Sunday, June 4, 2017

Blessed Stephen Sandor, Salesian brother and martyr

Blessed Stephen Sandor
Salesian Brother and Martyr
Memorial, June 8

Story and photo from

Stephen Sandor was born in Szolnok, Hungary, on November 26, 1914, the son of Stephen and Maria Fekete, the oldest of three brothers. His father worked with the state railways, and his mother at home. Both gave their children a deep religious spirit. Stephen studied in the city, gaining a diploma in metallurgy. As a youngster he was admired by his friends and was happy, serious, and gentle. He liked hanging around with his friends and was a leader among them, like John Bosco among the young people of Chieri. He helped his younger brothers study and pray, giving them his own example. He was fervent at the time of his Confirmation and promised to imitate St. Peter, whose name he took for Confirmation.

Knowing Don Bosco through the Salesian Bulletin

Stephen served Mass every day at the Franciscan church and received Communion. Through reading the Salesian Bulletin, he came to know about Don Bosco. He immediately felt attracted by the Salesian charism. He spoke to his spiritual director, expressing a desire to enter the Salesian Congregation. He spoke to his parents about it. They did not give permission and sought to dissuade him. But Stephen finally convinced them, and in 1936 he was accepted at the Clarisseum School, where he made an aspirantate of two years. At the Don Bosco print shop, learned how to be a printer. He began his novitiate, but it was interrupted by military service.

Model teacher and apostle

In 1939 Stephen resumed his novitiate, and he made his first profession of vows on September 8, 1940. Asked to teach at the Clarisseum, he immediately began to teach technical courses. He was also assistant at the youth center, something he did competently and enthusiastically. He fostered the Young Catholic Workers. His group was recognized as the best in the Movement. Following Don Bosco’s example, he became a model teacher. In 1942 he was called back to military service and earned a silver medal for valor. He organized an oratory at the front, encouraging his young friends in a Salesian style.

Bro. Stephen (far right) with his altar boys at the Clarisseum School.
At the end of World War II, Bro. Stephen involved himself in rebuilding society morally and materially, especially in the case of poor young people whom he gathered around him in order to teach them a trade. On July 24, 1946, he made his perpetual profession as a Salesian coadjutor brother. In 1948 he was certified as a master printer. When they completed their studies, Bro. Stephen’s students were employed by the best print shops in Hungary. 

Secret martyrdom

After the Communist takeover of the government in 1947, a period of persecution of Catholic schools began, and they had to close. Bro. Stephen was working in the print shop, but he had to escape and hide in Salesian houses while working under a false name in a chemical factory and continuing his youth and catechetical work secretly.

In July 1952 he was arrested at work, and his confreres never saw him again. After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, it was learned that he had been tried as a traitor on account of his religious activity and hanged in prison on June 8, 1953. His cause of martyrdom was opened at Budapest on May 24, 2006, and he was beatified on October 19, 2013.

Carrying out the beatification rite in Budapest, Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Vatican’ s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said that Bro. Stephen’s death, far from being an “improvised heroic gesture,” had followed a life of “perpetual self-dedication.” He said religious persecution creates “a gulf between human beings,” whereas martyrs build “bridges of fraternity, forgiveness, and acceptance through their sacrifice.”

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