Monsignor Joseph Gluszek Is Just An Ordinary Priest

The year 1942 was the worst year in the concentration camp at Dachau. Terrific hunger, hard work and an outbreak of typhoid fever caused the prisoners to die like flies in the fall. Prisoner 22104 weighed about 78 pounds and was too weak to lift a shovel or push a wheelbarrow. Yet he was on the construction site, building a road for the Third Reich. When he collapsed in the mud he prayed for death.

The guard, with his dog and machine gun, marched up and stood over him. “I could kill you now, you are of no use,” he said. “But you will be dead today anyway.”

He moved on.

The prisoner gradually became aware of some noise behind the fence near where he lay. There by a farmhouse he could see a little German girl 10 or 11 years old picking up apples that had fallen from the trees. He could tell that she was frightened by the guard, but after he moved away, she threw some apples toward him. He reached through the fence and picked one up.

Then she said in a low voice, “We have no bread at home, but I will be going soon to the bakery and will bring you some.”

An hour later when the child returned, he still lay by the fence. She looked left and right and when she saw that the guard was not watching her, she threw a piece of bread.  It was close enough that he could pick it up. It was still warm.

“This was the moment,” says Monsignor Joseph Gluszek, “that I was not praying for death anymore, but for life. I realized there were still people who care, that even in Germany there were still human beings that were good.”

Gluszek grew up in a small village in what is now southern Poland. His family had a few acres of land, two cows, some chicken and a few pigs.  After the first World War, his father came home broken in health, suffering from malaria.

These parents sent their promising son to the town of Wadowice to attend school when he was eleven, but only four years later, his father died.

After the funeral, he lingered beside his father’s grave. An older gentleman visiting the cemetery that day noticed the young man. He talked to him and learned that, with the death of his father, the lad’s education was over.  He asked questions, and listened carefully to the answers.  Finally he said, “I want to talk to your mother.”

“This good Christian man who had no children of his own, wanted to do something for another,” say Gluszek. “Thanks to the gentleman, I was able to finish college and go to the University of Krakow. He took care of all my expenses until I was ordained a priest.”

Gluszek was ordained in Krakow in 1935 and was assigned to a village in the beautiful high mountains of southern Poland. His peaceful life there ended abruptly September 1, 1939. Germany invaded Poland, and the first day of the war, the Nazis arrested the young priest and took him in chains from Poland to Czechoslovakia and then to Germany to the concentration camp at Dachau.

Jews, Gypsies and Priests,” he says.  “There were the three categories destined to die in the concentration camp.  They got rid of the Jews and the Gypsies. About 400 priests survived out of 1300 who were taken there from Poland.”

Two-and-a-half years after the apple incident, the prisoners at Dachau learned of an order for their extermination. Himmler, the head of the dreaded Gestapo, determined that the Americans would find no live prisoners when they came. At nine o’clock the evening of April 29, 1945, the S.S. division stationed by the camp were to machine gun every prisoner, burn the camp and move into the Alps.

“But we didn’t know that God had different plans for us,” says Gluszek. “That very Sunday at 4:00 in the afternoon, good General Patton came and liberated the camp.”

Other than a period of labor at the stone quarries in 1940, Gluszek spent the entire war, nearly six years, in the camp.  “lt wasn’t easy being at Dachau,” he understates.

The end of the war did not bring peace to Europe. Gluszek watched from the displaced persons’ camp where he had been assigned as the Soviet Union increased the pressure, finally cutting off all rail, water and highway routes through East Germany to West Berlin.  He did not want to go back to a Poland that was under the control of this oppressive government.

To come to America, a priest had to have acceptance from an American Bishop, and it wasn’t easy to find a bishop to take a survivor of the concentration camp.

However, an American priest from Chicago visited the displaced person’s camp in Germany. He asked if Gluszek was going back to Poland. “I’m going to stay here as long as I can,” he replied. “And then maybe go to South America.”

When the man found out that Gluszek had been priest in the village from which his mother immigrated to America, and knew her family, he said. “No sir, I won’t let you go to South America. My mother wouldn’t let me do that.”

He went on to Rome, and it happened that William J. Condon, Bishop of the Great Falls diocese, was there.  “I am sure Montana could take a few priests,” the man said to Bishop Condon, and he told him about Gluszek.

“Bishop Condon, thank the Lord, may God be with his soul, signed the application without even meeting me,” says Gluszek.  “So in the year 1950, after nine days in a small army boat, I arrived in New York.  For the first time I could see the Statue of Liberty. Everyone on the boat had good tears in their eyes.”

It wasn’t easy at first.  He could speak German, Polish, very good Bohemian and some Spanish, but he couldn’t speak English. People were kind, and he learned. He served first in Red Lodge with Monsignor Zadick, then in Billings. After only two years he was assigned his own parish, Moore and Hobson.  He later ministered at Geyser, Stanford and Raynesford and finally Big Timber area.

Eleven years ago, when he turned 70, Monsignor Guszek retired to the Holy Family parish in Great Falls.  Since then he’s taken care of nursing homes in the area.

“I’m just so happy I am serving these precious people,” he says. “I don’t do anything special. I’m just an ordinary priest. I offer what I can although I know it isn’t enough to meet their many needs.”

Although a priest in the diocese of Great Falls, Gluszek remains listed in Krakow where he was ordained. He’s considered their priest taking care of spiritual needs in the United States. He kept in communication with Bishop Wojtyla of Krakow who came into the office in 1957. In 1971, it was he who asked Pope Paul VI to make Gluszek a Monsignor.

In 1976, Wojtyla, now a Cardinal, came to a Eucharistic Celebration in Philadelphia.  Before he returned to Poland, he wanted to come to Montana to visit the priest under him whom he’d corresponded with for many years, and whom he’d met once in Canada. The people in Philadelphia told him, “Don’t go. There’s nothing in Montana but Indians and wild animals.” “But I have my priest there and I want to see him.”

“But I have my priest there and I want to see him.” the Cardinal answered, and came. He spent a night with Gluszek in Geyser, and said mass at Stanford for his parishioners. After giving his blessing, he left for Cincinnati and back home.

“We didn’t know that he was the one God had in mind to be the Pope,” Monsignor Gluszek says. Two years later, he traveled to Rome to attend the coronation of Pope John Paul II.

Gluszek’s been to Rome over half a dozen times since then to see the Pope who grew up in the same village he did in Poland. Two years ago he left about 200 letters that he’s received from his friend since 1957 in a depository at the Vatican, believing they may have historical significance to those who want to know about Pope John Paul II in the future. “I have been privileged to be  invited to be with him, to celebrate mass with him, to share food with him,” Gluszek says.

“What kind of person is Pope John Paul? Very human. More human than a human being can be,” he says, with a smile that makes deep creases in his smooth face. “He’s also very educated.”

Along with a framed copy of the Black Madonna of Poland and a picture of the beautiful church where he served in his native land, Gluszek’s home is filled with photographs of this man whom he admires, respects and loves.

As he looks back over his life, Gluszek understands how important are the seemingly small moments in one’s life. A kind stranger in a cemetery, a child whose name he never heard, a famous General, a priest visiting a displaced person’s camp, and a caring Cardinal destined for the highest office in his church, profoundly changed his life.

It is therefore no wonder he feels great satisfaction in caring for the spiritual needs of the often forgotten but always precious residents in the nursing homes-­saying masses for them, giving them the sacraments, preparing them to meet their maker. “I was the first Polish priest in the concentration camps.  Hundreds came after me and they’re long time dead,” he says, “and I’m still here.  The Divine Providence has something for me to do.”

(Unreferenced Source)

Travels to Montana

Background and May of 1941

Frank, Sr & Anna Cecrle first residence was on Sage Creek (in the area around Denton and Danvers, Montana). Many people with a Bohemian background settled in the area.

During the early 1990’s, a picture of Frank V & Anna Cecrle, Sr with their children picture with a priest with facial characteristics of Father Josef Jarzebowski existed. The picture was discarded as Anna Mary Cecrle Flanagan could not identify the priest. The picture below is of Frank V & Anna Cecrle, Sr and children only.

In the other picture, Frank V Cecrle, Jr was standing by Joseph K Cecrle with the priest sitting in the front row between Anna and Frank V Cecrle, Sr.

Back Row: Joseph Karel Cecrle, Anna Barbara Cecrle Kynett; Irene Emily Cecrle Kolar, Ernest Ferdinand (Shorty) Cecrle Front Row: Frank Vaclav Cecrle, Jr., Anna Slepicka Cecrle, Frank Vaclav Cecrle, Sr.

Monsignor Joseph Glucek (sometimes spelled “Gluszek”) wrote to Karol Wojtyla in 1958 when Wojtyla became a bishop.


Archbishop Karol Wojtyla (now Saint John Paul II) visited Father Joseph Gluszek unannounced in 1966. Father Gluszek had served as parish priest for Saint Mathias in Moore, Montana; Sacred Heart Church in Hobson, Montana and Saint Wenceslaus (Duke of Bohemia) in Danvers, Montana. Both priests were together May 21, 1966, traveling to east of Moccasin, Montana to the Frank V. Cecrle, Jr then Frank V Cecrle, Sr residences.

Lear Leo Flanagan, Sr met with an individual regarding a business transaction at Adam’s diner in Hobson, Montana. The son of the businessman requested repeatedly to go fishing. Father Gluszek and Archbishop Wojtyla arrived, at the same time Lear Flanagan arrived at Adam’s diner in Hobson, Montana. Lear made arrangements with Father Gluszek to arrive at Cecrle’s with food for a meal by going to Hobson Cash Store. Lear then contacted Frank V Cecrle, Jr by telephone making arrangements for the son to go fishing at one of Frank V Cecrle, Jr ponds and forewarn the Cecrle’s Father Gluszek was on his way with another priest of some importance. Lear gave Father Gluszek money to purchase food at Hobson’s grocery store with the message he would settle up with the store owner later if need be.

A common happening for the Cecrle family was for Father Gluszek to say mass at Anna & Frank V Cecrle’s, Sr residence (east of Moccasin, Montana) as Anna had broken her hip years earlier and was either in a wheelchair or bed at all times. As there were two priests instead of one, more family was contacted to attend the mass with a meal following the mass.

Family members included Tucek/Brady (Mary Tucek Cecrle married Frank V Cecrle, Jr.) and Cecrle relatives. While waiting for the family to arrive (between 60 and 80 people) the “men” went fishing as people and food were assembled. The fishing ponds were located on Frank V Cecrle’s Jr land. The “men” (any male even if in diapers) went fishing as there were not enough fishing poles for all children to go fishing with the “men”.

While fishing, the women were not only cooking but wrapping wedding/birthday/first communion/confirmation presents. As this visit was unannounced by Father Gluszek and company, house cleaning, storing items and cooking were in a frenzy at both Cecrle residences. The presents were placed on a chest freezer at the entry of Frank & Anna Cecrle’s and then supervised by the ladies in the kitchen at Frank & Anna Cecrle’s.  When asked who were the presents for, the answer was “Not you.”  (Additional note, the presents remained on top of the chest freezer for months after May 21, 1966.) After the “men” came back from fishing, Archbishop Karol Wojtyla and Father Joseph Gluszek indicated a little person from the family and the businessman’s son would helpful in spreading the message. The little people agreed had no idea what was being referenced at the time.  Blessings were given by both Archbishop Wojtyla and Father Gluszek to the union.

On June 14, 1966 while a Little Girl and Little Boy were visiting prior to a ground breaking ceremony on Fox Farm Road in Great Falls, Montana, a priest in a cassock, and wearing round glasses appeared walking toward the Missouri River who no one recognized (Father Joseph Jazerbowski). He stood at the peak of the “V” where the little people seated one on each side with trees in the background.  The priest asked, His dialect was comparable to Father Joseph Gluszek (polish or some Slavic language). After giving the two little people a blessing, the priest continued walking towards the Missouri River disappearing the same way he had appeared.


August 2001 Monsignor Joseph Gluszek visited and referenced the 1966 events in Great Falls, Montana. Monsignor Gluszek reiterated the happenings surrounding when at that time Pope John Paul II first visited him. The comment was made about how Father Gluszek was two people ahead of Karol Wojtyla when people were being rounded up for the Auschwitz concentration camp. Monsignor Gluszek did not remember Karol Wojtyla but the events described aligned with Father Gluszek’s experience. Monsignor Gluszek also made the comment after he left Poland, he went to England.

While in England, Father Gluszek received a letter. The people of England noticed how Father Gluszek would pull it out of the envelope then shout something in his native language being quite agitated then folded it up. Father Josef Jarzebowski was contacted to assist with whatever was written in the letter. The habit was Father Gluszek would read the letter then shake one of his fists in the air shouting at the top of his lungs in Polish “How can this be? How can this be? How can this be?”

When Father Gluszek looked up, Joseph Gluszek saw a priest hearing what he said. By the look on the priest’s face, Father Joseph Gluszek knew the priest understood what he had been yelling in his native Polish language. The priest motioned for Father Gluszek to come to him. Father Gluszek handed over the letter.

Father Gluszek had not anticipated a priest in England to know what he was saying. The priest visited with Father Gluszek in his native Polish language then indicated for Father Gluszek not to say anything until he was given permission.

Father Joseph Gluszek had been in England less than a month. After reading the letter, Father Josef Jarzebowski first comment was it was amazing if not miraculous for a letter from Poland to have even found Father Gluszek.

The letter’s contents were to notify Father Gluszek how Adolf Hess – the one in charge of the concentration camps – had been given absolution by a priest in Poland. Father Gluszek had been asked to hear Adolf Hess’ confession but had said “no”. Father Gluszek was expecting Father Josef Jarzebowski to console him by saying Gluszek’s actions were correct. Instead, Father Jarzebowski indicated the right thing had been done and to remain quiet. Father Gluszek was appalled but listened.

Father Josef Jarzebowski explained the Divine Mercy Diary message and trip from Poland across Asia and the Pacific then to the eastern seacoast of the United States after crossing the Pacific. Father Josef Jarzebowski had promised one family in particular, a priest. If Father Jarzebowski was not able to return to them, another priest in would be sent in his place. Father Joseph Gluszek agreed to be the priest to travel to the United States to Saint Wencelsaus in Danvers, Montana with the last name of Cecrle. There Gluszek would be greeted, treated as family with the cooking being basically the same as to their area of Poland. Even though they were Bohemians, Father Gluszek agreed to the task.

Father Gluszek’s first assignment was in Red Lodge, Montana as a pastor.  He was known to be gone for a few days at a time traveling north but no one in the parish knew where he traveled or could figure out why.  This is the same time frame he showed up at the Cecrle homestead. 

Pope John XXIII first action as pope was to further investigate the Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska’s Divine Mercy message. As the conundrum was rampant regarding the Divine Mercy message, a ban was enacted for stopping the spread of the message and devotion in 1959.

The Bohemian language and food/cooking were extremely close to the Polish language Father Jarzebowski knew. Monsignor Gluszek felt like he was with the family as did Father Josef Jarzebowski at the Cecrles. Frank V Cecrle Sr was faithful to saying what the family referred to as his “three o’clock short rosary” and reading from the “Imitation of the Sacred Heart” until he died in 1974. Father Gluszek went through the closets frequently to make certain traces of the Divine Mercy message could not be located and verify it was not taught to anyone born after 1959 nor was it practiced in a group setting. Reciting the “rosary” as a group before mass either at Sacred Heart Church in Hobson, Montana, or before mass at the Cecrle residence was part of life. The bigger crowd on May 21, 1966, did not allow for all to partake in saying the rosary at the Cecrle residence but was said regardless with Anna Cecrle. 80 people in attendance created more commotion than usual. When anyone arrives with the rosary being recited, the anticipation is for the late comers to join and then recite the prayers as they had been there from the beginning.

Father Joseph Jarzebowski – does your family have a picture with this man?

If you have any information, willing to add documentation concerning Archbishop Karol Wojtyla’s 1966 visit to the Cecrle/Tucek/Brady families mass or mass at Danvers, Montana or have a picture with Father Joseph Jarzebowski taken in May of 1941, please email: