Tag Archives: Canada

Meet “Brother Ave”—the one armed Blacksmith

Venerable Anthony Kowalczyk                                                  fsspx.com

By Larry Peterson

Anthony Kowalcyzk was born in Dzierzanow, Poland, on June 4, 1866. He was the sixth child in a family of twelve, and his mom and dad were devout Catholics. They had Anthony baptized at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Lutogniew, Poland and it was here that young Anthony developed a great devotion to the Blessed Mother that would inspire him his entire life.

Anthony entered the local school at the age of seven.  Upon finishing his elementary education, his parents took him out of school so he could help them work their small farm. Anthony did that for three years, and then his parents allowed him to accept a position as an apprentice blacksmith.

At the age of twenty and having completed his training, he was classified as a “journeyman
blacksmith.” He then left for Hamburg, Germany to find a job. He found work in a factory, but to his dismay,  when his co-workers and “friends” discovered he was Catholic, they begin to mock and abuse him. He was continually made fun of and provoked. The constant abuse actually made him ill.

Praying hard for guidance, he left for Cologne.  His prayers were answered as a Catholic family took him in. They treated him as their own and introduced him to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It was then that Anthony heard the call to service through religious life.  He said good-bye to his friends in Cologne and traveled to Holland.  Here he was accepted into the Oblate novitiate.

He spent the next three years praying and learning and on October 2 1892, he made his vows of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience. Two years later he renewed his vows for one year and was sent to the mission of St. Albert in what is today, Alberta, Canada. From there he traveled to Edmonton and then north to Lac la Biche to work among the Cree and Metis Indian tribes.

Brother Anthony worked hard and spent many hours in prayer while in Lac la Biche. He was an excellent mechanic and handyman and kept all the machinery running smoothly and the stationery equipment in perfect condition.  But he was soon to be faced with a tremendous challenge.

The friars were busy working in the lumber mill when the power belt turning the giant saw blade snapped. It sounded as if dynamite had exploded and the belt hit Brother Anthony in the right forearm mangling his hand and arm. When they helped him up, he said, “It is God’s will.”

It took four days for them to get Anthony to the hospital in Edmonton. When they finally reached the hospital, gangrene had already set in, and the arm and hand had to be amputated. They had no anesthesia, so Anthony asked for his Crucifix and held it tightly as they removed his lower arm. They say he never made a sound.

Recovery was hard, but Anthony worked every day to improve himself. In 1897, he was sent to the mission of St. Paul de Metis. He and two other Oblate brothers set up a sawmill and flour mill.  On January 17, 1899, Brother Anthony knelt before Bishop Legal and took his final vows accepting his role as an Oblate Brother for the rest of his life.

Brother Anthony was eventually sent to St. John’s College in Edmonton and would remain there for thirty-six years. In 1912, he was fitted for an arm prosthesis with a hook on the end.  He became so proficient with his “new hand” that he became the resident blacksmith, gardener, bell-ringer, sacristan, and even took care of the animals. He also repaired the hockey sticks and sharpened the blades of the student’s ice skates.

Most importantly, he was always there for the young people for words of advice, encouragement, and prayer. They called him “Brother Ave” because he had such devotion to Our Lady and the Rosary. Plus, he always asked those who requested his prayers to pray an extra AVE (Hail Mary).

On July 10, 1947,  after a brief illness, Brother Anthony Kowalcysk died.  He was 81 years old. He had been the first Polish Oblate to come to Canada.

On March 28, 2013, Pope Francis declared  Brother Anthony Kowlcyzk a man of “Heroic Virtue” and therefore worthy of the title of Venerable Anthony Kowalcyzk.

Venerable Anthony Kowlcyzk, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Saint Marie of the Incarnation—the “Mother of the Catholic Church in Canada”

Marie of the Incarnation                                                  en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Marie Guyart was born on October 28, 1599, in Tours, France. By the time Marie was fourteen, she had already asked her parents if she could enter the convent. In her book, The Jesuit Relation, written in 1654, she wrote that she had experienced a visit from Jesus when she was seven years old. She wrote that Jesus had come to her, reached out, put His arms around her, and hugging her said, “Do you wish to belong to Me?”

She says she told Him loudly, “YES!” Marie also wrote in her book, that from that point forward she could only think of “Goodness.”

Although Marie constantly spoke of becoming a religious, her parents betrothed her to a man named Claude Martin. When she was eighteen, Marie did as her folks wanted and married him. The couple had a son but Claude died when the boy was only six months of age. Marie was twenty. The year was 1919 and Marie was suddenly a young widow with a baby to raise.

She then moved in with her sister and her husband, Paul Buisson. Paul owned a thriving transportation business, and Marie began working for him. She possessed great organizational skills and soon took over management of the Buisson business. However, over the ensuing ten years, her primary focus and desire were always to enter the spiritual life.

Marie’s intense desire to become a religious was always present.  When Claude Jr. became a teenager, she began making plans to enter the Ursuline order. Marie’s sister was willing to raise the young man as her own. Marie was heartbroken to leave young Claude, but she believed that he would be better off with a father figure in his life. Paul treated the boy as his own son, and her sister loved him dearly. Those factors sealed her decision to become a nun.

Marie joined the Ursuline order in 1632. She received the name of Mother Marie of the Incarnation. It was sometime during 1636 that Mother Marie had a vision of a beautiful place filled with mountains and forests and beautiful lakes.  She was told that this place was  Canada, and she was supposed to go there and build a house for Jesus. It took her several years, but she managed to raise the necessary funds.

Mother Marie garnered the support of the Jesuits.  She was given the charter to establish centers in New France (Canada) by none other than Louis XII.  On April 3, 1639, she and two other Ursulines, set sail for land she had never seen but only dreamed of.

They arrived in Quebec on August 1, 1639. Mother Marie and her companions immediately set about doing missionary work by attending to the many Indian people in the area. Soon several more Ursuline nuns joined them, and the nuns moved into a small house donated to them for use as a convent. By 1642 the nuns had managed to have a permanent stone building built.  It became the first school in Canada and was known as the Ursuline Monastery of Quebec.  (Today the building is one of  the National Historic Sites of Canada).

Mother Marie’s unique management skills enabled her to organize the new school and convent into a functional and efficient operation. There were Iroquois, Algonquin, Montagnais, and Ouendat natives in the area and Mother Marie worked with the Jesuits and learned their languages even writing dictionaries in all the languages. Slowly but surely women began joining the order.

Ten years after Marie had entered the Ursuline order, her son, Claude,  became a Benedictine monk. Mother and son kept in frequent contact, and when Marie left for Canada, they kept up a regular correspondence with each other and this continued for more than thirty years. Mother Marie of the Incarnation passed away on April 30, 1672.

She had spent 33 years in the Canadain wilderness. Claude wrote a biography of his mom. In it he wrote, “Her zeal for the salvation of souls, and especially for the conversion of the Indians, was great and so universal that she seemed to carry them all in her heart. We cannot doubt that, by her prayers, she greatly called down God’s many blessings upon this new-born Church.”

Mother Marie of the Incarnation is recognized as one of the primary reasons Catholicism grew and flourished in Canada. There is even a statue in her honor standing in front of the Quebec parliament.

Saint Marie of the Incarnation was canonized by Pope Francis on April 2, 2014. We ask her to please pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019