We’ve all heard the heralding stories of the Catholic saints and the miracles they performed. Be it bilocation, the gift of tongues, or the ability to read hearts; Catholics have become familiar with the exciting tales of ancient and modern followers of God. To some, these figures may seem grandiose and distant—no one hears stories about saints who grew up just a few blocks down. But what most people don’t know is that Cleveland is home to some of these spiritual examples. For instance, Helena Pelczar.
Born on Christmas Day in a small village in Poland, Helena quickly learned to depend on Christ alone. Being one of eight children, Helena’s parents often did not have enough money to provide their children even the most basic necessities like shoes or a daily meal. Helena would go days at a time without eating, but she never complained. Because of this, Helena’s childhood was very challenging, and it became even more difficult when her mother passed away prematurely, forcing Helena to work to provide for her family. She performed mainly farm work, but also was hired as a domestic servant for a short time.
During this time of harsh work, Helena maintained her calm and reflective demeanor. She found great joy and comfort in prayer and, even after her family finally achieved financial stability, she maintained a deep devotion to Christ and Mary– often attending church and praying deeply for several hours at a time. These periods of prayer grew longer and longer, and eventually resulted in prolonged visions. On Easter Sunday in 1910, Helena experienced a vision that lasted three days. During her visions, Helena’s eyes would be wide open, but she would otherwise be unconscious. After, she would report seeing Christ Himself or the Virgin Mary.
These prolonged visions continued after Helena’s immigration to the United States. In fact, upon moving to Cleveland, Ohio Helena would start experiencing painful episodes as well, leaving her bedridden. The most intense pain would protrude from her right side. After 3-5 days, the pain would subside and Helena would begin her work again.
On December 28, 1917 (Good Friday) Helena received her first stigmata. She suffered a great amount of pain in her hands, feet, and right side. Then dark round stigmata appeared and they lasted for several days. Helena’s family, obviously concerned, called the local doctor but they could find no physical cause for Helena’s marks or severe pain.
Helena would continue to receive the stigmata throughout her life (mainly occurring during Lent and Holy Week). During one occurrence, shortly after her original stigmata, Helena received a vision where she encountered Christ who said:
“I shall bless you with a special gift by which you will be able to recognize sinners, for whom you should bear the sufferings I will send upon you. You will experience as much affliction, misery, and pain as I did during my agony on the Cross. Due to your great love for me, you will offer all your torments for sinners whom I myself will point out to you.”
From then on Helena was the subject and source of several miracles. Some include bilocation, healing of the sick, and prophesizing. Helena also reported having constant support and supervision of her guardian angel, who accompanied her into purgatory so she could properly see and comprehend the torment of souls. These gifts were not without great suffering though. Helena would continue to suffer as Christ did throughout her life, offering up all of her pain and anguish to heal the sinners of the world.
Helena joined Christ on April 26th, 1926 while praying the “Hail Mary.” Shortly after her burial, it was reported that singing could be heard from her grave. Helena was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland, OH where she currently remains.
Helena Pelczar is currently being reviewed for Sainthood. Pray for her, as she prayed and suffered for so many sinners.
For more information about Helena Pelczar, click here.
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Post written by Katie Karpinski