The Diocese of Ełk was formed by John Paul II on 25 th March 1993 from the territories formerly belonging to the Dioceses of Łomża and Warmia. Its first bishop was Wojciech Ziemba, former auxiliary bishop in Warmia. Jerzy Mazur is Ełk’s current bishop and Romuald Kamiński is an auxiliary bishop.
The Diocese of Ełk is located in the north-east of Poland. It borders with Russia (Kaliningrad) in the north and with Latvia and Belarus in the north-east. Within church’s structure it borders with Archdiocese of Warmia, Archdiocese of Białystok and Diocese of Łomża. It covers a territory of 11 000km 2 and is inhabited by 472 089 people, of which about 404 961 are Catholic. The biggest cities in the diocese are: Suwałki (69 000 inhabitants), Ełk (60 000 inhabitants), Augustów (30 700 inhabitants) and Giżycko (29 381 inhabitants). The territory of the Diocese of Ełk is located on the border of two culturally and historically significant regions: Mazury and Suwałki-Augustów region, which means that the Diocese is full of natural wonders and tourist attractions. The beauty of the rivers and lakes scattered in Mazury, Suwalszczyzna and Augustów attracts many tourists. Even Karol Wojtyła savoured the beauty of the Diocese’s nature before he became a Pope. To commemorate his visits the Diocese organised Papal Trails for cyclists and kayakers. Bishop Wojciech Ziemba, welcoming Pope John Paul II to Ełk in 1992, described the Diocese thus: “It is a beautiful land, made fertile by the perpetual prayers of the Camaldolese monks and the local inhabitants. We entrust you the land of your memories: rough waves of Wigierskie Lake, quiet Czarna Hańcza, vast forests with the lakes woven on the Augustowski channel, like the beads on the rosary, and the meadows and the swamps full of birds and flowers.” Despite the fact that the Dioceses of Ełk is located in one of the poorest and least economically developed regions of Poland, it is characterised by a great hospitability and kindness of its inhabitants. The borders with Russia, Latvia and Belarus make the Diocese unique. The Latvians are especially significant because many of them live in the parishes by the borders and are notably present within these communities. The Catholics in the Diocese of Ełk are traditionally religious, Eucharist-loving, centred on the cult of Saint Mary and a pilgrimage. There are number of sanctuaries in the Diocese and in the vicinity, in Poland and abroad, open to believers travelling both on foot and by public transport, to name but a few – sanctuaries dedicated to St Mary: Ełk, Studzieniczna, Sejny, Krasnybór, Rajgród; The Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Ełk and in Suwałki; Saint Cross Sanctuary in Olecko; St. Bruno Sanctuary in Giżycko.
The Diocese of Ełk has numerous parish communities, beautiful churches and a history of contemplative communities: a former Camaldolese complex in Wigry and former Dominican complex in Sejny. The Diocese was home to the following blessed figures:
Blessed Marianna Biernacka – born and baptised in 1888 in Lipsk. Arrested on 1 st July 1943. Died as a martyr on 13 th July 1943 in Naumowicze next to Grodno. She was beatified on 13 June 1999 by Pope John Paul II.
Blessed sister Kanizja Eugenia Mackiewicz CSFN – Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Born on 27 th September 1904 in Suwałki. Baptised in St. Aleksander Parish in Suwałki, she joined the congregation on 24 th July 1933. She died as a martyr on 1 st August 1943 in Nowogródek. She was beatified on 5 th March 2000 by John Paul II.
Blessed sister Segia Julia Rapiej CSFN – Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Born on 18 th August 1900 in Rogożyn (parish of Lipsk). She joined the congregation on 25 th December 1922. Died as a martyr on 1 st August 1943 in Nowogródek. She was beatified 5 th March 2000 by John Paul II.
Translation: Michalina Szymanska