St. Julia Maria Ledóchowska, Pray For Us!
‘Christ earned everything for us by his passion and death on the cross,’ said the Polish nun. ‘Direct your eyes to the cross like a flower to the sun.’
The feast day of St. Julia Maria Ledóchowska (1865-1939) is May 29. She was a Polish nun who established the Ursulines of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus dedicated to “the education and training of children and youth, and service to the poorest and the oppressed among our brethren.” She was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on May 18, 2003; she is the patron of Polish girls, orphans and educators.
Julia was born in Loosdorf, Austria, into a Catholic family steeped in the Faith. She was the fifth of 10 children. Her father was a Polish count, her mother a Swiss noblewoman. Her uncle, Mieczyslaw Ledóchowska, was a cardinal and Primate of Poland. Her sister, Blessed Maria Teresa Ledóchowska, was the founder of the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver. Her brother Vladimir became Superior General of the Jesuits. Julia moved with her family to Poland after the death of her father in 1883.
Julia entered Ursulines in Krakow in 1886, taking the name Maria Ursula of Jesus. She was devoted to the care and education of the young, and organized the first residence in Poland for female university students. She made her perpetual profession of vows in 1889 and would go on to become Mother Superior 1904-07. She advised her sisters, “Be apostles by a smile on your face, by kindness, readiness to serve others, goodness shown to everyone.”
Julia was known to have spent many hours in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Wanting to spread the devotion among the young, she organized a Eucharistic crusade for working-class children. Speaking of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, she said, “Christ earned everything for us by his passion and death on the cross … direct your eyes to the cross like a flower to the sun.”
She established St. Catharine House, a residence for Polish children, in St. Petersburg, and a free clinic for the sick; she also translated a catechism in Finland for fishermen. Because Catholic institutions were illegal in the Russian Empire, much of the time she wore civilian clothing. She was under constant surveillance by government authority.
As an Austrian national, she was expelled from the Russian Empire at the start of World War I — Germany and Austria-Hungary were Russia’s enemies — so she went to Sweden to start a girls’ school and to Denmark to open an orphanage. In 1920, she established her Ursuline community in Poland. She went to Rome to found a religious center in 1928 and died there of cancer just before the outbreak of World War II. Her body is incorrupt.