Friday, August 12, 2005

Young adult ministry can be hazardous to your health

Today is the memorial of Blessed Karl Leisner, youth minister.

photo of Karl Leisner

Karl was a theology student and youth minister in Germany in the 1930s. As the National Socialist regime rose to power and the oppression of the Church increased, he developed a notable interest in hiking, camping, and natural history --- a cover for getting groups of youth away from prying eavesdropping official eyes and ears to freely speak of the Faith.

He did a stint of forced agricultural labor, during which he continued his theology studies and illicitly oranized Sunday Mass and faith formation for his fellow conscript laborers. During this time, his dwelling got raided by the Gestapo --- who confiscated Karl's spiritual journal and in their meticulous way carefully preserved it (for us!).

He was ordained deacon by Bishop Von Galen (soon to be beatified himself) in 1939, but was quickly imprisoned for his continued criticism of the National Socialist regime. After time in prisons at Freiburg, Mannheim, and Sachsenhausen, he was transferred to Dachau in December 1941. On 17 December 1944 he was ordained a priest while in Dachau by a French bishop finangled into the camp with the help of the local religious authorities. Being too ill to stand, he had to postpone his Mass of Thanksgiving for more than a week.

Still clinging to life in the prison camp when it was captured by the Allied forces in May, 1945, he was immediately transferred to a sanitarium near Munich, where he died on this day in 1945 of tuberculosis and effects of his long-suffering in prison.

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