Father Stefan Piotrowski
2 October 2021
Stefan Piotrowski was born on July 29th, 1900, to Bolesław Piotrowski and his wife Janina, née Sadowska. He was the eldest of four siblings, with two brothers (Eugeniusz and Zygmunt) and a sister (Cecylia). In 1917, he graduated from secondary school in Warsaw, and in 1918 he decided to enter the Metropolitan Major Seminary. In 1920, as a seminarian, he defended Warsaw along with his classmates. Like many seminarians at that time, he hadn’t yet been ordained a priest. He could have fought with a weapon in his hands, but he chose sanitary service. Stefan Piotrowski was ordained a priest by Bishop Stanisław Gall in his private chapel on February 4th, 1923. He completed his theological studies at the Faculty of Catholic Theology of the University of Warsaw and received his master’s degree. In 1926, he became the prefect of a secondary school in Żbikowo, and then of the Teachers’ Seminary in Radzymin. In the years 1929-1944, he was a spiritual guide at the Cecylia Plater-Zyberkówna Secondary School on Piusstraße [nowadays: Piękna Street].
After the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Father Piotrowski became chaplain of the Polish Army. At the end of September, he was arrested and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison for several weeks. During the occupation, he was active in underground education and the underground Military Ordinariate of Poland, as well as in various academic organisations, including the Sodality of Our Lady (a Catholic lay association whose aim was to combine Christian life with studies) and Iuventus Christiana (a Catholic youth association operating as part of the academic ministry). In 1943, he was appointed to work in the Metropolitan Curia as an inspector of religious instruction for the whole archdiocese, and also became a professor at the Higher Metropolitan Seminary in Warsaw.
As a colonel in the Home Army, he took part in the Warsaw Uprising as vice-deacon of the Warsaw South sub-district and deputy to Father Stefan Kowalczyk, alias Biblia (chief chaplain of the Warsaw Uprising). Father Piotrowski used the codename Jan I. At the turn of August and September 1944, he was in the area of the Postal Savings Bank [nowadays: The PKO Bank Polski Group] building on the corner of Jasna and Świętokrzyska Streets, where one of the largest insurgent hospitals was located at that time. On August 30th, 1944, the building was bombed, and two days later a fire broke out. Father Stefan Piotrowski showed great composure and saved the lives of many patients. After the fall of the uprising, he left Warsaw together with the civilians. In November he was appointed vicar of the parish in Piaseczno, near Warsaw, where he worked until August 20th, 1946. At this time, he was also involved in helping to bring up the two children of his sister Cecylia, who was widowed during the uprising, and whose late husband was Leon Kuliszewski (a well-known and respected Warsaw doctor). From the time of the occupation, Father Piotrowski and Leon Kuliszewski were friends. After the war, Father Piotrowski was awarded the Cross of the Home Army and the Cross of Valour for his actions during the defense of Warsaw in 1920, the occupation and the Warsaw Uprising.
On September 1st, 1945, priest Piotrowski was appointed delegate of the Superintendency of the Warsaw District [Polish: Kuratorium Okręgu Warszawskiego] to supervise religious instruction in schools. In October 1945, he was also ordered to organize the academic priesthood, and already in December of the same year, he received from Archbishop Antoni Szlagowski the nomination for the academic ministry. In July 1946 he organized the first congress of diocesan inspectors of religious instruction.. At that time, he was still a vicar in Piaseczno, which involved constant commuting. On March 16th, 1946, he was appointed rector of St. Anne’s Academic Church in Warsaw. He held that position until October 1st, 1947. Mid-October 1947, Cardinal August Hlond appointed Father Piotrowski parish priest of St. Michael the Archangel parish. The church had been almost destroyed during the Warsaw Uprising and Father Stefan Piotrowski was trusted with rebuilding it. In December 1951, Primate Stefan Wyszyński, known as “the Primate of the Millennium”, consecrated the cornerstone of the church, and later the building itself in 1966.
Father Piotrowski also continued his involvement in pastoral work. On December 15th, 1949, he became the Chairman of the Department of Catholic Doctrine of the Warsaw Metropolitan Curia. He headed this Department until the end of his work in the Curia in 1984. On December 31st, 1952, he was also appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Warsaw. This function involved great responsibility, especially during the years when “the Primate of the Millennium” was in prison. For many years he also chaired the Clergy Examination Board [Polish: Komisja Egzaminacyjna Duchowieństwa], and from 1963 he took part in its meetings as a member of the Archdiocesan Economic Council [Polish: Archidiecezjalna Rada Gospodarcza]. His work did not focus exclusively on the Archdiocese of Warsaw. He also carried out various national tasks. On February 14th, 1957, he became a member of the Marian Commission and Commission for Catholic Education of Polish Episcopal Conference. In the latter, he was the first secretary and then the chairman. He belonged to the commission until 1984, when he resigned. Simultaneously, he also resigned as pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish and become a resident there.
For the 50th anniversary of his priesthood, prelate Stefan Piotrowski received from Pope Paul VI wishes and blessings for his further work sent by telegram in December 1972. For many years, he was a close associate of Primate Stefan Wyszyński and supported him in pastoral and organisational activities. On February 24th, 1984, Pope John Paul II, at the request of Primate Józef Glemp, elevated prelate Stefan Piotrowski to the dignity of protonotary apostolic.
During the last six years of his life, Father Stefan Piotrowski was gravely ill. He died on July 27th, 1990, two days before his 90th birthday. The funeral took place on August 1st. The Mass was led by the Primate Józef Glemp in the Church of St Michael the Archangel in Warsaw. The priest was buried in the family grave at the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw.
Translate: Sandra Liwanowska
- Stefan Piotrowski, https://www.1944.pl/powstancze-biogramy/stefan-piotrowski,34888.html (retrieved: September 21st, 2020).
- Stefan Piotrowski, red. Jana Płaska, Warszawa 1991.
- Wyszyński Stefan, Pro Memoria: zapiski z lat 1948-1949 i 1952-1953, red. M. Bujnowska, I. Czarcińska, M. Plaskacz, A. Rastawicka, Warszawa 2007.