What is more, the 60’s saw an intensification of various works related to the preservation of the cult of Białecka. First, the Congregation published two new titles treating on her life and work: “Personality of Mother Columba Białecka” by Sr. Estera Romualda Markowska, O.P. (1961) and “One Sacrifice with Jesus” by Sr. Serafina Steining (1964). Second, records demonstrate that the Congregation undertook numerous efforts to gather descriptions and thanksgivings for graces received through the intercession of Mother Białecka.

Subsequently, on June 25, 1970 the extraordinary general chapter convened in Biała Niżna unanimously approved the proposal to open the beatification process again. At that time, his Excellency Bishop Jerzy Ablewicz of Tarnów said about Mother Białecka:

What strikes in the life of Mother Columba is her perfect love as well as ardent and intimate friendship with the Eucharistic Jesus. This friendship she translated into love of a person in need, most deprived. Aristocrat herself, she understood the weight of social injustice. No wonder that she directed her Congregation towards bringing help and education to the simple people. What is being talked about in our day and age, she practiced already a hundred years ago.

Fr. Szczepan Jaroszewski, O.P. became the postulator of the process, however, he withdrew from the task in 1975. By the same token, the process was suspended once more.

Two years later, another general chapter of the Dominican Sisters led this time by Mother Serafina Steinig, O.P. decided to reopen the process. For this occasion, the author of “One Sacrifice with Jesus,” published yet another, larger biography of the Foundress titled “What Will I Offer to You, My Lord.” Bishop Józef Glemp was nominated to the post of the postulator on April 22, 1979. Next year, the primate of Poland, Cardinal Stephan Wyszyński allowed to pursue preparatory works with a special decree. Commenced on January 14, 1980, they lasted eight years in total. Meanwhile, Bishop Ignacy Tokarczuk called together the historic committee and set as its goal a thorough collection of any documentation pertaining to Columba Białecka stored in archives in Poland and abroad. September 23, 1981 Prelate Stefan Kośnik, Ph.D. replaced Bp Glemp as a postulator of the beatification cause of the Mother due to Glemp’s nomination to the Primacy of Poland.

April 19, 1982 saw an out of the ordinary procedure, namely, an earlier than the protocol allows exhumation of the earthly remains of Białecka. It was dictated by the need to add the last known of source to the beatification documentation of Mother Columba. The piece in question was written by Fr. Joseph Weber, the director of the Congregation at the time of Mother’s death and placed in the coffin on the day of her funeral, that is, March 22, 1887 by Fr. Ciechanowicz, the then pastor of the Wielowieś parish.

September 6, 1980 the historic committee finished its proceedings after a thorough and exhaustive query of accessible materials describing life, ministry, and holiness of Białecka. With that on board, the postulator of the case, Fr. Prelate Stefan Kośnik issued a letter to Bishop of Przemyśl Ignacy Tokarczuk seeking an official permission to open the diocesan process required for beatification. In response, after analysis of the attached documentation, Bishop Tokarczuk signed a decree affirming that there had been no falsehood or deception in the delay of the process (August 30, 1986). Now the Conference of the Polish Catholic Bishops needed to address the question of: is it right to begin the process of canonization of a Servant of God? The answer turn out to be a positive one.

April 21, 1988, the Bishop of Przemyśl made his nominations to the Diocesan Tribunal with Fr. Stanisłaus Cały as episcopal delegate, Fr. Stanislaus Górecki as the promoter of justice and two notaries Fr. Marian Balicki and Sr. Narcyza Teresa Wojtarowicz, O.P. Swearing of the Tribunal and the official beginning of the proceedings related to Mother Columba Białecka’s case took place in Przemyśl during the 1st session on May 17, 1988. The most work of the Tribunal rested on hearing witnesses and the historic committee in the case of cult and the opinion of holiness. Out of 27 sessions of the Tribunal, 23 were dedicated primarily to witnesses. The last session ended on May 31, 1989. Afterwards the official closing of the diocesan process took place and files got sealed. In November of 1988 the Holy Sea issued a nihil obstat for the entire work.

The time of the diocesan process was a period of very intensive prayers and studies in the charism of Columba Białecka. Both were accompanied by attempts to propagate at large her heritage particularly in parishes where sisters of the Congregation ministered. Parishes hosted the so-called “Days of Prayer for Beatification” during which the life and work of Białecka were presented. At the end of the process in the diocese, the entire documentation was sealed and on October 4, 1989 it was transported to Rome. While there, the postulator on the pontifical level Fr. Marian Rola, Ph.D. brought it to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. On January 20, 1990 the Roman process officially started. Happily, already on February 14, 1990 the Congregation received the decree proving validity of diocesan documentation.

Having quite swiftly passed through the introductory procedures in Rome, it took twelve years of work to prepare an extensive positio to prove that Columba Białecka lived her life heroically. Its publication occurred in July of 2002. In December of that year the congress of pontifical historians took place. Six historians thoroughly studied the position. Their positive vote meant that collected archival materials, authenticity and credibility of documents as well as the amount of evidence regarding Białecka’s virtues were sufficient to proceed with the beatification process.

Now floor was given to the congress of nine theologians. After four months of studies and analysis, on September 28, 2004, the position again received positive votes only to be turned into the hands of Archbishop P.G. Nesti. His task now was not only to get methodically acquainted with the life of Polish saint-to-be, but to defend her case before the Congress of Cardinals. Eventually, on December 14, 2004, by the vote of cardinals and the binding decision of the Holy Father, the case of Servant of God Columba Białecka was awarded the Decree of Heroic Virtues. The official promulgation of the document took place six days later in the Clementine Room at the Vatican in the presence of John Paul II.

The Holy Church, after so many years of an in-depth examination of the life of Mother Columba based on the preserved documents said this in the official Decree:

Servant of God Maria Columba Białecka (Rose Philipine in the world), the Foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Dominic, practiced in the heroic degree the theological virtues of faith, hope and love of God and neighbor along with cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, moderation, and courage.

As of now, the Congregation still awaits authentification of a miracle through the intercession of its Foundress. “Saint is a gift from God for the entire Church, not only for a religious community” used to say Fr. Fidel Gonzales,the rector of the Pontifical University

“Urbanianum.” Thus the responsibility for the gift of Mother Columba rests with the Congregation; however, it must and desires to share the gift of its saintly Foundress with others.