Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J. wanted to be a missionary in the Soviet Union. He didn’t know he’d spend most of the decades he lived inside the country within the walls of a prison, much of the time in complete isolation. But Ciszek found closeness to God in labor camps and prison cells, never knowing what might happen to him next.
The isolation Fr. Ciszek experienced as a prisoner of the Soviet Union brought out heroic virtues that can help those suffering from the isolation of the coronavirus pandemic today, says a priest who will discuss Ciszek’s life in an April 28 webcast.
“Father Ciszek lived many kinds of isolation,” Father Eugene Ritz told CNA. “He experienced physical isolation from his family, his Jesuit spiritual family, and friends. He often lived in isolation from the sacraments. He lived in isolation from a culture that permitted a notion of God and worship of Him. He lived in interior and spiritual isolation, especially when he could not present himself as a priest or exercise ministry.”
“Many lost faith during their time in the Gulag, including other priests,” said the Pennsylvania priest. However, Ciszek showed the virtue of fortitude in his isolation. Ritz praised Ciszek’s “firmness in difficulty, his constancy in pursuit of the good, and his resolve to resist temptation, conquer fear and face tremendous trials.”
Ritz’s presentation, “Living in Isolation: The Story of Fr. Walter Ciszek,” will be livestreamed Tuesday, April 28 at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. The event is presented by the diocese’s Commission for Young Adults.
Fr. Ciszek was born in 1904 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, in what is now the Allentown diocese.
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