Sister Cecylia Maria Roszak Sister Cecylia Maria Roszak  

Poland mourns world's 'Oldest Nun' who saved Jews

A Polish nun who was believed to be the oldest nun in the world and was recognized as a rescuer of Jews during the Holocaust when millions died has been laid to rest in Poland. The faithful have been reflecting on the turbulent and compassionate life of Sister Cecylia Maria Roszak, who died last week at the age of 110.

By Stefan J. Bos

Merciful and modest. That's how nuns, members of the Polish Catholic church and others are remembering Sister Cecylia Maria Roszak.
They have been gathering in Krakow to bid her farewell.

In remarks, the mother superior of her convent, Stanislawa Chruscicka, said Sister Cecylia would often say that “life is wonderful, however, too short.”

During her 110 years on this earth, the nun went through turbulent times. Born March 25, 1908, she joined the convent at age 21. During the German occupation of Poland in World War II, when she was in her 30s, she was one of several nuns who set up a new convent near Vilnius, today in Lithuania.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

It was there where she began sheltering more than a dozen Jewish people who had escaped the ghetto there. After the war, the nun and others from her convent were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance institute.

Yad Vashem praised them for saving the lives of several Jews, actions that put them at risk of being executed by German occupiers.

Jews rounded up

It was a time when Jews from across Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe were rounded up, and either transported to extermination camps where they were gassed, shot locally, or starved and abused in ghettos and labor camps until they died.

However, at least some survived thanks to Sister Cecylia. A woman, Wanda Jerzyniec sent a massive bouquet at this week's funeral. Sister Cecylia sheltered the woman along with her brother after Germans shot both of their parents in Vilnius in 1944.

The funeral Mass was at the Dominican nuns’ church in Krakow on Thursday. Roszak was laid to rest in the city’s historic Rakowicki cemetery.

A spokesman for Poland’s Roman Catholic Church said she had been “probably the oldest nun in the world.” Sister Cecylia Maria Roszak leaves behind generations who could live because of her faithful acts.

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24 November 2018, 12:01