„Alter Christus” for us and between us
”Spirit before matter, Person before thing, Ethics before technics, Love above all”.
ALEKSANDER ZIENKIEWICZ, priest
Prelate Aleksander Zienkiewicz, ”Uncle”
A PICTURE PAINTED BY DARIUSZ GODLEWSKI
Servant of God, Prelate Aleksander Zienkiewicz, “Uncle”, (1910–1995) was one of the best known and distinguished priests and educators in the Wrocław Archdiocese.
As a priest
He was believed to be a priest of deep faith and humility, material poverty, ready to help everybody, one with heroic availability. His role in shaping the attitudes and characters of young people was great and invaluable. He showed them how to achieve the highest ideals of the Bible – love of God and other people – which, in his real life, meant the perfect unity of the mind and will with God. Thanks to God’s love which transformed his spirit from day to day and took possession of his soul, he was able to live for God and people.
He taught that true love should be the selfless approach to everybody and everything. He was aware that love and holiness were gifts from God, so he accepted them and they found expression in his obedience to God’s will. He said that love of God must not be separated from love of man, especially one’s closest family, so the main aim for him was to prepare the youth for marital love.
He accented the importance of love for wife, husband and children. He saw very clearly (over fifty years ago) the threats to family life and upbringing children, so as a result, he wrote a lot of articles and gave many lectures about love, marriage and family. He wanted to help to find the right methods for preserving the most important values for the nation: family and faith. As a summary of his thoughts and knowledge he wrote a book “It is necessary to learn love” to show the best way of preparing young people for true and mature love. This should be based on the perception of the value, respect and kindness, care and responsibility, dedication and sacrifice for a loved one. It was an important concern in his priestly life, so he was able to work with heroic sacrifice among students to whom he was not only priest and tutor but also best friend. He built his life and the whole process of youth education on the Good News which was his prayer, life and love. Thanks to his devotion to Jesus and by fulfilling His will, he became a person of heavily integrated personality. He sacrificed and subordinated himself to God’s love thanks to cooperation with grace and practising virtues. Therefore, it was easy for him to believe and repeat with deep faith: “If God will allow it”.
As a person
He was born on 12/08/1910 in a small village situated in the Eastern Borderlands of Poland, as the eldest of the eleven children of a poor noble family. Being a very good pupil at successive schools and feeling the call to the priesthood, he entered the Seminary in 1931, where he was one of the best and hardest working students.
In 1938 he was ordained a priest and chose the words “Thy will be done” as the main idea for his future life and he was faithful to this choice till the end.
He worked in different positions and places according to his bishops’ decisions.
He was nominated and sent to Nowogródek to be a chaplain of the Sisterhood of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
During the Second World War (1943) eleven nuns sacrificed their lives for him. Thanks to their attitude, Father Aleksander miraculously survived and decided to dedicate his life to others. In 1946, he and a lot of people who lived in eastern Poland had to leave for the western part.
After arriving there he worked as a chaplain at schools and he was involved in the process of teaching and bringing up youths at a special time in Poland due to the spread of atheism and relativism. Besides being a religion teacher, he also had a few very important functions in Church institutions.
From 1953 to 1958, he was the Rector of the Metropolitan Seminary in Wrocław. He was seen as a priest of great gentleness, personal culture, humility, goodness, deep devotion and enormous authority among professors and clerics.
Father Aleksander was sure that patriotism and a love of Polish history were very important in the process of education.
He knew that truth shapes young people’s hearts. He was definitely a person of truth with his personal saintliness, goodness and heroic virtues. He was said to have been sent by God’s Providence, because this was a difficult time for the Catholic Church. Being such an important and valuable person, Father Zienkiewicz was asked to become a bishop but he never agreed to be nominated. He did not want to leave behind the duty which he loved the most, which was his work with and for students.
As an uncle
He was the creator of the Main Centre of Academic Priesthood in Wrocław called “Four” located at 4, Cathedral Street. This was also the place where he lived and offered help to young people on “a continual work shift” until 1994. When he worked for students in the 1950s, 60s and 70s as a priest, he was not allowed to organise students around the Church but despite this he invited students to the Centre, organised lectures, meetings, trips and holidays for them. During events organised away from the “Four”, he could not be recognised as a priest, so the students called him “Uncle”. At the time of communism in Poland many priests had nicknames. Father Karol Wojtyła, for example, now Saint John Paul, was “Uncle” in Kraków.
Uncle Aleksander’s foster children saw the enormous peace in his heart.
He enriched them with his good words and by being Jesus’s witness on Earth.
Due to the fact that he longed for perfection and holiness in his personal life, he was dipped in God. He talked about Him with his words, gestures and smile. He was always willing to lend a helping hand to everybody.
This was a man of deep internal life, to whom prayer was as daily bread, an indispensable diet and consequence of faith. He was sure when saying that, with God’s grace, Jesus created a man on his own nature, who, as a person, should get ready to accept Him and try “to be more than to have more”.
He radiated love and willingly imbued others with it. He was always ready to help, to talk and volunteer as a priest.
He was very empathetic to other people and taught the youth to be sensitive to other people by often repeatedly saying “attention, a human” to emphasise somebody’s worth and dignity. It was almost like a sign-post in relations with others. His continual concern was oriented towards the youth, to increase their knowledge about the Bible, theology and Christian spirituality. He was convinced that true faith begins with a personal relationship to God which meant the acknowledgment of subservience, trust and love of God.
Father Aleksander was not only an extraordinarily expressive person with a characteristic way of speaking, walking or wearing his glasses, but he also had a personality integrated into a very high level of moral, mental and emotional life. He allowed people to take from his priest’s life everything with no end, to the rest of his days.
Throughout his life, Father Zienkiewicz belonged to Jesus and fulfilled His will.
He wanted others to be Jesus’s “closest friends”, so he wrote in his will: “Trust in Christ. Hold His hand in your hands and never let it go”. He gave everybody a good example to follow, just like he followed those who had gone before him on the register of blessed.
As a Servant of God
Uncle Aleksander died on 21/11/1995 in the opinion of holiness and on the basis of the holy life he had led and his heroic actions he fully deserves beatification, a process which is in progress. All who met him pray and deeply believe that one day the Servant of God, Priest Prelate Aleksander Zienkiewicz will be numbered among the saints.