With God in Russia

Fr_ Walter J_ Ciszek, S_J_


Perhaps there are braver men than Walter Ciszek, but they don’t come readily to mind.  Hard enough to be brave for a short period when the adrenaline is flowing.  Ciszek was brave under often horrendous circumstances for almost a quarter of a century.

Born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania on November 4, 1904, the son of Polish immigrants, he grew to be  a wild, tough kid, a bully and gang member.   He therefore floored his parents when he told them he wanted to be a priest.  Entering a minor seminary he remained tough as he related:

“And I had to be tough. I’d get up at four-thirty in the morning to run five miles around the lake on the seminary grounds, or go swimming in November when the lake was little better than frozen. I still couldn’t stand to think that anyone could do something I couldn’t do, so one year during Lent I ate nothing but bread and water for the forty days –another year I ate no meat at all for the whole year –just to see if I could do it. “

Always looking for a challenge, Ciszek simply presented himself to the Jesuit provincial in the Bronx in 1928 and announced, “I’m going to be a Jesuit!”

In 1929 an announcement was made by Pius XI that he was looking for clandestine missionaries to the Soviet Union.  Ciszek promptly volunteered.  He was sent to the Russian Center, Russicum, in Rome in 1934 to study the Russian language, history and liturgy.  On June 24, 1937 he was ordained.

Assigned to the Albertyn Jesuit mission in Poland, Father Ciszek was present when the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland in 1939.  Taking advantage of this calamity he decided to slip into the Soviet Union.  Obtaining the permission of Metropolitan Andrei Shetytsky, he entered the Soviet Union, along with two Jesuit friends, under the assumed name of Wladymyr Lypynski.  Traveling 1500 miles by rail,  he became a logger in the logging town of Chusov in the Urals, while carrying on his undercover missionary activities.  (more…)

Published in: on August 14, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (8)  
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