PER MARIAM OMNIA SOLI DEO
SHE PASSED AWAY WITH THE MARY’S GORGET ON HEART
She had gone through her whole life with Mary. Having a gorget of Blessed Mary on her heart, she crossed the gates of the eternity. And, additionally, within the gaze of Our Lady of Jasna Góra.
Maria Okonska had the address of her permanent residence in Warsaw, but she received the grace of saying goodbye with this world and passing into a new life at the feet of Jasna Góra, in the House of the Memory of Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński in Częstochowa, being a great treasury of thoughts and pastoral ministry of the Primate of the Millenium, where his spirit is in vigil in a special way. Ladies from the Institute of the Primate Wyszyński, which was founded by Maria Okońska 70 years ago, fulfil the indication of blessed John Paul II just in this place, in order to protect and meditate and provide others with the whole heritage which was left behind by the great Primate of Poland.
We have an intercessor in heaven
Maria Okońska passed away to the eternity on 6 May 2013 in the morning, in the presence of a priest, and in a prayer, everyone bid farewell to her, and she was being cordially cuddled by the members of the Institutes of the Primate Wyszyński, while she was saying the name of Blessed Mary, the holiest woman among the others. And on her gorget there were words: ‘….I am with Her, with Mary, during my life, and I want to be with Her after my death. This is my greatest love after God, Mary of Jasna Góra!!!’
When after a few hours when Maria Okońska passed away, I crossed the threshold of the House of Memory in the street of Cardinal Wyszyński 12 in Częstochowa, I noticed that – as usually – it is silenced, full of prayers and cordially joyful. Stanisława Grochowska – the General Responsible of the Institute of the Primate Wyszyński – announced calmly that we have an intercessor in heaven. And earlier I was a witness when all spiritual daughters had behaved towards Maria Okońska with love. Especially Krystyna Szajer, whom cardinal Wyszyński had asked her to be with her till the end, and had been accompanying her spiritual mother.
With a rosary and a gorget
The essence of life of Maria Okońska was serving to God, the Church and Homeland, based on Mary’s spirituality. This extremely beautiful girl was going with a rosary, a gorget, a picture and a medal of Our Lady in all phases of her mission. In her early years, she found holiness as an exceptional chance for a man. And she shared this belief with others, mainly young people. Believing that Poland would regain its freedom, when it strengthened morally, which depended on the level of the Polish woman to much extent, she wanted to organize an educational center for the female youth. Hence, there was an idea of establishing ‘A City of Girls’ on the ruins of the Second World War, whose spiritual program was to be Eight Beatitudes, and the patron – Mary the Queen of Poland. This idea created the present Institute of the Primate Wyszyński.
Girls centered around Maria Okońska, put their life at risk when they went out into streets of the insurgent Warsaw in 1944, in order to summon the people of the capital city to a great prayer within a program prepared by them: ‘New mobilization of fighting Warsaw’. Their purpose was motivation of spirit. The girls wanted to save the capital city on fire. They were running all over Warsaw, among whistling bullets, in order to bring hope, speak about the power of Blessed Mary and give out gorgets and medals with the image of Our Lady of Jasna Góra. They brought priests with the Holy Sacrament to people in need. Sometimes they did not eat anything till the evening, because they wanted to keep the Eucharist Fasting, and they did not know in which moment of the day it would be possible to receive the Holy Communion. Maria Okońska was such a 19-year-old girl. At that time it had already been possible to say about her: ‘a brave woman’. While she usually said that she was fearful…
‘Per Mariam Omnia soli Deo’ – these were the words in which her road of life was included. She believed that the rebirth of Homeland would go through Jasna Góra and the ministry of the Primate Wyszyński. She accompanied him not only with a prayer on the way to rescue Poland, but she was also an inspirer of his many actions. When in 1953 Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was arrested, Maria Okońska organized prayer vigils at Jasna Góra. She became a voluntary ‘prisoner’ of Our Lady, praying at night and during a day, for freeing Priest Primate and the victory of Blessed Mary in Poland. Stanisława Nowicka called her a titan of a prayer, emphasizing that it was Maria Okońska who had taught others a prayer vigil. She usually got up from her knees and left Jasna Góra only when she was to be only a liaison between Jasna Góra and the imprisoned Primate of Poland. It was her, who took a request for writing the renewed Royal Vows to the Primate in Komańcza, and on the day of making the vows, on 26 August 1956, she was the only witness of the historical moment, when the imprisoned Primate of Poland was personally reading the text of Jasna Góra Vows of the Polish Nation and she was repeating with a shaky voice: ‘Queen of Poland, we make a vow!’. ‘We are somehow a symbol of people gathered at Jasna Góra’ –cardinal Wyszyński said to her.
To guard faith like the pupil in the eye
After freeing the Priest Primate, Maria Okońska and the Institute, devoted themselves completely to work on the realization of the program of Jasna Góra Vows of the Polish Nation, within the Great Novena. She thought it necessary to guard the treasure which is the faith of the nation. ‘It is not enough to be the baptized nation, it is not enough to believe in God once – she said – but it is necessary to live the faith, to guard it like the pupil in the eye’. Father Jerzy Tomziński, who was a close witness of the life of God’s servant cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Maria Okońska, called her the greatest apostle of Our Lady of JasnaGóra.
Maria Okońska was a member of the Marian Commission of the Polish Episcopate. She worked in the Secretariat of the Primate of Poland and participated in all important events of the Church and Homeland, alongside cardinal Wyszyński and with the Institute. And if it was not possible to help in a particular way, it was possible only on her knees and she organized a persistent prayer, full of holy persistence.
Guardians of the heritage of the Primate of the Millennium
After death of cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, in 1981 Maria Okońska with the community, undertook a care of the heritage of the Primate of the Millennium. As the director of the Publishing House ‘Soli Deo’, Iwona Czarcińska informs, thanks to Maria Okońska, it was possible to save thousands of sermons of the Primate of the Millennium. Thanks to her initiative the sermons were recorded, written down from a tape, elaborated, copied by a typing machine and secured and made accessible in a form of typescript. In the collections of the Institute there are 67 volumes with sermons of Priest Primate. 11 volumes have been published so far, and they include speeches and homilies of Priest Primate till the year 1963. The others are being prepared to be published.
Maria Okońska had been a General Responsible of the Institute till the year 1996, and Anna Rastawicka was elected her successor. Stanisława Grochowska has been performing a function of the General Responsible since the year 2008.
In the center of the matters of the Homeland
Being worried about the future of the Homeland, Maria Okońska had accompanied all matters of the Homeland with her wisdom throughout her whole life. Considering the welfare of the Nation, she gave excellent tips and wise warnings. She reacted to current events. She sent many of her articles for publication in the ‘Sunday’. In 2004 she wrote on our pages: ‘It is time for a big exam for our nation: entering the European Union. We must not lose our most essential national and Christian values in relation to this fact, and we must deepen the values, and make them our personal national and state life, so that we could give them to other nations and countries. Poland is to fulfill a great historical mission: bring faith in Christ to other nations, whole Europe and even the world. We must not resign from this mission, otherwise we would betray our national mission’(‘It is time for a big exam for Poles’, ‘Sunday’ no 21/2004).
On the occasion of the 350th anniversary of Jasna Góra defense, celebrated in 2005, she published an article in the ‘Sunday’, entitled: ‘You have won! Be the winner!’, in which she pointed out how similar our today’s situation is to that one from before 350 years. ‘The Polish Nation is fatally endangered at present – she wrote – although the enemy is concealed and masked. There are no the Swedish at the walls of Jasna Góra, but this enemy is worse than the Swedish invasion: it is liberalism, atheism, conformism, religious indifference, anticlericalism, mocking at tradition, moral relativism, selling Poland, financial scandals, etc. A ‘new Kordecki’ is needed! (‘You have won! Be the winner!’, ‘Sunday’ no 5/2005).
Farewell at Jasna Góra
Everybody bidfarewell toMaria Okońska at Jasna Góra, in front of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady, in a place, which she had always loved with her whole heart. – She gave her life to God, the Church and the Homeland. We thank God that He gave her to us. And today we give her back to God, asking for love stronger than death – the metropolitan of Częstochowa, archbishop Wacław Depo said at the altar, who presided over the Funeral Holy Mass.
The Eucharist was concelebrated by: bishop Jan Wątroba from Częstochowa, General of the Pauline Order – Father Izydor Matuszewski, Generals of the Order for many years – Father Jerzy Tomziński and Father Józef Płatek, general deifnitors - Father Zachariasz Jabłoński and Father Dariusz Cichor, a custodian of Jasna Góra– Father Ignacy Rękawek and many other Pauline Fathers and priests, and prelate priest Ireneusz Skubiś, the chief editor of the ‘Sunday’ among them, Fr. Andrzej Przybylski – the rector of the Higher Seminary of the Archdiocese of Częstochowa and Fr. Teofil Siudy, a Mariologist, Fr. Andrzej Sobota – a parish priest of the church devoted to the Elevation of the Cross in Częstochowa. The farewell to the great worshipper of Our Lady, a fervent patriot and a spiritual daughter of God’s servant cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, was expressed by many co-operators and ladies of the Institute of the Primate Wyszyński, headed by the General Responsible Stanisława Grochowska and inhabitants of Częstochowa and pilgrims of Jasna Góra.
In the homily archbishop Depo emphasized that ‘at the moment when a man decides to look at everything from the perspective of God and live in this way, entering the road of Mary’s entrustment to God, he then starts to live according to new criteria which paradoxically overestimate this our human life’. He reminded about the life road of Maria Okońska, noting the facts which prove that she was able to give her life for the Church, the Homeland and for great pastors of the Church - John Paul II and cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, whose pastoral ministry she included in her great prayer, care and personal active life. (The text of the sermon is published in a whole form in the ‘Sunday’).
When after the Eucharist the mortal remains of Maria Okońska were brought from the Chapel of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady, archbishop Depo stopped the funeral procession in order to pay a tribute to God’s servant cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and the plate with the text of Jasna Góra Vows of the Polish Nation placed on the wall of Jasna Góra, during whose unveiling and sacrifice Maria Okońska had been present on 26 August 20112, and she was accompanied by Father Jerzy Tomziński, another hero of this historical event.
To the capital city
The coffin with the body of Maria Okońska set off for the last journey to Warszawa Choszczówka, where it was exposed in the chapel of Our Lady of Jasna Góra at the House of the Institute of the Primate Wyszyński. For a few days, the Holy Mass was being celebrated and the May Divine services was being celebrated, with singing the favourite song of Maria Okońska ‘Praise the meadows of May’. Every day ended with the common supper of the participants of the Divine services, which gave an occasion for cordial remembrances about the great servant of Our Lady and the excellent Polish woman. Before the funeral ceremony, the coffin had been exposed at the sarcophagus of cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in the arch-cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Starówka in Warsaw.
Our last meetings
Two weeks before Maria Okońska passed away to eternity, prelate priest Ireneusz Skubiś – the chief editor of the ‘Sunday’ had been invited to the House of Memory of Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński, for a meeting with the founder of the Institute of the Primate Wyszyński . Writing these words, she also had a grace at that time to meet with the live history of the Church in Poland and the witness of the history of our Homeland for the last time. We were accompanied by Alina Czerniakowska – a film director from Warsaw, a film maker of films saving the historical truth. It was 23 April, that is, a liturgical feast of St. Wojciech BM. Fr. Skubiś celebrated the Holy Mass in the chapel of the House of Memory and preached a sermon about St. Wojciech. The whole house community headed by Maria Okońska was participating in the Holy Mass. There was also a fervent prayer for a quick beatification of God’s servant cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. At that time, his spiritual daughter Maria Okońska said the words: ‘Pray for the renewal of our Nation, so that all Poles would start believing again in God and act for His glory’. And later, at the table, during the common dinner, she admitted to the Chief Editor of the ‘Sunday’: I always pray for you cordially, so that you would have strength to do what you do all the time. ‘Sunday’ does lots of good for Poland and to the world through Poland’.
In the last days of the life of Maria Okońska, I had met with prof. Krystyna Czuba in Częstochowa, a member of the Institute, for a few times. Every time I asked about Maria and sent my greetings to her. It turns out that on 3 May she was listening to archbishop Józef Michalik speaking from Jasna Góra, about Poland and she was worried with him about the future of the Homeland. On 5 May she said: ‘Remember, that there would not be Poland without Piłsudski. He saved Poland’. She asked for reminding her the words which Jarosław Kaczyński had said in Krakowskie Przedmieście on 10 April 2013, and he was quoting Fr. Piotr Skarga at that time, saying that ‘Christ is the Root of the Polish Republic’. She was also warning: ‘We must not change our opinions. Regardless of some distress and benefits, we must keep to our opinions’. Some of us heard the words from her: ‘Be a saint man!’. ‘Be a saint woman!’. ‘Be a saint bishop!’. ‘Be a saint priest!’. ‘Be the saints!’. This is a testament which was left to us by Maria Okońska.