The Polish Connection
Mons. Ladislas Nicolau Zaleski was a native of Poland who re-discovered, Blessed Joseph Vaz at the end of the nineteenth century Mons. Zaleski became Blessed Joseph Vaz’ devotee and admirer published accounts of his life held him up as a model of the native clergy he had been sent to train, and proposed that a new Cause for Canonization be started for him It is a remarkable historical coincidence that a Polish Pope, John Paul II, fulfilled his Polish compatriot’s wish and beatified the “Apostle of Kanara and Sri Lanka” in 1995
“Apostles Like Him” By P. Ciampa, S.J. an Italian Jesuit who worked in Sri Lanka for many years Madras, India, 1960 Mgr. L.N. Zaleski has been the third Apostolic Delegate in India from 1892 to 1916. Mgr. Zaleski had a two-point programme: first, the formation of an Indian clergy, and secondly, the formation of missionary-mindedness among this clergy. He found a great inspiration in carrying out this two-point programme. It was the life of a saintly Indian Priest, the Ven. Fr. Joseph Vaz, who inspired Mgr. Zaleski with faith and trust in the Indian Clergy and its potentialities. Mgr. Zaleski knew that, if he could do something to encourage the Indian priests to follow and imitate the examples of sanctity and missionary-mindedness of Ven. Fr. Joseph Vaz, his “most cherished work… entrusted to his special care by Pope Leo XIII” would be successful. For the salvation of India therefore he wanted Indian priests like Ven. Fr. Joseph Vaz.
A Most Effective Proof The life of Ven. Fr. Joseph Vaz, Son of India and Apostle of Ceylon, became in the hands of Mgr. Zaleski a most effective proof to convince the Ecclesiastical circles in Rome and the unsympathetic in India of “what an Indian Priest, well trained and full of apostolic zeal, is capable of.” (Zaleski, L ‘Apotre du Ceylon. P.J. Vaz, Calcutta, 1896, p. II). Mgr. Zaleski published the life of the Ven. Fr. Joseph Vaz first in French (Calcutta. 1896), then in Italian (Mangalore, 1897), and finally in English (London, 1913). Thus all the missionaries working in India could read it in their own mother tongue, without any excuse of misunderstanding Mgr. Zaleski discovered that “in the beginning of this century (19th), people had in Ceylon a great veneration for Fr. Vaz. It was equal to that which surrounded the memory of St. Francis Xavier…” And he concluded, “Fr. Vaz’s life should be known today more than ever, since His Holiness Pope Leo XIII gave a new impetus to the formation of an Indian Clergy in the whole of India. His life, if it were more known, would be a model to all Indian Priests, and it would show what an Indian Priest, well trained and full of apostolic zeal, is capable of…” So he dreamt of the day when Fr. Joseph Vaz would be beatified. He wrote: “ Indeed, we have had Saints in India, but as yet do not have a single India (Confessor) Saint…” Therefore he hoped to hasten that day, because “’the beatification of an Indian Priest would no doubt give a new encouragement towards the creation of an Indian Clergy. Without an Indian Clergy the mission will never be able to develop in this vast country, since the number of the missionaries sent from Europe can hardly meet the needs of the Christians and in many places cannot cope with the situation. Yet we have to bring the Gospel to non‑Christians.” (ibid. pp. II-III). Message of Mgr. Zaleski.
Though Mgr. Zaleski died in Rome, he expressed the wish that his remains come to rest among those for whom he had laboured so valiantly. With the transfer of the Papal Seminary, which he founded, from Kandy to its new location in Pune, the Alumni of the same Seminary, some of whom had known Mgr. Zaleski, have fulfilled his wish. Mgr. Zaleski’s remains now rest in the Seminary at the floor of the altar in the new Chapel of the Seminary. From there his message will be repeated to the future generations of Indian Priests: “Be priests and missionaries like your model and patron, Ven. Fr. Joseph Vaz…. I want you to be like him. India needs priests like him.” (Cfr. Zaleski, Epistolae ad Missionaris, Vol, I, II). The Papal Seminary “will be a monument to Mgr. Zaleski’s zeal in seconding Pope Leo XIII’s efforts for the formation of an efficient Indian Clergy.” (Mgr. L.P. Kierkels, C.P.). And if the Seminaries form priests like Ven. Fr. Joseph Vaz, Mgr. Zaleski’s hopes will be fulfilled. Thus the two great friends, Zaleski and Vaz, will continue their mission in the service of the Clergy in the New India.