May 29: Saint Orsola Ledóchowska

Saint Orsola Ledóchowska, 1865 – 1939

“If only I knew how to love, to burn and consume oneself in love” – so the 24 year old Giulia Ledóchowska wrote before taking religious vows, novice in the Ursuline convent of Krakow. On the day of the religious profession she took the name ‘Maria Ursula of Jesus’, and the words stated above became the guide lines of her entire life. In her mothers’ family (of Swiss nationality and of the dynasty of the Salis), as well as in her fathers’ (an old Polish family) there were many politicians, military men, ecclesiastics and consecrated people, who were involved in the history of Europe and of the Church. She was raised in a family of numerous brothers and sisters where affectionate and disciplined love was dominant. The first three children, including M. Ursula, chose the consecrated life: Maria Teresa (beatified in 1975) founded the future ‘Society of S. Peter Claver’ and the younger brother Vladimiro became the general Preposito of the Jesuits.

M. Ursula lived in the convent at Krakow for 21 years. Her love for the Lord, her educational talent and sensibility towards the needs of youngsters in the changing social, political and moral conditions of those times put her at the centre of attention. When women earned the right to study in Universities, she succeeded in organising the first boarding-house in Poland for female students where they not only found a safe place to live and study, but also received a solid religious preparation. This passion, together with the blessing of Pope Pio X, gave her the strength to move into the heart of Russia which was hostile towards the Church. When, in civilian dress, she left with another Sister for Petersburg (where religious life was prohibited) she did not know that she was headed towards an unknown destination and that the Holy Spirit would lead her upon roads she had not foreseen. 

In Petersburg the Mother with the steadily growing community of nuns (soon established as an autonomous structure of the Ursulines) lived secretly, and even though under constant surveillance by the secret police, they brought forward an intense educational and religious project which was also directed towards the encouragement of relationships between Polish and Russians.

When war broke out starts in 1914, M. Ursula had to leave Russia. She headed for Stockholm and during her Scandinavian travels (Sweden, Denmark, Norway) her activity concentrated not only on education, but also on the life of the local Church, on giving aid to the war victims and on ecumenical work. The house where she lived with her nuns became a point of reference for people of different political and religious orientation. Her strong love for her country was the same as her tolerance towards ‘diversity’ and towards others. Once asked to speak of her political orientation, she promptly answered ‘My policy is love’.

In 1920 M. Ursula, her sisters and a vast number of orphan children of immigrants returned to Poland. The Apostolic Headquarters transforms its autonomous convent of the ‘Ursulines of the Sacred Agonising Heart of Jesus’ The spirituality of the congregation is concentrated on the contemplation of the salvific love of Christ and participation in His mission by means of educational projects and service to others, particularly to the suffering, the lonely and the abandoned who were searching for the meaning of life. M. Ursula educated her sisters to love God above everything else and to find God in every human being and in all Creation. She gave a particularly credible testimony to the personal bond with Christ and to being an efficient instrument of both Evangelical and educational influence by means of her smile and serenity of soul. Her humility and capacity to live the ordinary everyday routine as a privileged road towards holiness made her a clear example of this life style. 

The congregation developed quickly. The communities of the Ursuline nuns in Poland and on the eastern frontiers of the country which were poor, multinational and multi-confessional were established. In 1928 the Generalate was established in Rome along with a boarding-house for girls who were economically less well-off, in order to give them the possibility to come into contact with the spiritual and religious richness of the heart of the Church and of European civilisation. The Sisters began to work in the poor suburbs of Rome. In 1930 the nuns accompanied girls in search of work and established themselves in France. Wherever possible M.Ursula founded educational and instructional work centres. She sent the nuns to Catechise and to work in the poor parts of town. She wrote books and articles for children and youngsters.

She initiated and sustained ecclesiastical organisations for children (Eucharistic Movement), for youngsters and for women. She actively participated in the life of the Church and State thus receiving great acknowledgement and decorations from both the State and the Church. When her laborious and not easy life came to an end in Rome on May 29, 1939, people said of her: “She died a saint”.

His Holiness Pope John Paul II beatified M. Ursula on June 20, 1983 in Poznan.   

SOURCE: http://www.vatican.va

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5 Responses to May 29: Saint Orsola Ledóchowska

  1. Why is her brother, Wlodimir Ledochowski, Jesuit Superior General 1915-1942 so obscure?

    Why does not the Catholic Church canonize him, or make movies about him?

  2. The Catholic Church really doesn’t make movies – individuals and apostolates do…

    That being said, you have intrigued me so I “googled” Fr. Ledochowski and found (via wiki):

    Włodzimierz Ledóchowski, S.J. (October 7, 1866 – December 13, 1942) was the twenty-sixth Superior-General of the Society of Jesus.

    He was born on the family estate Sitzenthal in Loosdorf, near St. Pölten (Lower Austria), the son of Count Antoni Halka Ledochowski. His uncle was Mieczysław Halka Ledóchowski, and his sisters included Saint Ursula Ledóchowska, and Blessed Maria Teresia Ledóchowska. His brother Ignacy Kazimierz Ledóchowski was a General in the Polish Army.

    He studied at the Theresianum in Vienna and for a time was page to the Empress. He studied Law at the University of Kraków and then began studies for the secular priesthood.

    While attending the Gregorian University, he decided to become a Jesuit and entered the Society in 1889. Five years later he was ordained a Jesuit priest. At first he took to writing, but was soon made Superior of the Jesuit residence in Kraków, then, Rector of the College. He became the Polish Vice-Provincial in 1901 and Provincial of Galicia in 1902. From 1906 until February 1915 he was the German Assistant.

    After the death of Franz Xavier Wernz, the 49-year-old Ledochowski was elected the 26th General of the Society on February 11, 1915 on the second ballot.

    Despite the upheaval of the First World War, the Second World War and the economic Depression of the 1930s, the Society increased during Ledochowski’s term. He called the 27th General Congregation to take place at the Germanico to acquaint the Society with the new code of Canon Law (published in 1917) and to bring the Jesuit Constitutions into line with it. He called another Congregation (the 28th)—between March 12 and May 9, 1937—in order for the delegates to appoint a Vicar General as he was now feeling the effects of age and needed competent assistance. He established the Pontifical Oriental Institute and the Pontifical Russian College as well as the Institutum Biblicum of the Gregorian University. He saw a certain emancipation of the Society after the Concordat between the Church and the Italian Government was ratified. Property was returned to the Society making it possible for the Jesuits to build a new Gregorian University building transferring from the Palazzo Borgomeo on via del Seminario to Piazza Pilotta within a few paces of the Quirinal Palace. He then built the new Curia Generalis in the rione of Borgo, on property acquired from the Vatican on Borgo Santo Spirito–about a hundred meters from St. Peter’s Square. The Concordat, somewhat engineered by a Jesuit, Father Tacchi-Venturi, put new life into the Society and its property increased with its influence and reputation.

    Ledochowski’s Generalate was one of the most productive, physically as well as spiritually, certainly since the restoration. Ledochowski also saw the beginnings of the Second World War and was torn by the sufferings of his Jesuit sons on both sides, especially of the Jesuits persecuted by German occupiers in his native Poland during the first three years of the war. According to a premature obituary in The New York Times, dated December 10, 1942:

    Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, who met Father Ledochowski in 1930, wrote later that “everyone in Rome I was told that Father Ledochowski would rank as one of the two or three greatest heads of the Jesuit Order,” an estimate which would group him with such men as Ignatius Loyola, the first [Jesuit] general, Francisco Borgia, the third, and [Claudius] Aquaviva, the fifth.

    According to Malachi Martin, in The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church at page 221:

    It was during the twenty-seven year Generalate of Father Wlodzimierz Ledochowski (1915-1942) that the traditional character of the Society received the firmest stamp and clearest definition since the Generalate of Claudio Acquaviva in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One might even say that Ledochowski insisted on fidelity to the structure of Jesuit obedience, was an almost merciless disciplinarian,and maintained a stream of instructions flowing out to the whole Society about every detail of Jesuit life and Ignatian ideals. He know exactly what Jesuits should be according to the Society’s Constitutions and traditions; and under strong hands of two quite authoritarian Popes, Pius XI and Pius XII, he reestablished the close ties that had once linked papacy and Jesuit Generalate. Ledochowski, in fact, gave renewed meaning to that old Roman nickname of the Jesuit Father General, “the Black Pope. Just as Pius XII can be described as the last of the great Roman Popes, so Ledochowski can be called the last of the great Roman Generals of the Jesuits.

    There seemed, indeed, during those years of Ledochowski, Pope Pius XI, and Pius XII, no real limit to what both Jesuitism and overall Roman Catholicism could achieve. Even – especially, we should say – in the afterglow of Ledochowski’s long reign and into the Generalate of his successor, Belgian Jean-Baptise Janssens, the magic power of momentum seemed to continue.

    He died in Rome. After his funeral in the Church of the Gesù his remains were interred in the Society’s mausoleum at Campo Verano on the eastern edge of Rome.

  3. Douglas Willinger says:

    “Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, who met Father Ledochowski in 1930, wrote later that “everyone in Rome I was told that Father Ledochowski would rank as one of the two or three greatest heads of the Jesuit Order,” an estimate which would group him with such men as Ignatius Loyola, the first [Jesuit] general, Francisco Borgia, the third, and [Claudius] Aquaviva, the fifth.

    According to Malachi Martin, in The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church at page 221:

    It was during the twenty-seven year Generalate of Father Wlodzimierz Ledochowski (1915-1942) that the traditional character of the Society received the firmest stamp and clearest definition since the Generalate of Claudio Acquaviva in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One might even say that Ledochowski insisted on fidelity to the structure of Jesuit obedience, was an almost merciless disciplinarian,and maintained a stream of instructions flowing out to the whole Society about every detail of Jesuit life and Ignatian ideals. He know exactly what Jesuits should be according to the Society’s Constitutions and traditions; and under strong hands of two quite authoritarian Popes, Pius XI and Pius XII, he reestablished the close ties that had once linked papacy and Jesuit Generalate. Ledochowski, in fact, gave renewed meaning to that old Roman nickname of the Jesuit Father General, “the Black Pope. Just as Pius XII can be described as the last of the great Roman Popes, so Ledochowski can be called the last of the great Roman Generals of the Jesuits.

    There seemed, indeed, during those years of Ledochowski, Pope Pius XI, and Pius XII, no real limit to what both Jesuitism and overall Roman Catholicism could achieve. Even – especially, we should say – in the afterglow of Ledochowski’s long reign and into the Generalate of his successor, Belgian Jean-Baptise Janssens, the magic power of momentum seemed to continue.”

    The Catholic Church DOES canonize.

    Why then don’t they canonize this one of the greatest Superior Generals Wlodimir Ledochowski?

  4. No one said it is done overnight for everyone. Causes take time, money, resources, interest… The most likely “sponsors” for the cause – the Jesuits – may not be (these days) nearly as excited about this paragon of piety as you and I might be…

    So it goes…

    Contact the Society of Jesus to see if efforts are in the works.

  5. Check out the tags ‘Wlodimir Ledochowski’ and ‘Kulterkampf Revenge’ at my blog.

    I think you will realize why the Jesuit Order mentions him so infrequently-at least in public.

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