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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Polish doctor, known as ‘The Mother of Lepers’, to be beatified

18.10.2020 09:00
The beatification process for Doctor Wanda Blenska, who spent over 40 years in Uganda caring for lepers, was initiated on Sunday in her native town of Poznań, western Poland.
Wanda Błeńska
Wanda BłeńskaKrzysztof Tadej/FOTONOVA

The ceremony at the city’s cathedral came several months after the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints gave the go-ahead to start the beatification process.  It concided with the World Mission Sunday which is celebrated in the Catholic Church on October 18.

The beatification is a step towards canonization, or being declared a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Blenska devoted her whole life to the service to leprosy sufferers, having spent 43 years in Uganda. Born in 1911, she  graduated in medicine in Poznań at the age of 23.  She fought in World War II as a member of the Home Army. After the war, she emigrated to the UK and  gained a diploma from the Institute of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at the University of Liverpool. In 1950 she left for Buluba near Lake Victoria in Uganda, and devoted her life to the service to leprosy sufferers. It was thanks to her efforts that a small facility run by the Irish Franciscan Nuns in Buluba developed into a modern centre, with a hospital, homes for lepers and the church, now called The Wanda Blenska Training Centre.

Wanda Błeńska returned to Poland in 1993 and settled in Poznań.  She passed away in 2014 at the age of 103.

Interviewed on her 100th birthday, she said “I am grateful to God that I could live in Uganda and help the local people. These were years of hard work, but happy years, during which I met with much warmth and gratitude”.

Wanda Blenska’s numerous distinctions included the Order of St Silvester from Pope John Paul II and the Order of Reborn Poland, one of the highest Polish state distinctions.  (mk)