Monday, January 4, 2010
Fr. Aloysius Liguda
"Not much is known about the death of Fr. Aloysius Liguda. According to eye-witnesses he was drowned along with nine other prisoners on December 9, 1942, in the concentration camp at Dachau. But his Calvary was a long one, since he endured nearly three years of suffering before his death. He was arrested in Gorna Grupa in February, 1940, and he passed through two different concentration camps (Stutthof and Sachsenhausen) before his detention at Dachau. He experienced forced labor, hunger, beatings, and other inhuman treatment, but his presence was a support to other prisoners. His spirit of tranquility and his sense of humor helped many to endure the brutal ity of the concentration camp. Even in the most trying situations he found words of encouragement or a joke to share with others. He remained faithful to his religious missionary vocation in the midst of torture and disdain for human dignity until his martyrdom.
Aloysius Liguda was born in Winow, not far from Nysa. He was the sixth of seven children. His family was deeply religious, and this had an enormous influence on his life. The nearness of the SVD mission house in Nysa helped him to identify his vocation, and at the age of 15 he joined the minor seminary. World War I interrupted his education, since he was called to military service. He saw action in Flanders and in France, and by the end of the war he held the rank of sergeant. After the war he returned to Nysa to finish his studies there. In 1920 he was accepted into the novitiate at St. Gabriel, Austria. At final vows he requested an assignment to China or Papua New Guinea. But the superiors sent him to Poland, where he arrived in 1928 (one year after his ordination).
Before his perpetual vows in 1926 his prefect wrote about him: “His intellectual ability is very good. He could be well suited for the teaching profession.” So it was no surprise that he was directed toward teaching. After receiving Polish citizenship and passing the entrance examinations for the university, he studied Polish literature and contemporary history. His obligatory two years of student teaching were done at the minor seminary in Gorna Grupa. He was quite appreciated for his teaching, which he thoroughly enjoyed. His students at Gorna Grupa remembered him as a good, kind and always well-prepared teacher. One of them wrote that he still fondly remembered him as somebody “who used to bring joy, a smile and tranquility to every class.” In addition to his full teaching load, Fr. Liguda was frequently asked to give spiritual conferences and to serve as a confessor for various religious communities. He was known and appreciated as a retreat master and spiritual director. Already at the time of his first appointment he had a desire to do retreat work. Some of his conferences and homilies were published, and they continued to have an influence among young people long after his death. In his first years at Gorna Grupa he published Audi Filia (Listen, Daughter), a collection of Sunday sermons to students at a girls’ secondary school. It became a kind of bestseller in homiletics. Two other books followed: ‘Bread and Salt’ and ‘Forward and Higher’.
Fr. Aloysius was also quite aware of the importance of formation in religious life, and he had a special interest in the youth apostolate. His charisma and his intellectual preparation helped him to communicate well with young people.
Fr. Aloysius had a remarkable sensitivity for justice, and he was known for defending others who were in desperate situations. In the concentration camps he was not afraid to continue this defense of others, which of course brought upon him beatings and other sadistic punishments. He was 44 when he died — the oldest of our four martyrs.
Fr. Aloysius was beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 13, 1999, together with three companions from the Society of the Divine Word, as part of a group of 107 Polish martyrs of the Second World War."