Advent presents us with the perfect opportunity to look for models of holiness that we can admire and emulate. One such person is Wanda Blenska, whose cause for beatification was announced in Poland during a Sunday Mass at the Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul in Poznan, which dates back to the 10th century and is the oldest cathedral in Poland. According to Catholic News Agency, "The archdiocese reported that there was 'thunderous applause' when it was announced that Błenska could now be referred to by the title 'Servant of God.'"
How fitting it is that Blenska's cause for beatification was inaugurated on October 18th, the feast of St. Luke, patron of doctors. Born in Poznan, Poland, on October 30, 1911, Blenska grew up with the gift of faith and felt called to pursue a career in medicine. After becoming a doctor, she worked in Poland, but her career was disrupted by World War II. She served in the Polish resistance movement during the war and afterward took the opportunity to pursue the goal of becoming a missionary doctor in Africa.
From 1951 to 1994, Blenska worked in a leprosy treatment center in Buluba, a village in east Uganda. In 1955, she became the first woman to climb to the Vittorio Emanuele summit of Mount Speke, the second largest mountain in Uganda's Ruwenzori Mountains National Park. She served as physician-in-chief at the St. Francis Hospital in Buluba from 1951 to 1983, during which time she oversaw the expansion of the facility into a 100-bed hospital, with diagnostic facilities, residences for patients, a children's branch, and a church.
Wanda Blenska came to be known as the Mother of Lepers and was named an honorary citizen of Uganda for her work. She gave up the leadership of the center in 1983, but continued to work there for another 11 years, at which point she retired to Poland, where she lived for another 20 years, passing away in 2014 at the age of 103. Upon announcing her cause for beatification to the people of Poland, Bishop Damian Bryl said, "Today we remember the beautiful life of Dr. Wanda. We give thanks for it and ask that the experience of meeting with her moves our hearts. May the beautiful desires with which she lived be awakened in us too."
Bishop Bryl also reminded the people of how important Blenska believed love was in the doctor-patient relationship, quoting her as saying, "The doctor must be a friend of the patient. The most effective cure is love." Blenska brought this philosophy into every aspect of her practice as a doctor, and her manner was known to transform the outlook on life of those who worked with her, were taught by her, and were blessed to be treated by her.
What an amazing impact Servant of God Wanda Blenska had on the world. She came into the lives of those who found themselves in the midst of a struggle with disease, and there, in that space where she met them as a doctor whose treatment they needed, she led with what was most essential to healing. In addition to her brilliance, her energy, and her tremendous fortitude, Servant of God Wanda Blenska brought love into the world, and for that love we now raise her up as a model. May her intercession bring healing to our world today and guide us to lead with love in all of our relationships.
This essay is a recent "Light One Candle" column by Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers' Board of Directors ; it is one of a series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current events.