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Ulma Family Beatification: Three Lessons Parish Leaders Can Apply

ulma family

On September 10th, 2023, a beatification Mass was held in Markowa, Poland, for the Ulma family, who were executed in 1944 for hiding a Jewish family in their home. This is the first time an entire family has been beatified.

On March 24, 1944, Nazi patrol found eight Jewish people hiding in the farmhouse owned by Józef and Wiktoria Ulma. The officers executed them, then one by one executed the Ulmas along with their seven children. 

According to the Catholic News Agency, the postulator for the Ulma family, Father Witold Burda, said the family was known for always being “willing to help anyone who knocked on their door.” He added, “They built their family on the foundation of faith with fidelity to the two essential commandments: the commandment to love God and the commandment to love one’s neighbor.”

Devotion to the Ulmas is growing rapidly around the world. Their feast day will be July 7, Wiktoria and Jozef’s wedding anniversary. 

What are the Ulmas teaching us?

This story could only be viewed as a tragedy. First, the execution of the persecuted Jewish people, then the entire Ulma family together, seems more than we can bear. But as Catholics, we look at martyrdom differently. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that martyrdom is “the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even until death.” (#2473) Rather than despair, the Ulma witness can bring us hope, and their example in life can teach us how to live. 

Here are some important lessons we can learn from the Blessed Ulmas.

Serve Those in Need

Pope Francis prayed that the Ulma family is “a model to imitate in striving for goodness and in the service of those in need.” We may not be called to martyrdom like the Ulmas, but we are called to works of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, ransoming the captive, and burying the dead.

In your parish, this could be a good time to reiterate the importance of your ministries and invite parishioners to participate in honor of the Ulmas. Suggest that entire families work together to organize a drive for your food pantry or to provide material assistance to community families in need. Invite new parish families to help with funeral dinners. Do signups for visiting parish shut-ins. There are many more ways you and your parish families can serve.

Cherish Life

Józef and Wiktoria demonstrated their belief in the dignity of human life by taking in people who were in danger. They recognized the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. Wiktoria’s youngest child, the unnamed baby who was also beatified, is a reminder that every life is precious. 

At the parish, you can continue to promote the Church’s teaching on respect for human life. Organize a novena or rosary to pray for the protection of the unborn and newborn. Share the fact sheet from the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Dedicate some space in your bulletin to share pro-life prayers and devotions. Offer the Rite of Blessing of a Child in the Womb for expectant mothers. 

 Live Our Faith Every Day

The Ulmas were a living example of holiness in everyday life. According to a new biography by  Maria Elżbieta Szulikowska, “They lived in the sacraments, prayed often, cultivated many interests, and showed each other and others sincere kindness and respect.” Even the children were admired for being well-behaved and joyful. They were active in their parish and read Scripture in the home. The family Bible is said to have several notations; in particular, the parable of the Good Samaritan was underlined with the word “yes” penciled in the margin.

Without a doubt, the Blessed Ulma family can be a role model for families of any shape or size. In particular, mothers and fathers can turn to Wiktoria or Józef for intercession. A Novena to the Ulma family was written for the Archdiocese of Przemysl by Father Stanislaw Harezga and translated by the Holy See’s Dicastery for Communication. It is based on the beatitudes as virtues modeled by the family. It was prayed for 9 days leading up to the beatification, but it would be appropriate to pray any time, perhaps particularly starting July 29th to end on their feast day of July 7th.

Blessed Ulma Family: Pray For Us!

The Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life tweeted that  Józef and Wiktoria “lived their ‘domestic church’ with the sacrament of marriage at the center: openness to life of others in need and of their children.”

Point your parish toward online resources to learn more about the Ulmas. There are also several new biographies available in English and Polish. 

The Ulma children were: Stanisława (8), Barbara (7), Władysław (6), Franciszek (4), Antoni (3), Maria (2), and the unnamed baby. 

There are many examples of holy families you can share with your parish families. St. Monica and her son St. Augustine of Hippo, Sts. Louie and Zélie Martin (the first married couple to be canonized together) and their daughter St. Thérèse Lisieux.

About Polly King

Polly King has over 30 years in the marketing and communications field, the last 12 in Catholic publishing. As a convert to the Catholic faith, she has a deep passion for helping parishes engage and evangelize their communities. This led her to join ACS Technologies as part of their mission to serve the Church with technology and solutions that support their ministries. Polly currently resides in Indiana with her husband Bob and their 14-year-old Australian Shepherd, Riley. Her commitment to her faith and dedication to her profession make her an inspiring figure for those looking to make a positive impact in their communities.

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