Of Fr Augustine Joseph Lazur, a Pauline Monk
(08.06.1931 – 28.05.2015)
This is article originally appeared in the bi-monthly magazine “Jasna Góra”, number 4/2015 42-44, the magazine of the shrine of Jasna Góra, in Czestochowa Poland. It was written in Polish, by Fr Paweł Przygodzki OSPPE, the secretary general of the Order. Br Casimir Zielinski OSPPE of the Australian province has kindly translated it into English.
Joseph Lazur, who was known in the Order as Augustine, was born on the 8th of June in the year 1931, in the village of Kondraty in the Biłgoraj region of the Lublin voivodship. His parents were Stanislaus and Victoria. (nee Dzwolak) He was baptised on the 15th of June 1931 in the Parish of St. Bartholomew in Goraj.
When he was 8 years old he went to the primary school in Hoszni Ordynackiej, unfortunately he had to stop his education because of the Second World Year. After the war. In 1947, he enrolled in the night school at Lublin. To sustain himself, he began work as a cook’s assistant at the Carmelite Fathers in Lublin. After he finished 8th grade he continued his schooling at the Juvenat1 of the Carmelite fathers in Wadowice, where he completed the 9th grade. After the dissolution of the Juvenat he continued his education at the institute of higher religious culture at the Catholic University of Lublin, also known as the KUL. During this time on the 8th of October 1952, he received the sacrament of confirmation at the parish of St. Paul in Lublin from Bishop Piotr Kławy.
In 1954, after discerning his vocation, he petitioned to be received into the Order of St. Paul the First Hermit. He wrote from my earliest years, I have carried with me the idea of dedicating myself to the service of God… I wish to be close to the Blessed Mother. I believe that only with the Pauline Fathers can I full fill my desire and thus I ask to be admitted, so that I may be useful to God, the Order and the motherland. He received the habit of the order on the 14th of September 1954 at Leśniów and he made his first profession of the 15th of September 1955 before Fr Honorius Marcinkiewicz.
From 1955 to 1957, as a Pauline seminarian, he studied philosophy at the Primatial higher seminary in Warsaw and in the years 1957 to 1961, he studied theology in Karków at the Pauline Skałka seminary. During his studies, he received the four minor orders and on the 11th of March 1960, he made his solemn profession. On the 12th of March 1960, Bishop Karol Wojtyła ordained him a sub-deacon and later on the 26th of June was ordained a deacon. On the 29th of June 1961, at Jasna Góra, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Stefan Bareła. From the 17th of July, he undertook his first pastoral assignment at the Shrine of Jasna Góra.
From Czestochowa, he was transferred to Leśniów. He was appointed the Socius2 of the prefect of the general chapter, which was happening at Leśniów. On the 28th of December 1963, he was transferred from Leśniów to the monastery in Leśnia Podlaska. His time there was interrupted by illness and an operation. During his convalescence, he was moved to Jasna Góra, from which on the 26th of May 1964 he moved to Oporów, which he remained until the 18th of January 1965. Next he was appointed the rector of the Church at Bachlewdówka, the office of which he fill until the 8th of August 1966, where form by a decision of the higher superiors was returned to pastoral work in Oporów. On the 30th of August 1967, he was appointed as superior of the order’s house in Oporów. The 6th of February saw him made a part of the conciliar renewal committee of the Order.
The year 1969 was a very decisive year in the life of Fr Augustine, for in this year he left his homeland and by the will of his superiors travelled to the then Yugoslavia. His road lead him through Rome, where he meet Fr Jerzy Tomziński, the then General of the Order, who perceived that there was greater need of his service in the United States of America. Fr Augustine was then transferred to the American Czestochowa, in Doylestown, where he served the coming pilgrims. On the 3rd of June has was appointed the prior of the noviciate mastery in Kittanning. There he began his pastoral ministry amongst Scouts, which he continued and developed at the American Czestochowa. In 1975, he returned to Doylestown, where he served the brethren as he prior and from the 12th of December additionally as the prefect of seminarians.
The 26th of June 1980 was a very important date in the life of Fr Augustine, when he realised his heart’s desire of traveling to Australia, to preach there the gospel and to transplant there devotion to Black Madonna of Czestochowa. His decision was preceded by consultation with Fr Józef Płatek, the then general of the order, who gave him his blessing for the voyage. Fr Augustine knew no one in Australia; he had no contracts, apart from the business card of Archbishop Edward Clancy. His very simple and humble trusting in God’s providence is enchanting to us today.
Fr Augustine landed on Australian soil on the 24th of April 1981, at 6am. He came to Archbishop Edward Clancy, who he providentially met at Termini Bus station in Rome. The Archbishop offered him pastoral work as the assistant priest at Our Lady of Fatima parish Golburn and as the chaplain to the local hospital. The archbishop hoped to establish the parish as a Marian Shrine, but after a year, Bishop William E. Murray, the bishop of Wollongong invited Fr Augustine to his diocese. The bishop entrusted to Fr Augustine the small church of St Francis Xavier in Berrima, with the intention of creating a centre of Marian devotion. Local convicts built the church in 1851. The Church was station church of the Parish of Moss Vale, which for the last 10 years was closed until it was offered to the Pauline Order and specifically to Fr Augustine with a perpetual lease. The church was in a poor state, the windows were broken and the floor was rotting. The warden of the local prison offered Fr Augustine a cell to live in at the prison, which Fr Augustine turned down in favour of living in the Church’s sacristy and restoring the Church.
Initially Fr Augustine worked alone, but when word spread of a “master in a habit,” people began to volunteer to assist him. It wasn’t long before candidates to the order began to appear and as a result Fr Augustine rented a small two story house, which initially served as the presbytery and then as the first monastery. From the beginning of Fr Augustine’s time in Australia, he strived for Our Lady of Jasna Góra to be honoured with greater praise and honour, for that reason he obtained a faithful copy of the Miraculous Icon. St John Paul II blessed this icon on the 20th of June 1983, during his pilgrimage to Jasna Góra. During the blessing, the Holy Father said, “I bless this icon and bless all those who will pray before it, I bless likewise the Polonia3 (of Australia) and all Australians.”
With the passage of time, the church of St Francis, proved to be too small for the coming pilgrims, for this reason Fr Augustine decided to purchase a farm at Penrose Park, about 20km away from Berrima. There initially in 1985, he adapted the existing barn into a chapel and living quarters. The General of the Order – along with his council – during the 9th of July session of the council, decided to erect a new house of the Order, along with a noviciate at Berrima, appointing Fr Augustine as both superior and novice master. During this time, many more pilgrims were beginning to appear at Penrose Park and as a result, Bishop Murray decided to create Penrose Park as a diocesan shrine of the Our Lady of Jasna Góra, the Mother of Mercy.
On the 5th of January 1994, Fr Augustine Lazur was appointed, by the then current general, Fr Jan Nalaskowski as the delegate of the higher superior in Australia and on the 20th of May 1999, he was appointed the quasi-provincial of Australia. When the Paulines received the pastoral care of the parish of Tarcutta, the first parish priest, for a six-year term, was Fr Augustine. Because of his many health troubles, Fr Augustine, on the 16th of July 2002, returned to Jasna Góra. The presence of the Pauline in Australia is the result of the efforts of Fr Augustine. Thanks to his generous work and sufferings, today the Paulines can spread devotion to Our Lady of Jasna Góra in the antipodes. Without his total trust in God and Our Lady of Jasna Góra, there would not be shrines to Our Lady on Australian soil. Today the form of the Australian Province, the work of the Fathers and Brothers is filled with the depths of Pauline spirituality, transplanted there by Fr Augustine.
On the 3rd of September, Fr Augustine became a confessor of novices in the novitiate Monastery in Leśniów Poland. He fulfilled this role until the end of his days, enjoying great trust and respect from his penitents. He was for them an authority, a Monk who they could look up to, a Father whom they could love and a priest in whom they could see the face of Christ. Fr Augustine had room in his heart for anyone he encountered and particularly great for the youth of the order.
The final years of Fr Augustine were very quiet and were filled with a humble struggle with the cross of his illness. The Fathers and Brothers of Jasna Góra unanimously claim that no one ever heard him complain about his infirmity or that he talked about the difficult state of his health. Generally, he spoke little about himself, thanks to which he listen to others attentively and with love, not only in confession but also in everyday encounters. No one can speak ill of him. He lead a very deep interior life, came to choir early in the morning, frequently he was the first one there.
Fr Augustine spent the last days of his life in his beloved family home, to which he always eagerly returned. It was here that he suffered the stoke, that took him to hospital in critical condition in Biłgoraj. This was on the 25th of May (The Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, the Patroness of Australia), three days later on the 28th of May on the feast of Christ the High priest, he departed to receive his reward for his faithful service as a priest, which he filled with great love, zeal and humility.
There is one more aspect of the life of Fr Augustine that we cannot omit here today. It is his love for beekeeping. He kept his first hives in Oporów, and then established some at Jasna Góra, Lesniów, in the United States and in Australia. This detail of Fr Augustine life, certainly came home to a few of us, when last Saturday, there sat, on one of the bushes before the chapel of the miraculous icon of Our Lady of Jasna Góra a swarm of bees, which after a short time, before our very eyes, shot up into the sky.
Fr Augustine’s priestly and religious life was so very rich, that this Curriculum Vitae, is certainly incomplete. Nevertheless, let at least this short sketch of his life be a cause of thanksgiving to God for the gift of his life and the service of our religious brother.
May Our Lady of Jasna Góra, who from his youth and throughout his whole life he served, lead him before the face of God for the reward of eternal life.
Fr Paweł Przygodzki OSPPE
The Secretary General of the Order of St Paul the First Hermit.
1 A Catholic Boarding school
3 The term Polonia refers to Poles who live outside of Poland, be they only sojourners, immigrants or the first generation born in another country. Polonus generally is applied to anyone who identifies himself more as Pole then as someone from current country.