Gregory Frackowiak was the youngest of our four martyrs was 31 when he was beheaded
on May 5, 1943, in the prison of Dresden. Brother Gregory consciously offered
his life as a substitute for others [does this sound the Law of the Gift spoken of my Jesus and recalled often by Pope John Paul II?]. His willingness to claim responsibility
for some thing he did not do saved several people (including his brother) from
certain imprisonment and death. This heroic gesture makes him similar to
another martyr of the same war — St. Maximilian Kolbe, who also gave his life
for someone else in the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
Gregory is his
religious name. He was born Boleslaw Frackowiak in Lowecice (a small village
not far from Poznan). One of twelve children, he grew up in a deeply religious
atmosphere. At the age of 18 he entered the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) novitiate in Gorna Grupa. From the beginning he exhibited great joy in being a
missionary Brother. He worked both as a receptionist and as a professional
binder in the printing press. Among the people of the area he was remembered as
someone with a special sensitivity towards the poor. He had numerous visitors,
because he was known for providing something to eat, a warm welcome, and a good
word for everyone. Some called him “the friend of the poor.”
simplicity, and deep spirituality were also appreciated by the students of the
minor seminary, who enjoyed his presence and sought his advice. His work as a
bookbinder in the printing press was acknowledged as exemplary by both lay
employees and by the confreres. When Brother Gregory professed his final vows
on September 8, 1938, he was deeply convinced that he was offering his life to
God for the mission of Christ and of the Church. He had no idea how quickly and
how radically he would be expected to live out that commitment.
When World War
II began, Brother Gregory was part of the SVD community in Gorna Grupa. When
this house was made an internment camp for priests, the brothers were forced to
leave. For a while he lived with relatives in Poznan. There he served as the
sacristan at St. Martin’s Parish. He also taught catechism to children and even
baptized some of the newborn. One day the pastor was arrested by the Gestapo.
Since he could no longer safely hide the Blessed Sacrament, Brother Gregory
took upon himself the task of distributing it among the faithful. For an entire
day and night he and others in the parish knelt in adoration before the Blessed
Sacrament. Then with great reverence he distributed Holy Communion to those
Eventually Brother Gregory was able to find work in a printing press
at Jarocin, a small town not far from his home. Like many others, he received
and passed on some anti-Nazi material. However, Fr. Paul Kiczka, SVD, advised
him to discontinue receiving and passing on these pamphlets, and so he stopped.
A year later these activities were discovered by the Gestapo.
arrested were men who had wives and children. Wouldn’t the others be saved if
he took on himself the whole responsibility for this anti-Nazi activity? “May I
accept the responsibility for them?” he asked his spiritual director. Fr.
Kiczka responded: “If you have the courage and strength. It would mean
sacrificing your life.” Gregory made his confession and received Holy
Communion. After his thanksgiving he shook his confrere’s hand and said, “Till
we meet again — but not on this earth.” He went home, where he was arrested the
following day. He “confessed” his crime, and immediately afterwards some of the
other suspects were freed. Gregory was transferred from the prison in Jarocin
to Poznan and then finally to Dresden, where he was beheaded.
A few hours
before his death Gregory wrote to his relatives. A few sentences from that
letter reveal his readiness for death: “I am writing to you for the last time
in this world. By the time you receive this letter I will no longer be among
the living. Today on Wednesday (5.5.1943) at 6:15 PM I will be executed. Please
pray for me. It is already one o’clock, and at two o’clock the priest will
bring me Jesus. Don’t cry, but pray for my soul. I leave it to you, whether you
want to communicate to my mother the manner of my death. I am completely at
peace. I greet all of you, and I will wait for you in God’s presence. Please
greet all the Missionary Brothers in Bruczkow. After the war bring my cassock
there. God bless you. Remain faithful Catholics. Forgive any faults of mine.
I’m sorry for my poor mother. May God protect you. Till we see each other in
Blessed Gregory Frackowiak 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.
biography provided by the Society of the Divine Word, this religious congregation out if you think you have a vocation. We need more Blessed Gregorys….