St. Joseph Bilczewski
On July 6, 1884 he was ordained a priest in Krakow by Cardinal Albino Dunajewski. In 1886 he received a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Vienna. Following advanced studies in Rome and Paris he passed the qualifying exam at the Jaghellonic University of Krakow. The following year he became professor of Dogmatic Theology at the John Casimir University of Leopoli. He also served as Dean of Theology for a period of time prior to becoming Rector of the University.
During his tenure at the University, he was appreciated as a professor by his students and also enjoyed the friendship and respect of his colleagues. He dedicated himself to scientific work and, despite his young age, acquired notoriety as a learned man.
On December 17, 1900, Pope Leo XIII named the forty year old Monsignor Joseph Bilczewski, Archbishop of Leopoli of the Latin Rite.
Archbishop Joseph Bilczewski became known for his abundant goodness of heart, understanding, humility, piety, commitment to hard work and pastoral zeal which sprung from his immense love for God and neighbor.
As Archdiocese of Leopoli, he spelled out very clearly his pastoral plan which can be summed up in the words “totally sacrifice oneself for the Holy Church”. Among other things he pointed out the need for the development of devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament and frequent reception of Holy Communion.
He took great care to cultivate many holy priestly vocations and often encouraged the priests to adoration of the most Blessed Sacrament. In his pastoral letter devoted to the Eucharist he invited the priests to participate in the priestly associations: The Association for Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Association of Aid to Poor Catholic Churches whose goal was to rejuvenate the zeal of the priests themselves.
During World War I and the subsequent rise of the Soviet Union, he was a rallying point for his flock in the face of atheistic rule. When souls were overtaken with hate and a lack of appreciation of the other, he pointed out to the people the infinite love of God, capable of forgiving every type of sin and offense. He reminded them of the need to observe the commandments of God and particularly that of brotherly love.
He died on March 20, 1923 at Lviv, Ukraine of natural causes. He was beatified on June 26, 2001 by Pope John Paul II at Ukraine and canonized on October 23, 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI at Rome, Italy.
Homily at Mass of Beatification by Pope John Paul II.