Polish Credit Union Pioneer Nominated for Beatification
SOPOT, Poland — Most countries have credit union pioneers, individuals they can point to as having been instrumental in spearheading development of their financial cooperative institutions. Someday soon, Poland may become the first country to have a credit union saint.
Franciszek Stefczyk, a former country school teacher and political organizer, is credited with starting Poland’s first credit unions in the early 20th century. SKOK, the Polish credit union system, celebrated Stefczyk’s 150th birth anniversary last year and recently nominated him to Poland’s Catholic Church for beatification. The nomination could result in Stefczyk being named the first credit union saint.
“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 and 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 World Council of Credit Unions, Poland’s credit unions have flourished since that time, and the country has become home to one of the world’s fastest growing and most progressive credit union systems. In 2012, SKOK will celebrate its 20th anniversary, which will include hosting World Council’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, visit www.letsgdansk2012.org.
World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. WOCCU promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. WOCCU advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions’ financial performance and increase their outreach.
WOCCU has implemented more than 275 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 53,000 credit unions in 100 countries serve 188 million people. Learn more about WOCCU’s impact around the world at www.woccu.org.
Contact: Mike Muckian
Organization: World Council of Credit Unions