Biography of Servant of God, Bishop Antoni Malecki

Biographical Description: Born April 17, 1861, into a family of the nobility in St. Petersburg. Went to the Annenschule gymnasium [St. Anna German High School] in St. Petersburg and then later to a private gymnasium. Studied in a military school but did not graduate. In 1879 he entered St. Petersburg Theological Seminary and after graduation was ordained in 1884 by Metropolitan Archbishop Kazimierz Gintowt-Dziewaltowski. Appointed vicar of the cathedral in Minsk but the tsarist authorities objected because the Malecki family had participated in the Polish Uprising. He received consent to an appointment as vicar in Vitebsk and from 1884 he was vicar of St. Anthony parish. After the Vitebsk governor gave him a positive character reference, the authorities agreed to his appointment in Minsk. From 1885 he served in the cathedral at Minsk; in 1886 the archbishop appointed him as pastor upon the death of the prior incumbent. The authorities again protested this appointment, as they had in mind their own candidate, one who was more devoted to the authorities, but Father Antoni prevailed. In 1886 he was arrested as “disobedient to the government and an unsound priest” and exiled to Siberia. In Smolensk the sentence was changed to three years seclusion in a monastery in Aglona (Latvia). The parishioners bribed Lagoda, the director of the Department of Foreign Confessions, and in seven months Father Antoni received the right to become vicar of St. Stanislaus parish in St. Petersburg. March 20, 1896 – after becoming acquainted with the educational system of Father Giovanni Bosco, he created first a shelter for boys in St. Petersburg associated with Sacred Heart of Mary chapel, and then a vocational school with various workshops. From 1897 he was vicar at St. Catherine Church. In 1905 he founded a school in the suburb of Luga for children of poor Polish families to teach children agricultural skills. For devoting all his energy to children, his friends called Father Antoni “the Don Bosco of St. Petersburg.” A charitable society watched over the schools and they flourished under Father Antoni’s energetic guidance. Prior to the autumn of 1918 he was the head of private educational institutions for Poles living in St. Petersburg. He became a pochetnyi canon and was awarded the Order of St. Anne, 3rd Degree. From 1919 he was pastor of Immaculate Conception chapel. In 1921 the schools were seized by the authorities and subsequently closed. From 1921 to 1923 he was rector of an underground theological seminary and he founded the “Christian Democrat” club for young people. In March 1923 he was arrested in a case against Catholic clergy (Cieplak et al.). March 21-26, 1923 – an open trial at which Father Antoni was sentenced to three years in prison [Military Tribunal]. Held in Lefortovo and Sokolnicheskaya prisons in Moscow, where he had a heart attack. In January 1925 he was released and he went to Leningrad, where he became pastor of St. Catherine Church and Vicar General of the Mogiliev Archdiocese (see in Leningrad). On August 13, 1926, Bishop Michel D’Herbigny secretly consecrated him bishop in Notre Dame Church and appointed him [Apostolic] Administrator of Leningrad. After his episcopal rank became known, the GPU had him under constant surveillance. From 1926 he taught German and French in the re-opened underground seminary. May 5, 1927 – arrested in Leningrad. The GPU was forcing him to move to Vyatka; he asked that he be sent to Arkhangelsk instead and wrote a statement that he was going voluntarily. May 13, 1927 – secretly left for Arkhangelsk. A delegation of parishioners then went to the authorities to ask an explanation as to what had happened to Father Antoni, referring to the fact that “over the course of his whole life this priest has worked solely for the proletariat.” The authorities gave the explanation that he had not been arrested nor banished. His Vicar General, Father Stanisƚaw Przyrembel, conveyed the authorities’ response to Bishop Antoni, and relying on it, he decided to return early from his exile. May 30, 1927 – French embassy conveyed to Rome that Bishop Malecki was “an exceptionally prudent man who had tremendous authority among the faithful.” June 16, 1927 – the bishop’s return to Leningrad was solemnly observed at St. Catherine’s Church. Bishop Malecki was subsequently subjected repeatedly to searches and blackmail, in which Polish Communists showed great zeal. Understanding his situation, he appealed to Rome more than once for the appointment of a co-adjutor, and in 1928 he received the Vatican’s agreement. February 9, 1929 – Bishop Malecki clandestinely consecrated Father Teofil Matulianis bishop. There were not enough priests, so the bishop himself served many churches, including Immaculate Conception chapel; he continued to lead and teach in the underground theological seminary. The authorities were constantly pressuring him to leave for Poland, but he refused. November 20, 1930 – arrested in Leningrad on charges of “illegal contacts with very high-ranking religious leaders living abroad, distribution of anti-Soviet literature, organization of an illegal Catholic seminary, and anti-Soviet agitation in his preaching.” November 21, 1930 – banished for three years to Eastern Siberia [Troika, OGPU, Leningrad Military District]. From 1930 through 1934 he lived in Dubinino, outside Bratsk, under difficult conditions that he described in a letter forwarded to Rome by Bishop Neveu. February 27, 1934 – at age seventy-three – released from exile. He wanted to return to Leningrad, but long before his release the Cardinal of Warsaw had insistently demanded of the Polish authorities that they get the exiled bishop to Poland, and the Soviet regime made a “gesture of good will,” agreeing to let Bishop Malecki out of the USSR. A staff member of the Polish embassy found Bishop Malecki at the train station in Irkutsk in a state of complete exhaustion. March 6, 1934 – the bishop was transported to Leningrad for treatment. He refused to leave for Poland, referring to his pastoral obligations, but they convinced him he needed to go abroad to tell the Pope about the state of affairs of the Catholic Church in the USSR. April 20, 1934 – accompanied by a staff member from the Polish embassy, he left Leningrad for Moscow and on April 28 he arrived in Warsaw, where he was placed in a hospital run by religious sisters. January 15, 1935 – died, never having recovered from the effects of his exile in Eastern Siberia. He was buried at St. John Cathedral in Warsaw; in 1961 his remains were reburied in the famous Powonski Cemetery in Warsaw. A present-day Polish society in St. Petersburg bears his name. The process for the beatification of the “Don Bosco of St. Petersburg” is underway. Sources: Archive of the Directorate of FSB for St. Petersburg and Leningrad oblast; GARF, f. 8406, op. 2, d. 3060; Dzwonkowski (1998), pp. 341-347; Nash krai: Istoricheskii zhurnal, St. Petersburg, 2000, No. 1; Osipova (1996), p. 182; Shkarovskii, p. 229; Madała, pp. 103-104; see also