Priest: Christ is Risen
People: Truly He is Risen
The ancient rythms of eastern apostolic christianity rang out once more in Chicago just like every year but this year, somebody was missing. Josefa wasn’t around adding her cracked byelorussian voice to our romanian chants, her rolling gait was missing from the traditional procession 3 times around the church. The rock that so much of the practical life of our little church was missing and nobody had a clue. She’d been sick the week before “in the hospital” people in the know would mention to the curious just like people would mention her real story to those who asked but nobody who had not asked ever found out about the true story of the rough gem in our midst. In short, Josefa Tarasewicz was a martyr.
Martyrs come in two varieties, white and red, the difference being whether you survived, or did not, respectively. I’d grown up in New York surrounded in my church life with white martyrs. They didn’t like to talk about it. They deftly changed the subject or only described the most maddening generalities if you pressed them for their stories. You could only find out second or third hand from their trusted family and friends. But Josefa never learned english properly and my byelorussian is nonexistent. All I could do was honor her by tolerating her eccentricities and making sure she was as comfortable as possible given all of our own limits.
From what little our parish priest told me she was the sister of a bishop, imprisoned by the byelorussian communists, suffered (where I suspect she got her later gait from), and was later released eventually making her way to Chicago where she devoted her life to helping her brother (another white martyr), and when he passed, the church he lived out his later life in. She had nightmares and confused reality with those nightmares. The common theme was her being tortured.
Trivia fact: Bishops sometimes make personal arrangements between each other and Bishop Tarasewicz made one with the Archbishop of Chicago of the day, that his sister have a place to stay so long as she lived. And every Archibishop has made the same arrangement with his successor, keeping the faith with their departed brothers. Josefa stayed in an apartment behind the church we eventually took over, the prior congregation being hopelessly (single digit) small.
Josefa never missed services and here was Easter, the biggest feast of the year and she was not around. I wondered when she was getting back from the hospital and was surprised to hear that she already had. Fr. was sure instead that some member of her spread out clan had swooped down and taken her with them to a family celebration. My wife was insistent that we check to see if something had gone wrong. After a search, we found the keys, I went up and Josefa had been called to a different Easter feast but not by her nephew, brother, or other earthly relative. Josefa had been called home.
Christ is risen
Truly he is risen