(ANS – Vatican City) – Pope Francis on May 15 approved the beatification of the Servant of God Stephen Sandor, a lay (coadjutor) brother of the Society of St. Francis de Sales. Back in March, the Congregation for Saints’ Causes recognized officially that he had been executed in hatred of the Faith, i.e., he is a martyr.
The rite of beatification will take place in Budapest, Hungary, on Saturday, October 19, 2013, where Bro. Stephen lived as a Salesian and where he was hanged on June 8, 1953, by the Communist rulers of the country. The Holy Father will be represented at the beatification ceremony by Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes.
Fr. Pierluigi Cameroni, Salesian postulator general, said that Bro. Stephen was sent by the Holy Spirit to the young people of Hungary to bear witness to the Gospel according to the spirit of Don Bosco. He remained with them and kept guard over them even to the point of giving his life as a martyr. He offered his life for the salvation of the young and in defense of the rights of the Church.
“We thank God for this special gift to the Church and to the Salesian Family in this Year of Faith as we prepare for the bicentennial of Don Bosco’s birth,” said Fr. Cameroni, as soon as he heard the news. “This event is a moment of joy especially for the Salesian Congregation in Hungary, which this year celebrates 100 years of Salesian presence in the country. We receive this news also as a gift of Mary Help of Christians as we begin the novena in her honor. Stephen Sandor had great devotion to the Mother of God, and he spread this devotion among the young with great enthusiasm and fervor.”
Bro. Sandor, born in 1914 at Szolnok, Hungary, came to know about Don Bosco through the Salesian Bulletin and became an aspirant in 1936. He learned the printer’s craft and made his first profession on Sept. 8, 1940, as a coadjutor brother. In Budapest he taught printing, assisted at the youth center, and promoted the Young Catholic Workers. At the end of World War II, he began working for the material and moral rebuilding of society by gathering up poor youths and teaching them a trade.
When the Communist regime began to persecute the Church and disbanded religious organizations, Bro. Sandor continued working underground. He found employment in a detergent factory and fearlessly but kept up his clandestine youth apostolate. In July 1952 he was arrested; his confreres never saw him again. Only after the fall of the Communists did documents come to light showing that he had been hanged in 1953.