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Patron Saint Andrew Bobola

The Bobolas who use the Leliwa coat of arms, are one of the oldest families of Poland. Their history probably reaches the XIII and definitely the XIV century and are identified with the Sandomierz region of Poland. Andrzej Bobola was born in 1591 in Strachocina near the town of Sanok in southern Poland. He was educated in the JesuitSchool in Braniewo. At the age of twenty he joined the Jesuits in Wilno and was ordained a priest in 1622. In this way his wish to lead people to Jesus through the bearing of sacraments became a reality.

Having completed his monastic formation he undertook pastoral care in Nieśwież where he soon gained a reputation for his sermons. Because of this his superiors wanted to transfer him to the capital, Warsaw. Despite the attempts of the Jesuits in Warsaw to facilitate this transfer, he was moved to Wilno where he worked in the parish of St.Casimir.

On 2 June 1630 he took his final monastic vows. He worked in Bobrujsk, Płock, Warsaw, Łomża, Wilno and finally in Pińsk (present day Belarus). His level headedness, good education, easy manner and positive influence on people was commented upon wherever he served.

In the last period of his life Andrew Bobola worked primarily as a missionary in the Polesie region. The task set by his superiors was not an easy one. The local inhabitants often lived in very primitive conditions and not always could differentiate between friend or foe, truth from falsehood. They were easily manipulated even pushed to crime. The poor peasants lived in squalor, small huts under one roof with their livestock.

Andrew Bobola taught the catechism, carried out christenings, heard confession, married people and distributed the Blessed Sacrament. He took an interest in the welfare of the neglected youth, gave succour to the oppressed Uniates and devoted much time to the orthodox population. The news of his successful conversion of two villages: Baldycze and Udrożyn to Catholicism spread far and wide.

The orthodox clergy feeling themselves endangered found allies in the roaming Cossacks. During one of their forays Fr.Andrew discovered that he himself was in danger. He tried to flee but the Cossack horsemen soon caught up with him. They demanded he renounce his faith, stripped him and trussed up they tortured him. They tied him between two horses which sped towards Janów a distance of 4 kilometres. During this time he was beaten, received a sabre cut on his left arm and several spear jabs leaving deep wounds. On Janów market square in the local slaughter house he was further sadistically tortured. His body was burned, his skin peeled by knives, his head squeezed between an oaken wreath. Death came by two strokes of a sabre to his neck.

The remains of Fr.Andrew Bobola became the object of veneration. The local population came in their masses to the window of the crypt of the JesuitChurch in Pińsk where he was laid to rest, to pay their respects to the martyr. It was not only the Catholics who came. After the partitions of Poland (1772, 1793 and 1795) the orthodox also came, seeing in him an interloculator with God. The oppressed nation looked for help. People who during his missionary work spat with disdain at the sight of a Roman Catholic priest were now driven by instinct to visit his grave. In fear that his remains may be profaned they were transferred to Połock in January 1808 where it was believed they would be safe under the care of the local Jesuits despite the disbandment of the order by the tsarist authorities.

In October 1853 Pope Pius IX raised Fr.Bobola to be Blessed. The efforts of the Polish Episcopate to have him declared a saint bore fruit in May 1938. In 1922 through the good offices of Pope Pius XI the Soviet authorities released the relics of Bl.Andrew Bobola to Rome. After his canonisation in May 1938 his relics were transferred to Poland via Yugoslavia, Hungary and Czechosolovakia. With much ceremony they travelled through Czechowice, Oświęcim, Kraków, Katowice, Poznań and Łódź before arriving in Warsaw. To this day his relics rest in the Jesuit Church of St.Andrew Bobola on Rakowiecka Street. St.Andrew Bobola is one of the secondary Patron Saints of Poland.