This year, after a two-year hiatus, the annual pilgrimage to Auschwitz was made to commemorate the martyrdom of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe (August 14) with Mass at the Starvation Bunker in the former Nazi extermination camp.
The memorial activities began on the morning of Sunday, August 14, 2022, at the St. Maximilian Center in Harmęże, Poland, with a ceremony commemorating the Transitus of Friar Maximilian, his passage from earth to heaven. This was followed by a procession with the relics of St. Maximilian, on foot, from Harmęże to Auschwitz. Those participating included the Vicar General, Friar Jan MACIEJOWSKI; the Minister Provincial of the Province of St. Anthony and Bl. James of Strepar in Poland (Cracow), Friar Marian GOŁĄB; the Vicar Provincial of the Province of St. Maximilian M. Kolbe in Poland (Gdańsk), Friar Andrzej LENGENFELD; the National President of the Militia of the Immaculata of Poland, Friar Ryszard Maria ŻUBER; and the Superior of the St. Maximilian Center in Harmęże, Friar Kazimierz MALINOWSKI.
The pilgrims from Harmęże gathered at the entrance to Auschwitz, under the sign that reads, “Arbeit Macht Frei”, [“Work sets you free”] where they joined with pilgrims from of the Diocese of Bielsko-Żywiec, Poland. St. Maximilian is the patron saint of that diocese. The pilgrims went together to the Appeal Square, the Wall of Death and the Death Cell, where delegations laid flowers and candles.
At 10:30 a.m., Mass was celebrated in the square before Block 11, where St. Maximilian suffered martyrdom. The Most Reverend Roman PINDEL, Bishop of Bielsko-Żywiec, Poland, presided. A bishop from Germany and another from Cameroon were also present.
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, OFM Conv., founded the largest publishing house of religious books and magazines in Poland, in Niepokalanów, near Warsaw. He also founded the Marian movement, “Militia of the Immaculata” and is known as the Saint of Auschwitz. He was martyred on August 14, 1941. This year marks the 40th anniversary of his canonization.
Friar Jan M. SZEWEK