Former Superior General Rev. Joseph Sielski, MIC, (1914-2005)
Marian Father Joseph John Sielski died Thursday, June 9, at Villa Rosa, a nursing home in Mitchelleville, Md. He was 91.
Father Sielski, MIC, had a distinguished life of service with the Marians that included: two terms in Rome as Superior General of the Marian Congregation; two terms as Superior of the Province of St. Stanislaus Kostka headquartered in Stockbridge, Mass.; and two terms as Director of the Association of Marian Helpers, which is also headquartered in Stockbridge. He also had the distinction of being the first Polish-American to persevere in becoming a member of the Marian Congregation.
Born in Jersey City, N.J., on February 18, 1914, son of Michael and Thecla Sielski, he was orphaned at an early age. The Felician Sisters of Lodi, N.J., cared for him during his childhood.
Joseph Sielski joined the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception in 1929 as a minor seminarian. After completing high school, he entered the novitiate on August 14, 1933, and made his first vows in Washington, D.C., on August 15, 1934, at the age of 20. As a seminarian, he pursued college and theological studies and was awarded his B.A. and then his licentiate degree in theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. As a student, he also spent a year in Poland, returning to the United States shortly before the outbreak of World War II in Europe. While in Poland, he studied the Polish language and theology, experiencing Marian community living among his Polish conferes.
He was ordained a priest on June 10, 1941, shortly before the U.S. entered World War II. Almost immediately, Fr. Sielski took on leadership posts in the Marian community due to a shortage of personnel. He came close to completing his doctorate in theology (S.T.D.) from the Catholic University of America, but community commitments forced him to end his studies.
In 1944, Fr. Sielski moved to the new Marian House in Stockbridge and was appointed Assistant Master of Novices. He was appointed the first Superior at Stockbridge, remaining at the post until 1947. He then moved to Detroit, Mi., where he helped open a Mission House and served as its first Superior. In 1948, at the age of only 34, he was elected Vice Provincial of the newly formed St. Stanislaus Kostka Province.
In 1951, Fr. Sielski succeeded the Very Rev. Fr. Joseph Luniewski, MIC, as the Provincial Superior. He was the second Superior of the Province.
During his 12 remarkably productive years in office, he guided the Marians in becoming more firmly established in the U.S. A new house of studies was built in Washington, D.C., the famous "Marian Week" debuted in Stockbridge, and the Mercy of God Shrine (now recognized as the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy) was completed. Foundations for Marian houses were also laid in Brookeville, Md., and Portugal. During this time, the Marians also began their expansion to England and Brazil, and Fr. Sielski was one of the first Marians to work in Brazil.
In 1963, he was elected to the General Council and took up residence in Rome. Within two years, he was appointed Vicar General and helped to put in motion the program of renewal and adaptation that the Second Vatican Council asked of all religious communities. Father Sielski was then elected Superior General in 1969, and he served two terms until 1981.
As Superior General, he would lead meetings at the Generalate in Rome in Latin and Italian. Unfortunately, his work of making pastoral visits to all the Marians around the world was severely hampered by the communist governments in many of the countries in Eastern Europe where the Marians were stationed.
After his last term as Superior General, Fr. Sielski returned to the U.S., going back to Rome periodically, especially to work on revisions to the Marian Constitutions in the 1980s. Father Sielski held a number of posts in the Province upon his return.
He served as the Director of the Association of Marian Helpers headquartered at the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge from 1983-1984 and then again from 1986-1988. After these terms in Stockbridge, he worked as a spiritual director at the Washington, D.C. House in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He then worked as a chaplain at St. Joseph's Nursing Home in Catonsville, Md.
A Liturgy of Christian Burial was celebrated on June 14, at 10:00 a.m., at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA, USA, presided by the Superior General of the Marians, Very Rev. Father Jan M. Rokosz, MIC. Fr. Sielski was laid to rest in the Marian Community Cemetery on Eden Hill.