Biography of Father Jan Wasilewski

Born into a lower middle class family on June 15, 1885, in Mudrilov, Dvinsk district, Vitebsk province. Finished gymnasium in Vilnius, then graduated with distinction from St. Petersburg seminary; ordained March 12, 1909. Also completed the Theological Academy and then studied more than a year at Louvain University, where he earned a master’s degree in theology. Until October 1909 he was vicar of St. Casimir parish in Mogiliev; from June 20 he was temporarily sent to a parish in Dvinsk [Daugavpils]; from August 29 he accompanied Bishop Stefan Denisiewicz as chaplain on a visitation through Mogiliev Archdiocese. From October 1909 he taught at the seminary in St. Petersburg; from August 1910 he taught religion in St. Petersburg schools; from May 1912, at the boys’ gymnasim attached to St. Catherine Church. From 1917 he served at St. Catherine’s Church in Petrograd. After the October Revolution he repeatedly condemned the Bolshevik terror. May 1, 1919 – after Polish troops took Vilnius, Fr. Jan was arrested as a hostage, but released July 20. Returned to his parish. In March 1920 Bishop Cieplak sent him at Easter time to serve at a parish in Arkhangelsk, after which the Cheka put out a search warrant on him and he went into hiding for several months. In 1920 he founded a community of Third Order of St. Francis, which he constantly tended until 1922. In the winter of 1921 he took part in public debates in Petrograd on the question of the existence of God. In April 1921, after the closing of Polish gymnasia, he formed the Society of Catholic Parents and Educators; he informed the Soviet authorities of it and requested permission to open a private Polish gymnasium. In March 1922 he was sent to Minsk to help parishioners in connection with their protests against the seizure of church valuables. He was arrested there along with two priests and a group of laity. June 1, 1922 – sentenced to three years in prison [Revolutionary Tribunal, Belorussia]. Sent to Moscow and held in Butyrka Prison, but thanks to the intervention of the Latvian government, he was released a year later. September 22, 1923 – departed for Latvia. From 1923 he served as vicar of a parish in Aglona; later, in Riga. After the creation of the new Diocese of Pinsk, Bishop Zygmunt Łoziński invited him to Poland and entrusted him with the post of rector of the new seminary, where he also taught. From 1928 he was a canon of the cathedral chapter and simultaneously the synodal examiner, chairman of the liturgical commission, guardian of other diocesan societies, and Bishop Łoziński’s confessor. From 1933 he was director of the diocesan gymnasium in Drogichin; from 1937 he was again a professor at Pinsk Diocesan Seminary, teaching philosophy and moral theology. He left an unpublished biography of Bishop Łoziński. During the Soviet and German occupations he was pastor of the Pinsk cathedral and assisted Jews in the ghetto. From 1944, after Pinsk was taken by the Red Army and Soviet power was established, he remained at his post as Vicar General of that portion of the Pinsk Diocese that was now within the USSR. He was constantly subjected to blackmail by NKVD agents. August 22, 1945 – arrested and imprisoned in Minsk Prison. Parishioners gathered signatures demanding his release, to no avail. In 1947, after a two-year investigation during which he was not broken, he was sentenced to ten years’ internal exile. Sent to Kazachinskoye, Krasnoyarsk kray where, being under difficult conditions, he died March 9, 1948. Thanks to the efforts of Fr. Michaƚ Badowski from Poland, Fr. Jan’s body was exhumed and brought back to Drogichin, where it was re-buried in the vault beneath the cathedral on October 6, 1990. Sources: Archive of Directorate of FSB, Krasnoyarsk krai; Osipova (1996), p. 156; Shkarovskii, p. 218; Dzwonkowski, pp. 501-504; Madała, pp. 164-165
Variant Names:
Wasilewski, Jan; Vasilevskiĭ, I︠A︡n Aleksandrovich
Vitsebsk (Belarus); Vilnius (Lithuania); Saint Petersburg (Russia); Louvain (Belgium); Mohyliv-Podilʹsʹkyĭ (Ukraine); Arkhangelʹsk (Russia); Moscow (Russia); Rīga (Latvia); Drahichyn (Belarus)
male; clergy and religious; died in prison