As the world notes the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, operated by Nazis in occupied Poland during World War II, the story of Blessed Sister Celestyna Faron should be told.
Sister Celestyna was a member of the Little Sister Servants of the Immaculate Conception, an order headquartered in Poland, with their American provincial house in Cherry Hill. The sisters work among children, the poor, the sick and the elderly throughout New Jersey, including Cherry Hill and Woodbridge, as well as Philadelphia; Delray Beach, Fla.; and Columbus, Ohio.
Kataryna (Katherine) Faron, was born on April 24, 1913, in Zabrzez, southern Poland. Orphaned at the age of 5, she was raised by devout childless relatives. From childhood she was distinguished by her love of Our Lord Jesus and devotion to the Blessed Mother and Saint Thérèse, the Little Flower.
She was an upright and diligent person. In her desire to dedicate her life to God in service, she entered the Congregation of the Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Stara Wies, vicinity Brzozow in 1930, taking the name Sister Celestyna. Before her first profession, she wrote to the Mother General, “Through my vows I long to belong entirely to Jesus Christ as a total sacrificial offering. I always desire to walk the way of love and devotion so that I can approach the Immaculate Lamb.”
She professed her perpetual vows in 1938. A trained and dedicated catechist and teacher, she ultimately directed a kindergarten for poor children, whom she called “treasures” and was the superior of the religious house in Brzozow. She also looked after elderly people and poured hope into suffering souls.
During World War II, she was arrested by the Gestapo, on Feb. 19, 1942, and unjustly charged with conspiracy against the Nazi regime. She was imprisoned in Jaslo, then in Tarnów, Poland, and finally transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Nazi-occupied Poland with the infamous sign at the entrance: “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free.”) Here, as prisoner 27989, assigned a striped uniform and wooden shoes, she was put to hard labor digging ditches. The torment of the camp, included terrible hygiene conditions: fleas, bed bugs and rats ever-present in the evenings and at nights. Sister Celestyna developed tuberculosis and typhoid, and her health finally completely collapsed.
She shared any packages the sisters sent her with starving companions who, because of her grave illness, tried to help her and even hide her on occasions. She submitted completely to the Will of God, not complaining but lifting others in spirit. She was called an angel of peace.
Sister Celestyna offered her sacrifice for the conversion of an apostate priest, Father Wladyslaw Faron, who returned to the church and served in the Diocese of Szczecin. She also persisted in prayer for the conversion of sinners, for her fatherland, for her congregation, and especially for priests who were treated badly and destined to concentration camps and crematoriums. She lamented that they would not be able to celebrate holy Masses.
She resolved not to die until she received the Eucharist. On Dec. 8, 1943, Communion was brought secretly by a priest travelling with a transport of prisoners to Auschwitz. Once Sister Celestyna received the Eucharist she was convinced that she would not survive in the camp.
On Easter morning, April 9, 1944, as a martyr in Auschwitz, Sister Celestyna went to meet her Risen Lord. After her body was sent to the crematorium, another sister observed: “Her body became a handful of dust, but we believe that she is participating in eternal delight with Jesus Christ.”
On June 13, 1999, Sister Celestyna was beatified by Saint John Paul II in Warsaw, Poland as one of the group of 108 Polish Martyrs of World War II. Blessed Celestyna calls us particularly to renew the ecclesial consciousness resulting from personal union with Christ.
There are other Little Servant Sisters martyrs, among whom are the Servants of God Sister Hiacynta Lula shot in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and Sister Romualda Grzanka, as a prisoner in the camp in Bojanowo, Poland.
The Little Sister Servants of the Immaculate Conception have their American provincial house in Cherry Hill.