Biography of Blessed Father Antoni Leszczewicz, MIC

Born in 1890 not far from Vilnius, into a Polish family but in Belorussian surroundings. In 1902 he entered the gymnasium attached to St. Catherine Church in St. Petersburg and then in 1909 enrolled in the Archdiocesan Seminary in that same city. Graduated and then was ordained on April 13, 1914. He was sent to serve in the Far East, where he labored for almost twenty-five years. At first he was the vicar and religion teacher in Irkutsk and Chita, and then from 1917 he served in Harbin and other places in Manchuria. From 1924 he was pastor of St. Josaphat Church in Harbin, where he built a church, a parish house, an orphanage and a school for poor children. When his labor of so many years had begun to bear fruit and he had gained the respect of his parishioners, Fr. Antoni decided to enter a religious order. Having received permission, he went to Poland by way of Japan and Rome to Poland, where he entered the Congregation of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. After his novitiate he continued his missionary calling – at the end of August 1939 he was sent to Druya. When the Archbishop of Vilnius issued a call for priests to minister on the territory of Eastern Belorussia that lay within the USSR, where there had been no priests for a long time, Fr. Antoni went with some Sisters of the Eucharist to Rositsa, on the Dvina. He had to tend a large territory, and he soon had the assistance of a young Marian priest, Fr. Jerzy Kaszira, a native of these lands who had recently come from Druya. They continued their ministry in Rositsa during the German occupation. From 1942 Soviet partisans began to be active in the area. To frighten the local population, which supported the partisans, the Germans decided to carry out a brutal military action. The priests and sisters, forewarned of the plan, decided to stay with the parishioners until the end. When Hitler’s troops began to lead the residents from their homes in groups and drive them into the church, the priests began to prepare the laity for their last hour, hearing confessions, baptizing and giving Holy Communion. February 17, 1943 – Fr. Antoni and the sisters met their deaths, immolated in the flames of the burning church along with hundreds of their parishioners. On June 13, 1999, in Warsaw, Pope John Paul II declared him Blessed. Source: List compiled by R. Dzwonkowski, SAC; Moroz, pp. 361-366; Bukowicz, The Marian Martyrs of Rosica; see also
Variant Names:
Leszczewicz, Antoni; Leshchevich, Antoniĭ
Vilnius (Lithuania); Saint Petersburg (Russia); East Asia; Irkutsk (Russia); Chita (Chitinskai︠a︡ oblastʹ, Russia); Harbin (China); Drui︠a︡ (Belarus)
male; clergy and religious; executed