It is with great hope and admiration that we mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the cause for canonization of the Servant of God, Father Joseph Walijewski. So much has happened since 2013 and so many people have been involved telling the story of his life and ministry, all giving witness to his heroic holiness.
I have come to know him through the people who worked side by side with him and the countless more who knew him and his missionary zeal. It was Father Joe who introduced the people of Peru to the Diocese of La Crosse, and it was Father Joe who reminded the people of the Diocese of La Crosse of their baptismal calling to be missionaries for Christ—Go out to all the world and tell the Good News!
When I visited Casa Hogar in 2011, we were celebrating the 5th anniversary of Father Joe’s death. As nighttime drew near and while holding lit candles, everyone began the ascent to Father Joe’s tomb which is located on the side of the bluff overlooking Casa Hogar, the slums of Lurin and the Pacific Ocean. It’s about a 20-minute walk on mostly sandy rocky ground, but once you arrive, it is a most magnificent view. What was more astonishing, however, was the reverence we felt as we journeyed up. A quiet descended upon the adults and children as they approached the tomb. Then, one by one, they placed their candles on the ledge in front of his tomb, giving testimony to Father Joe’s love. Many of those gathered knew Father Joe and Father Joe knew them.
Their reverence showed me that something very special had happened. Their reverence was evidence of the encounter they had with Father Joe; the encounter they had with Jesus through Father Joe. As I watched their actions and felt their emotions, I further realized he was a heroically holy man. He touched lives, he healed brokenness and he brought hope to the children of Casa Hogar by giving them a sense of dignity—the dignity deserving of every child of God.
It’s been 10 years since his cause was opened so now, with renewed resolve in faith, we pray that if it be God’s will, Father Joe will be given to us as a saint and hero of the Church. Father Joe inspired the people of our diocese to imagine a better way for the abandoned and marginalized people of Peru and now Father Joe’s legacy inspires us to see how our lives can transform others if we align our actions with his; always seeing the face of Christ in everyone we meet, especially the people the world tries so desperately to forget.
Please join us for the 10th Anniversary Mass that will be celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman at 10:30am on March 19 or watch live at diolc.org/live