St. Mary Magdalene – the obligatory memorial

The character of the Day: Father Robert Spiske – the apostle of love
Father Robert Spiske was born on 29th January 1821 in Leśnica (today a suburbian district of the city of Wroclaw) in a poor family of a shoemaker. His father Anthony Spiske was of Czech descent and his mother Tekla was a daughter of the head of St. Nicholas school in Wroclaw. He was baptized in St. Jadwiga’s church in Leśnica and received names: Joseph, Anthony, Robert.

In his family home Robert adopted deep faith, strong will, spirit of sacrifice and trust in God. He graduated from the elementary school in Leśnica. Poor material conditions did not allow him to continue education. However, owing to the generous help of clergymen at the cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Wrocław he could attend classess at the cathedral school to then attend the gymnasium of St. Matthias that he graduated from with a good result in 1843.

Despite many difficulties from the people who wanted to discourage him from entering the path of priesthood, trusting in God’s help, he studied philosophy and theology at the University of Wroclaw, which he combined with educational work with gymnasium students. While in seminary he devoted his free time to teaching catechism to poor and morally neglected children.

He received his priestly ordination on 18th June 1847 and worked for a year in the Wroclaw Seminary as a lecturer in liturgical ceremonies and breviary prayers. All his pastoral work was associated with Wroclaw. In 1848 he became a vicar at the Church of the Virgin Mary on the Sand; for a short period he served as administrator of the parish of St. Michael the Archangel. For nineteen years (from 1864 till 1883) he was the was the pastor of the parish of St. Dorothy and Stanislawus; from 1883 till 1888 he was a member of the Capitulum of Wroclaw; cathedral preacher and adviser of the General Vicariate. In 1859, in recognition of his services to the Church the Holy Father – Pope Pius IX awarded father Robert with the title of a secret chamberlain.

In the period of Kulturkampf, due to the good knowledge of foreign languages, enormous diligence and proficiency in theology and in pastoral and social issues, he was entrusted the management of the Church life of Wroclaw. In his work he never differentiated people with regard to nationality or religion. Thanks to the testimony of his life, full of generosity and love, several thousand people were converted to the Catholic faith.

Father Robert is however most famous for bringing spiritual and material assistance and guardianship to the poor. He took special care for the orphans, homeless children and the youth exposed to demoralization and also sick people without help or assistance. Father Robert Spiske, already as a vicar at the Church of the Virgin Mary on the Sand founded the Society of St. Jadwiga, which on 14th June 1859 was transformed into a Congregation of the Sisters of St. Queen Jadwiga.

The Congregation, faithful to the charism of their founder, still provides therapeutic and educational care to patients and those in need.

Father Robert Spiske, reputed to be a saint, was called “the apostle of love” even before he died. He was always close to the suffering, and himself experienced suffering from a series of strokes in the last years of his life. The disease exhausted his weak body and he passed away on 5th March 1888. He was buried in the basement of the Cathedral of Wroclaw. In 1984, his remains were transferred from the Cathedral to the chapel at the Motherhouse of the Congregation the Sisters of St. Queen Jadwiga in Wroclaw at No. 29 Sępa Szarzyńskiego street.

The process of beatification of Fr. Robert Spiske was completed at the diocesan level on 30th December 2000. The Metropolitan of Wrocław – Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz forwarded the gathered and scientifically developed documentation to the Congregation for Saints in the presence of Sisters of St. Jadwiga on 8th January 2001.