Friar Wenanty KATARZYNIEC (first named Józef) was from a very poor peasant family. He was born on October 7, 1889, to Jan and Agnieszka KATARZYNIEC in Obydów, a village 46 km [28 mi.] from Lviv in today’s Ukraine.
He finished three years of primary school in his home village and then continued his studies in Kamionka Strumiłowa, located 4 km [2.5 mi.] away. As a student, he was a diligent, conscientious and kind. He helped his classmates in every way he could. Besides studying, he also worked with his parents on their very small farm. From an early age, he tended cattle; but he dedicated his time in the pasture to prayer, especially the Rosary. He often told his classmates: “Everyone should pray the Rosary.” He attended Mass each morning before school started.
In 1903, he completed his primary studies in Kamionka Strumiłowa and then attended the Radziechów vocational school for a year. Because his parents were so poor, he supported himself by tutoring. He wanted to enroll in high school in order to become a priest. However, his family’s financial situation prevented him from achieving that goal. From 1904 to 1908 he studied at a “teacher-training” high school in Lviv. “I am studying to become a teacher,” he declared “but I won’t be one.”
In the summer of 1907 he presented himself to the Friars Minor Conventual in Lviv and asked to be admitted to the Order. The Minister Provincial, Friar Peregryn HACZELA, ordered him to first complete his teacher training and to learn Latin, which was not taught at his school. This decision did not discourage him, and after a year, having earned his diploma and learned Latin, he presented himself again to the Minister Provincial and was admitted to the Order.
On August 25, 1908, he began his novitiate year in Lviv. He was vested in the Conventual Franciscan habit and was given a new name, “Wenanty.” A year later, he made his simple profession and began philosophy and theology studies in Cracow. He made his solemn profession on December 8, 1912. After completing his third year of theology, he was ordained to the priesthood on June 2, 1914.
On September 21 of that year, he was sent to the friary in Chishki, in the Ukraine, where he served as an Assistant Pastor. The parishioners appreciated him as a worthy preacher and confessor.
A year later, despite his young age, his Superiors appointed him Novice Master in Lviv. The novices were immediately won over by his kindness, humility and great faith in the goodness of man. In addition, Friar Wenanty taught philosophy and Greek classes to clerical students. He also performed many pastoral duties. In his spare time he would visit the sick in a nursing facility run by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
By 1918, his various services left him exhausted and his health began to deteriorate. His superiors ordered him to take some rest and sent him to recuperate first in Hanaczów and then in Kalwaria Pacławska, where he died on March 31, 1921.
Public sentiment regarding the holiness of Friar Wenanty during his life and after his death, prompted the ecclesiastical and religious authorities to begin the process of beatification in 1949.
On August 16, 1950, his mortal remains were exhumed from the Kalwaria cemetery and moved to a stone grave near the church where he had given his last homily as a priest.
On April 5, 2016, the Ordinary Assembly of Cardinals and Bishops expressed a positive opinion regarding the life and virtue of the Servant of God, and on April 26, 2016, Pope Francis gave permission for the publication of the Decree of the Heroicity of Virtue. From that moment, Friar Wenanty could be invoked with the title “Venerable”.
On March 24, 2018, the mortal remains of the Venerable Servant of God were newly recognized and transferred into the church.
Love for Christ present in the Eucharist was Friar Wenanty’s source of religious and priestly zeal. One of the ways he showed this was that every time the clock struck the full hour (7:00 a.m., 8.00 a.m., etc.), he would go into the friary chapel for a moment of adoration. “If we want to find God, let us hurry to come before the Blessed Sacrament,” he would say. In addition, he practiced devotion to the Passion of the Lord and celebrated the Via Crucis every Friday.
Friar Wenanty was also deeply devoted to the Mother of God. His spiritual sermons and lectures often emphasized Mary as our spiritual Mother and Mediatrix with Jesus. He was a committed promoter of the Militia of the Immaculata and the Association of Our Lady of Sorrows.
St. Maximilian M. KOLBE greatly admired Friar Wenanty for his profound virtue, and in particular, for his modesty and humility. In describing Friar Wenanty as a man, a religious and a priest, St. Maximilian said: “He did not try to do extraordinary things. Rather, he did ordinary things in an extraordinary way.”
Friar Michał CHYLAK