Recently, I visited our Conventual Franciscan Friar ministry at Marytown in Libertyville, IL. Marytown promotes our Franciscan Marian Spirituality, and is the National Shrine of Saint Maximillian Kolbe OFM Conv., who was a martyred in Auschwitz during World War II. St. Francis had a special devotion to Mary, Mother of God, and made Her the Patroness of our Franciscan Order. Franciscans have long recognized Mary’s special role in guiding the Church on earth, and have consciously placed our mission of “Building up the Church”, that is our mission of evangelization, under her direction. The Friars at Marytown each day “Consecrate” their ministry to Mary, asking that she direct it as is best for the good of the Church.
St. Maximillian Kolbe OFM Conv., is an excellent example of how the friars seek to evangelize, under the direction of Mary. St. Maximillian Kolbe was born in Poland in 1984. He witnessed a well-organized attack against the Catholic Church by the Freemasons. This inspired him to establish the organization of the “Militia of the Immaculata” (MI), a movement to evangelize the world that began in 1917. (Immaculata is the Latin word for Immaculate, and a Militia is an organized force of civilians raised up from a population to defend a country in time of emergency.) Fr. Kolbe founded MI prayer groups and published a magazine, Knight of the Immaculata. These became so popular he built and evangelization center near Warsaw called Nipakalanow (City of the Immaculata), to be the center of his evangelization ministry. By the time of the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, Nipakalanow was home to about 650 friars, and was the largest Catholic religious house in the world. Fr. Kolbe used the modern printing technology to circulate a daily newspaper and several periodicals, with a distribution of over one million people. Fr. Kolbe also formed houses in Japan, built an airstrip to better distribute his newspapers, began a radio station, drew up plans for evangelization through television and films, and planned expansion to centers in India and China. His goal was to “win the world for the Immaculata”. His ministry and plans however were interrupted when he was captured by the Nazi’s and taken to the Auschwitz death camp. There in a famous episode, he volunteered to take the place of a condemned prisoner who was a father of a family. This exchange brought Fr. Kolbe’s martyrdom, and the eventual freedom and return to his family of Franciszel Gajowniczek. Fr. Kolbe, to whom Mary had appeared when he was young, and to whom he had consecrated his life and ministry of evangelization, was martyred on the vigil of the Feast of the Assumption, August 14, 1941. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1982.
The friar’s ministry at Marytown, although considerable smaller than Fr. Kolbe’s Nipakalanow, similarly seeks to evangelize and lead all people to Jesus through Mary. The Church and Shrine is a place of prayer and a retreat center. As you can see from some of the pictures, it is rich with our Franciscan Spirituality. In addition to celebration of the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours with the friars, we have 24-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daily recitation the Rosary, and on Tuesdays devotions to St. Anthony of Padua. Marytown is also the center of several social ministries, especially to the poor and outcast. Learn more about this friar ministry at: www.kolbeshrine.org.
Learn more about Saint Maximillian Kolbe OFM Conv., in this video: https://youtu.be/THT5QxhCiGE?list=PLZMc2kKkPu5urL22WdUDJjsssR5dFKkFX .
Join us at our next Come and See to learn more about Franciscan Spirituality on our Upcoming Events page.
Peace and All Good.