On the 21st of August 2011 the relics installation ceremony took place in St Anthony’s Parish Church in Krynica-Zdrój. Those were the relics of Blessed Father Beyzym, the Jesuit and Great Pole, who devoted his life serving the poor, miserable and scorned - the lepers of Madagascar. At the request of the Priest Prelate Father Jan Wnęk, the relics were brought by Father Czesław Henryk Tomaszewski SJ. In his sermon during the Mass, Father Tomaszewski talked about the life and work of Blessed Father Beyzym, a gentile and humble missionary, a man with a big heart, a modest “Servant of lepers”.
A JESUIT TEACHER AND MISSIONARY ON MADAGASCAR
Jan Beyzym was born on the 15th of May 1850 in the inhabited locality of Beyzymy Wielkie, Volyn (now a province in the north-western Ukraine). He was the oldest of five children of Jan Beyzym Senior and Olga Beyzym Stadnicka. When he was 22, he joined the Society of Jesus. Before studying in Cracow, he spent his novitiate in Stara Wieś near Brzozów. He was ordained on the 26th of July 1881. The following years Father Beyzym spent in Ternopil and Chyriv boarding schools working as a teacher. However, he craved something more for himself and in 1898, being 48 years old, he left for Madagascar to serve the lepers.
After coming to Madagascar, Father Beyzym worked at Ambahivoraka asylum, located not far from the country capital. In one of his letters he described his first impressions of Madagascan reality: ”On my way there I thought that I might find at least some kind of a hospital, but I found only adversity and nothing else.” In the same letter he continues that it was a “den not good enough even for the dogs.” About 150 people lived in dilapidated barracks, which were divided into doghouses without windows, floors and must-haves. During the rainfall season the barracks rained in and people just lived in the mud.
LEPROSARIUM IN MARANA
From the very first moment of his arriving at the leper asylum, Father Beyzym tried to help the poor souls, tried to alleviate their sufferings as much as possible. He asked alms wherever he could to save them from starvation death. He served them. And again, his heart craved something more. He decided to build a proper, a real leprosarium, where the lepers could find a shelter and necessary care.
The leprosarium was opened in 1911 in Marana not far from Fianarantsoa. The 100th year anniversary of its functioning was celebrated on the 16th of August 2011. The leprosarium was built due to Father Beyzym’s fellow countrymen generous money assistance. The offerings were often very modest, but the leprosarium, where hundreds, even thousands of lepers found necessary help, was constructed thanks to those ‘‘widow’s mites”. People, who were treated in their communities worse than animals, not only soothed their pain in Marana, but also recovered their human dignity, rediscovered joy and sense of life, the hope for the better future.
Father Beyzym’s former patients from Ambahivoraka came to Marana leprosarium after they heard that it was opened. In the awful heat of the day, on their aching, sore feet, they covered 400 km. having neither place to sleep nor food to eat. Being asked why they decided to take up such a burdensome journey, they said that they were given rice and meat in the government asylum, but “what good is that if your body is sated, yet the soul hurts, as it neither can pray there nor live as Catholic”.
Father Beyzym understood the commandment of love of God and neighbor very well. For the love of Jesus he tried to help his “black birds”, the way he called his patients, taking care of their sore bodies and providing spiritual care. Numbers of people doomed to slow lonely death in consequence of the illness, misery, deprivation were rescued in Marana owing to him.
FATHER BEYZYM’S WORK
Shortly after the leprosarium was opened, Father Beyzym fell ill. He died on the 12th of October. Before he died, he asked the confrere, who looked after him during his illness, to go in his name and apologize to the lepers for everything he could have done to upset or hurt them. The patients responded to that with the burst of cry. Madagascar newspapers wrote after Father’s death that he loved the work that even criminals were not sentenced to with all his heart.
On August 18, 2002 Pope John Paul II beatified Father Beyzym on Kraków Błonie. Holy Father stated in his beatification homily that “the desire to administer charity led Blessed Father Beyzym […] to far away Madagascar, where for the love of God he devoted his life to the lepers. Day and night he humbly served those who were casted out of the society. By his deeds of mercy to the scorned and miserable he bore the exceptional witness to the Gospel”.
The leprosarium in Marana and the example of Father’s life will be remembered in generations. A modest missionary from Madagascar, the lepers’ Servant, Blessed Father Beyzym will be our advocate at the throne of God, the ensample of humbleness, chasteness and trust to Devine Providence. We are used to complaining about the everyday difficulties and troubles. We feel sometimes as if carrying our cross is beyond our human strength. Yet, Father Beyzym called his sufferings only “the tiniest chip of the Lord’s cross”
Relics installed in St. Antony’s Parish Church in Krynica-Zdrój are a great reminder of the testimony of the love of neighbor and the inspiration to follow Father Beyzym’s example.
Let us ask him to be our advocate, to teach us to follow him in serving the lonely, skeptical, searching, lost and poor. “This road does not lead to sufferings and death, but through the suffering, self-denial, sacrifice and even death leads to Our Lord’s Kingdom”, - said Father Czesław Henryk Tomaszewski in his sermon. Everybody, who serves Jesus Christ in others, at the end of his life will hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy lord”.(Matthew 25:21)