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In Memoriam: Servant of God Fr. Joseph Slupina CM (1880 – 1940)

70 years ago, in the afternoon of August 30, 1940, Servant of God, martyr of WWII, Fr. Joseph SLUPINA CM was massacred in the KL Auschwitz. He is one of over 50 Vincentian priests and brothers from Province of Poland who died during World War II and one of 11 recognized as martyrs. For almost a decade Fr. Slupina was working in New England conducting popular missions in parishes in North Eastern United States. He was one of the Founding Fathers of St. John Kanty Prep, Erie, PA and first Mission Team Director in Vincentian community in New England.

Rev. Joseph Slupina CM (Józef Słupina) was born on March 4, 1880 in Królewska Huta (until 1922 – Königshütte, since 1934 Chorzow), diocese of Katowice, Upper Silesia, Poland. He entered Congregation of the Mission in then Province of Krakow on November 11, 1898. He took his permanent vows on November 27, 1900. Ordained priest in St. Vincent de Paul Church (Kleparz House) Krakow, Poland on January 20, 1906. After the ordination he worked in Krakow (Kleparz), Tarnow (Holy Family Parish) and Lviv (then part of Poland).

In 1909 came to the United States accompanying the Visitor of Krakow, Fr. Kasper Slonimski CM who was visiting the Polish Vincentian mission in the United States established in 1905 in New Haven, Connecticut. While conducting the mission in St. Stanislaus Parish, Erie, PA he became, together, with Father Ignasiak, pastor of St. Stanislaus and other Confreres Fr. Goerge Glogowski CM, Fr. Paul Waszko CM and Fr. Anthony Mazurkiewicz CM, the co-founders of the St. John Kanty College Association, which initiated establishment of later St. John Knaty Prep and mission house in Erie, PA (closed in 1982). When the college was opened in 1912 Fr. Slupina became Director of mission team stationed in Erie. He hold this post successfully and eagerly until 1921.

After return to Poland he became chaplain in Daughters of Charity house in Przeworsk (diocese of Przemysl) and later was sent to Lviv again as catechist and organist. From 1927 he was Prefect of the church in Lviv. In 1929 moved to Vilnius and was appointed Mission Team Director (as he was in Erie, PA)which was located in that house before WWII.

After return to Krakow was assigned to Kleparz House and appointed chaplain at Montelupich Prison (7 Montelupich Street), Krakow and at run by Daughters of Charity St. Lazare hospital in Krakow (15-17 Kopernika Street, presently part of Jagiellonian University Hospital complex) and chaplain of St. Nicholas church (near the hospital). Finally, he was given responsibility of the Prefect of St. Vincent de Paul Church at Kleparz which he hold with great zeal and dedication until being imprisoned. He was known of his ministry in the confessional and as a good homilist. Always cared about church decorations. For long time Fr. Joseph was Director of the Association of the Children of Mary (today known as Vincentian Marian Youth).

After the World War II broke up he stayed in Krakow. On July 15, 1940 he was arrested among the group of other Vincentians from Kleparz House suspected of patriotic and anti-German activity manifested by spreading of illegal booklets. They were held into Gestapo’s Montelupich Prison. There, he was interrogated and tortured regularly by Gestapo officers. He prayed continuously. According to witnesses, he never left the rosary from his hands.

Seven weeks later, early in the morning of August 30, 1940 a large group of prisoners was moved to transitional concentration camp in Podgorze, the southern quarter district of Krakow. First prisoners were washed and deloused in the bath. Next lead to railway station. 550 prisoners were packed in cattle wagons, 80 people in each. Fr. Joseph predicted something wrong might happen. The day before, August 29, he asked his Confrere, Fr. Francis Malinowski to hear his confession. He seemed to be aware of upcoming death. After the confesson he said: “It seems to me this was the last confession in my life. Oh, God. If it were possible, I would like to take the last sacraments. But I know,these Sacraments are granted only to the dying. However, who knows what else might happen to us and if we ever would be able to receive this religious solace at all”. In this day he recited the rosary more earnestly, what returned attention of a number of other prisoners.

At about 1400 the train stopped in the field over a mile from Auschwitz Concentration Camp. This was one of the earliest mass transports to KL Auschwitz I. The first one with 780 people took place on June 14, 1940 from Gestapo Prison in Tarnow. Together with Fr. Slupina were Fr. Malinowski and Fr. Jedrychowski (also recognized as WWII martyr). The prisoners were herded and beaten, urged like wild animals. Some SS-men were riding bicycles herding the prisoners ahead of them. Prisoners had to run a trot to keep up. Especially elderly and obese men were mistreated and Fr. Joseph was among them. He was dressed in cassock, reciting rosary all the time.

On arrival to the Nazi Concentration Camp weakened by suffering and severe conditions, tired and exhausted Fr. Joseph Slupina felt down on his shoulders right at entrance to the Camp. A SS-man named Palicz jumped with two feet on his chest, which broke down with a clatter. On the iron wheelbarrows he was taken to gathering place. It was roll-call ground for checking in new arrivals. They made him stand alongside other Vincentianpriests. Fr. Malinowski managed to grant him absolution at the hour of death. A few minutes later, Fr. Joseph ended his life. Fr. Malinowski was badly beaten for his help. The next day the body of late. Fr. Slupina was burned in the camp crematorium.

Fr. Joseph Slupina CM was a great worshiper of Mary Immaculate and her Son Jesus Christ. Up to the last moment he turned out to be a faithful son and worshipper of Mary – died with a rosary in his hand. He died in priestly attire. By his death, until the end he testified of his faithfulness – the faithfulness to God, the Church, the priesthood of Christ, the Vincentian vocation.

On September 17, 2003 in Krakow, a Diocesan inquest of eleven Polish Vincentians, martyrs of World War II, toward beatification was initiated. Fr. Joseph Slupina is in this number. The Visitor of Province of Poland Very Rev. Arkadiusz Zakreta CM is the vice-postulator of the case.

Priests from the Province of Poland of the Congregation of the Mission, martyrs of WWII, Servants of God are:

  • Rev. Joseph FLORKO CM, died in KL Bergen-Belsen on February 25, 1945
  • Rev. Hieronim GINTROWSKI CM, shot in the forest near Bydgoszcz on November 1, 1939
  • Rev. Michael JACHIMCZAK CM, put into death by lethal injection at KL Dachau on January 30, 1941
  • Rev. John JEDRYCHOWSKI CM, killed by toxic gas in KL Dachau on May 6, 1942
  • Rev. Norbert KOMPALLA CM, killed by toxic gas in KL Dachau on December 1, 1942
  • Rev. Adam MALUSZYNSKI CM, died during evacuation of KL Mittelbau on January 31, 1945
  • Rev. Joseph SLUPINA CM, trampled to death on arrival to KL Auschwitz on August 30, 1940
  • Rev. Peter SZAREK CM, executed at Stary Rynek square in Bydgoszcz on September 9, 1939
  • Rev. John WAGNER CM, shot in the forest near Bydgoszcz on November 1, 1939
  • Rev. Leon WIECKIEWICZ CM, died exhausted by slave work and illness in KL Gross-Rosen on August 4, 1944
  • Rev. Stanislaus WIOREK CM, executed at Stary Rynek square in Bydgoszcz on September 9, 1939

Prayer for Beatification

Allmighty God, You show your paternal love in any time, and in the world distracted by struggles and dissension You make man capable of forgiveness and reconciliation. Martyrs of the faith are symbol of victory of fidelity over defection and the triumph of love over hatred. Thus, we ask You give us your blessing during the inquest of Martyrs of World War II. Let the martyred death of your servants from the Congregation of the Mission, starred into suffering and risen from the death Christ and their introduction to the glory of altars will be a gift of your never ending love, source of strength in faithful submission to Your Will and the declaration of participation in the final triumph of good over evil. We ask for this, Good Father through Christ, the crown of Saints and Our Lady, the Queen of Martyrs. Amen.

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