The Sanctity of Blessed Marta Wiecka
by Sr. Jozefa Watroba D.C., Vice Postulator of the Cause
Translated by Maria Kantor
Despite the common conviction sanctity does not depend on extraordinary achievements or miracles. The great things God does within a human soul are simple. Sanctity simply means love. It should be a conscious way of every Christian. In her time this way was chosen by the Servant of God Sr. Marta Wiecka.
What are the merits of Sr. Marta that she was chosen from among one thousand nuns to sanctity? She lived only 30 years, including 18 spent at home and 12 in the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity of Vincent de Paul, in Poland known as the "Szarytki".
The life of Sr. Marta Wiecka fell at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Poland was enslaved. The region where Sr Wiecka was born was under the Prussian partition.
Marta was born to a country gentleman Marcello Wiecki, Leliwa coat of arms, and to Paulina Kamrowska. She was baptized six days after her birth on 18 January 1874 in the church in Szczodrowo, which was a filial church of the parish in Skarszewy. Then there were more children.
Her mother was often sick and Marta cared for her younger sisters and brothers from her early age. She did the housework. She was an energetic and clever child. She learned to be responsible for others. Her family and neighbors remembered a special event from that period. Marta found a statue of St John Nepomucen at her relatives’ attic. She took it, cleaned and restored it and asked her parents to place it in front of the house. From that moment till the end of her life Marta had a special devotion to this Saint.
At the age of 16 Marta decided to enter a religious congregation. She went to the Daughters of Charity to the nearby Chelmno (Culm), asking them for admission. To her astonishment she heard that she was too young and had to wait two years. She used the time to make a dowry that she needed to enter the Congregation. She fulfilled her duties with even bigger eagerness.
A few months before entering the Congregation Marta learned that her friend Monika Gdaniec wanted to choose the same way of life. On her behalf she wrote a letter to the Sister Inspector in Chelmno asking her to admit Monika. Unfortunately, because of the yearly limit of aspirants, imposed by the Prussian authorities, the Sister Visitatrice directed Monika Gdaniec to the postulancy program in the Krakow Province. In order to prevent eventual hesitance of her friend Marta also wrote to the Sister Visitatrice in Krakow. The answer was positive. Both were admitted. And Marta gave up her place in Chelmno, close to her hometown, and chose distant Krakow to help her friend fulfill her special vocation.
After the formation program (Postulancy) and the seminary in 8 Warszawska Street Marta was admitted to wearing the religious habit of the Daughters of Charity in April 1893. Her first post was the hospital in Lviv. She learned nursing from the older experienced nuns, assisting in medical operations and examinations. The hospital in Lviv was a wonderful school for her. She quickly gained the opinion of a sister who loved patients and served them with great dedication.
After she had stayed a year and half in Lviv Sr. Marta worked five years in the hospital in Podhaytsi and then she was transferred to the hospital in Bochnia. She offered patients professional care and first of all she cared for their salvation. Her sister superior Maria Chablo recollects, ‘It is difficult to describe how much effort she put to convince patients to go to confession, to receive holy sacraments. Hard hearts melted and were sincerely united with God, influenced by her words.’
The post in Bochnia was a place of special suffering for Sr. Marta. A wicked man left hospital and he gossiped out of jealousy that Marta was expecting a baby. The gossip was widespread. Many citizens in Bochnia believed the gossip. But God gave Marta a real defender in the person of her superior Sr. Maria Chablo who actually risked her life by doing that. The slanderer attacked the sister superior with a knife twice. When he was dying he pleaded guilty and renounced all his slanders.
When Sr. Marta suffered from the false accusations, mockery and slander God gave her a special grace. She had a vision of the cross from which Jesus spoke encouraging her to bear all adversities and promised to take her to him soon. Strengthened by God’s grace she continued her regular duties with the same goodness and humility. Although she suffered a lot she could bear the false accusation silently, relying completely on God.
The last post of Sr. Marta was the hospital in Sniatyn. She was a nurse there but she could also find time to teach catechism to patients, preparing them to receive sacraments. She focused on praying together with them. There were many patients who came to the chapel to join her in the service of the Way of the Cross.
Sr. Marta had an extraordinary gift to lead souls to God. In her ward nobody died without receiving the sacrament of reconciliation and it happened many a time that her Jewish patients asked for baptism. Every suffering person was equally important to her, regardless of the fact whether he was a Pole, a Ukrainian, a Jew, a Greek Catholic, an Orthodox or a Roman Catholic.
Sr. Marta’s life abounded with good deeds of love and her death was an act showing her authentic love of God and neighbor. Being aware of the danger she volunteered to disinfect the room of a person who had typhus fever although it was the duty of another worker – a young father. The next day the symptoms of typhus appeared.
During the last week of her stay in hospital doctors did their best to help Sr. Marta. Many people, including the representatives of the Jewish community, prayed for her healing. The eyewitnesses regarded her deep prayer after she had received the viaticum as ecstasy. She died peacefully in Sniatyn on May 30, 1904.
Those who saw her on the deathbed were convinced that they bid farewell to a unique sister, which was confirmed in later years. Her grave was visited by various people regardless of their age, confession and nationality. People have not stopped visiting her grave until this day. They are convinced that ‘Matuszka’ [Little Mother] helps them in all matters they deal with.
The memory of Sr. Marta survived even when Sniatyn did not belong to Poland any longer. All these things contributed to the fact that her cause for beatification began in 1997. A solemn beautification Mass was celebrated in Lviv on May 24, 2008.
The story of Sr. Marta encourages us to desire sanctity and to fulfill our Christian calling in a radical way. May we have the conviction that sanctity does not mean great deeds but it is the acceptance and realization of God’s will in the smallest matters.
May Sr. Marta intercede for us and obtain for us the grace of hearts burning with the desire to love God above all things.
This article was first published by Sunday - Catholic Weekly issue no 21/2008 (all-country edition) at the time of Blessed Marta's beatification. It is republished here by permission. Sunday - Catholic Weekly, ©2008, all rights reserved.