Catherine Szymon called by many people ”Katarzynka”, was born on October 21, 1907 in Studzienice near Pszczyna. When she was less than two years of age her mother died having left six orphaned children. Her father, a forest employee, soon remarried. Katarzynka’s stepmother was nothing but unkind towards her, taking no heed of Catherine’s young age, her stepmother exploited her to do all the housework in the home. Despite her difficult childhood, Catherine learned to pray and since then she would spend her every spare moment praying particularly, for the reformation of her father, who frequently came home drunk and beat his children. Her prayers were heard – her father mended his ways and prior to his death he even joined the Third Order of Saint Francis.
Catherine Szymon lived all her life in the neighbourhood of Katowice, Poland, the mining region where by hard work where they had been extracting coal for many years. The inhabitans of this region are known for their piety and religiousness, which is based on an old Polish saying: "Do not leave your home without God.” Many of the Katowice residents heard of Catherine – only a few knew her personally. Catherine Szymon did not have a home of her own. She would find modest accommodation offered by friendly and kind-hearted people. From 1946 and for most of her life she lived in Pszczyna. However, she spent her last years at the house of Marta Godziek in Katowice – Kostuchna. From 1981 Catherine lived there permanently. Many people used to pay her a visit : doctors, priests, teachers, seminarists and nuns. She would provide them with any help and advice on how to live and how to suffer.
Catherine Szymon received the stigmata of the five Wounds of Jesus on March 8, 1946, on the first Friday of Lent. At first they were small wounds Catherine managed to hide. However, as time passed, they got larger and bled more and more profusely. Włodzimierz Wojciechowski, doctor of medicine, said: I got to know Catherine Szymon in autumn of 1984. I can express my opinion on her stigmata as a doctor. I must admit that it was the first time I had seen this marvel of stigmata. Her stigmata were round flat clots on both sides of her palms and feet about 3 cm in diameter. The skin around the clots was corrugated and wrinkled. I heard stories on how her stigmata were examined in different ways. The clots were removed, for example, and the surface of fresh scars appeared. I also once watched her stigmata bleeding. It looked like this: on the edges of the clots a serious – haemorrhagic areola appeared, flowing and spreading radially from under the clots. It had a fragrance of violets or roses.
Marta Godziek’s home was open to all those who wanted to meet with Catherine. Basia was a frequent guest – then a student of medicine – now a doctor. I first met Catherine Szymon in 1982 when together with a group of students from an academic ministry we came as we had learnt of an incredible phenomenon - stigmata. She came across as a very simple woman, but very intelligent. In a few simple words she would hit home. The stigmata she had on her hands were huge wounds that kept bleeding from crevices. Her wounds gave off an aroma.
It was the scent of flowers. While in ecstasy, Jesus and Mother of God would speak to us through her mouth, teaching us human dignity. For example: The mother of God told us, the students of medicine, that every ill child or adult should be treated as Jesus Himself. It was very uplifting to us. We kept coming there and sang. Catherine was a cheerful friendly person. Full of love to God and her fellow human beings. It was a great school of life to us.
She was endowed with many miraculous gifts such as an encounter with Jesus Christ, Saint Mary and other Saints, a gift of being simultaneously at two different places at different times, fathoming out people’s hearts and consciences, speaking foreign languages (including Hebrew and German despite being unable to read and write ). Many a time, as witnesses testify, “Holy Communion descended and rested on her very lips” When she was unable to go to church unaided - she received Holy Communion from Heaven. In 1983 John Paul II met with her in Katowice, he embraced her and said to the accompanying bishop Bednorz: “Look after this person, please”.
Catherine Szymon died on August 24, 1986. The moment she died, the stigmata she had borne for over 40 years started miraculously to heal, confirming thus their supernatural character. Dr. Włodzimierz Wojciechowski: Which would not if her stigmata had been false, pricked – that is pricked with needles, or some kind of a knife. But in this case – just two hours after she died, the wounds were healing and took four days to heal up. It looked as though the clots were subliming, that is evaporating. Her skin smoothed out, and it could be said that at the moment of Catherine’s funeral, there were only clot marks left on her body. 20,000 people attended to her funeral among whom there were many priests.
Her grave is located on the Holy Trinity parish cemetery at 34 T. Boya-Żeleńskiego, Katowice-Kostuchna (postal code: 40-750) Poland.
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