Diocesan News

Relics of a Catholic Family Slain By Nazis for Helping Jews Are On Display in Manhattan Churches

Witoria Ulma is pictured in an undated photo walking with some of her children in Markowa, Poland. (Photo: Institute of National Remembrance via OSV)

MIDTOWN — Veronica Warszawska is from Brooklyn, but her faith and Polish heritage inspired her visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Wednesday, May 1, to venerate relics of nine people murdered 80 years ago — the Ulma family. 

In 1944, executioners killed Józef and Witoria Ulma with their seven children for hiding Jewish people at their rural home in Nazi-occupied Markowa, Poland. 

Each family member is a candidate for sainthood, including a baby born during Witoria’s execution. Last September, they became the first family with everyone beatified together. 

The relics are nine bone fragments, one from each family member, displayed in a circular reliquary. The Archdiocese of New York hosts the stop in Manhattan through May 31. 

Warszawska is a member of St. Frances de Chantal Parish — a Polish congregation in Borough Park, Brooklyn. But on May 1, she joined about 200 people, ages 21- 39, at the Holy Hour and Young Adult Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 

She was the first to kneel before the reliquary during the Holy Hour and the early-evening Mass. 

“When I approached it,” Warszawska said later, “I really felt like I was speaking to the Ulma family. I’m going to tell friends back at my parish about this beautiful opportunity.” 

The Brooklynite and everyone else interviewed by The Tablet after the Mass said they hadn’t heard of the Ulmas before their beatification ceremony in September. Some said they only recently learned about them. 

Still, Warszawska said she appreciated the family’s tragic martyrdom as she wondered if any of her distant relatives faced similar danger 80 years ago in Poland. 

“Even though it happened so long ago, I’m still able to connect to it just because of my roots,” she said. 

The Young Adult Mass is held the first Wednesday of each month at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It is organized by the archdiocese’s Office of Young Adult Outreach. 

Pjetër Nilaj is director of the outreach. He explained after the Mass why the Ulma family story is a unique lesson for young adults. 

“They are an example for us of what it means to be Catholic, which means to really be like Christ and welcome everyone,” Nilaj said. 

He added that the entire family was centered on the Lord, but also open to everyone God brought into their lives. Therefore, they saw the dignity of God in every person. 

“Whether Jew, Muslim, atheist — God is there,” Nilaj said. “And in following Jesus, they were ready to lay down their lives.” 

The relics will move to St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Church, 101 East 7th St. in the East Village, May 7-15, and then back to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, May 17-31.