SOPOT, Poland (1/18/12)--Franciszek Stefczyk, a former country school teacher and political organizer, soon may make Poland the first country to have a credit union saint, according to the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU). Stefczyk is credited with starting Poland's first credit unions in the early 20th century.
"Dr. Stefczyk, who has been referred to as the 'Polish Raiffeisen,' was an ardent Christian, a great Polish patriot and a pioneer of rural cooperative credit unions," said Janusz Ossowski, president of Poland's Cooperative Research Institute. "He was a person of wonderful qualities of spirit and mind whose entire life bears testimony to the belief that the rules of business can be reconciled by the Gospel if those rules are based on true values and the idea of helping one's neighbor."
Beatification, often years in the making, is based on specific criteria established by the Roman Catholic Church. In December, World Council First Vice Chair Grzegorz Bierecki, president/ CEO of the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions (NACSCU) and a senator in Poland's parliament, nominated Stefczyk for beatification to the Most Rev. Mieczysław Mokrzycki, archbishop of Lvov. Mokrzycki accepted the request, expressed his support and pledged to take further action based on the church's canonization laws.
"Franciszek Stefczyk was an eminent personality, setting the example for Poles," Bierecki said. "He was a man who, through his personal example, showed how the Gospel can be put into practice, and he deserves canonization."
The credit unions Stefczyk created flourished until 1939, when Nazi forces shuttered them during the invasion and occupation of Poland. The credit union movement was further suppressed under the communist rule that followed World War II. Credit unions remained virtually dormant until the Solidarity movement helped the country earn its freedom in 1989.
With some early assistance from WOCCU, Poland's credit unions have blossomed since that time, and the country has become home to one of the world's fastest growing and most progressive credit union systems, said WOCCU.
In 2012, SKOK will celebrate its 20th anniversary, which will include hosting WOCCU's World Credit Union Conference. The event will be held July 15–18 in Gdańsk, birthplace of Solidarity and adjacent to Sopot, where Poland's credit union trade group and World Council member NACSCU is headquartered.
For more information on the conference, use the link.