Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.
Born on Nov. 4, 1904, Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J. entered the seminary and became the first American Byzantine Rite Jesuit priest in order to do missionary work in the former Soviet Union. Shortly after entering the Soviet Union from Poland under an assumed name in 1940, he was captured and accused of being a spy.
After spending five years in the infamous Lubianka Gulag in Moscow, he was sent to Siberia for a time in hard labor. Throughout the ordeal, however, he continued to celebrate Mass and hear confessions of the faithful at considerable personal risk. Overall, he spent 23 years in the Soviet Union.
When he was finally released in 1963 in a prisoner exchange between the U.S. and Soviet Union, he returned to his native parish, St. Casimir's in Shenandoah, to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving. Ciszek spent the last 21 years of his life working with the American family, clergy and religious communities through counseling and retreat work.
He wrote two books, "With God in Russia" and "He Leadeth Me," with co-author Rev. Daniel Flaherty, S.J. He died on Dec. 8, 1984, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and is buried at the Jesuit Novitiate in Wernersville.
It was announced after the Mass that the prayer league, based adjacent to St. Casimir Church at 231 N. Jardin St., was donating $5,000 to help the Diocese of Allentown defray the expenses associated with the promotion of the cause of canonization.