St. Joseph Sebastian Pelczar
Founder of the Congregation of the Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Canonization date: 18 May 2003 by Pope John Paul II at the Vatican Basilica
Born January 17, 1842 at Korczyn bei Krosno, Poland. Raised in a pious family. Studied in Rzeszów, and entered the seminary at Przemysl in 1860. Ordained on 17 July 1864. Parish priest at Sambor.
Transferred to Rome in 1866, he studied at the Collegium Romanum (Gregorian University) and the Institute of Saint Apollinaris (Lateran University). Doctor of theology and a canon lawyer. Professor at the seminary at Przemysl from 1869 to 1877, and at the University of Krakow from 1877 to 1899, he was known as a great educator who was always available to students. Dean of the Theology Department. Rector of the University of Krakow from 1882 to 1883.
All the while he was teaching Joseph was still involved at the parish level. He worked with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and was president of the Society for the Education of the People for 16 years. He started hundreds of libraries, delivered free lectures, published over a thousand books, wrote several books of history, theology and canon law himself, and started a school for servants. He founded the Fraternity of Our Lady, Queen of the Polish Crown in 1891; the Fraternity cared for the poor, orphans, apprentices, servants, the sick and unemployed. With Blessed Klara Szczesna, he co-founded the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on 15 April 1894 in Krakow to work with the sick and young women, and to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Bishop of Przemysl in 1900 until his death in 1924. He made frequent visits to the parishes, supported the religious orders, conducted three synods, and worked for the education and religious formation of his priests. He encouraged devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, Eucharistic devotions, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Virgin Mary. He built and restored churches, built nurseries, kitchens, homeless shelters, schools for the poor, and gave tuition assistance to poor seminarians. He worked for the implantation of the social doctrine described in the writings of Pope Leo XIII. He left behind a large body of work including books, pastoral letters, sermons, addresses, prayers and other writings.
Died March 28, 1924 at Przemysl, Poland and his relics are in Przemysl Cathedral.
“Earthly ideals are fading away. I see the ideal of life in sacrifice, and the ideal of sacrifice in priesthood.” - Saint Joseph as a young man