This Sunday, a Polish Catholic teen will attend the beatification of a 20th-century nun who she credits with her recovery from a devastating accident.
Karolina Gawrych will carry the relics of Mother Elżbieta Róża Czacka up to the altar of Warsaw’s Temple of Divine Providence on Sept. 12 during the joint beatification of the nun and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, who led the Polish Church’s resistance to communism.
The 18-year-old was seriously injured in 2010 when a swing she was playing on collapsed and the overhead beam fell on her.
Her head injuries were so severe that doctors thought that she would either die, remain in a persistent vegetative state, or, in the best-case scenario, lose her sight and hearing.
The Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross, a congregation founded by Mother Czacka in 1918, prayed for the seven-year-old girl. The sisters, based in Laski, a village about 10 miles west of Warsaw, sought the intercession of their founder, who died in 1961 after a lifetime of service to her fellow blind people.
The accident took place on Aug. 29. On Sept. 13, there seemed to be a breakthrough when Karolina began to stir. Just two months after the beam came crashing down, she walked out of the hospital on her own two feet.
Completely recovered, she will start next month at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, northern Poland, where she will study psychology.
She has recently been working as a volunteer, while also taking care of her younger siblings.
“I try to talk to them about what happened, to explain to them why I am still here, why I live normally -- so that they may know the power of prayer,” she said at a Sept. 12 press conference at Archbishop’s House, Warsaw.
“I try to visit the sisters in Laski as often as possible. I visit the grave of Mother Czacka, I thank her for her intercession, I go for walks in nature there, I can calm down and think about my plans and activities.”
On Oct. 27, 2020, Pope Francis authorized the publication of a decree recognizing Karolina’s recovery as a miracle, paving the way for Czacka’s beatification.
The nun will be beatified alongside Cardinal Wyszyński, who is known as the “Primate of the Millennium” because as Primate of Poland he oversaw a nine-year program of preparation culminating in a nationwide celebration of the millennium of Poland’s baptism in 1966, to the consternation of the communist authorities.
Wyszyński’s relics will be carried to the altar in the Temple of Divine Providence by Sr. Nulla, a member of the Community of Sisters Disciples of the Cross.
In 1988, two years after she joined the community, she underwent surgery for thyroid cancer. The disease continued to spread and she had further treatment at an oncological center in Gliwice, southern Poland. But an almost two-inch tumor developed in her throat, making breathing, swallowing, and sleeping difficult.
“When the doctor informed me of the diagnosis, he said I had a maximum of three months to live. Operating is possible, but it is connected with a high risk of irreversible complications,” Sr. Nulla recalled at the press conference.
She decided not to go ahead with the operation because of the risk to her life.
Sr. Helena Christiana Mickiewicz, who founded Sr. Nulla’s community in 1982, asked the sisters to pray for a miraculous healing through Wyszyński’s intercession. They prayed for the intention nine times a day for several weeks.
On the night of March 14-15, 1989, Sr. Nulla experienced severe pain, but the tumor began to shrink. She left hospital on March 21, completed her novitiate, and has been serving within the community ever since.
In November 2018, a medical board appointed by the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared that Sr. Nulla’s recovery was medically inexplicable.
On Oct. 3, 2019, Pope Francis approved the promulgation of a decree recognizing the event as a miracle attributed to Wyszyński’s intercession.
“The doctors told me many times that they only had accepted me in the unit because I was young, so that I would not break down mentally, because the treatment they were giving me could not help me,” Sr. Nulla said.
“I have seen miracles happen, and believers don’t need much explaining.”