Roza Czacka was born to a wealthy family of the Polish aristocracy. Educated at home, she enjoyed every privilege but suffered from failing eyesight. Her family was reluctant to acknowledge it until, at the age of twenty-two, she became completely blind. Assured at that point that there was nothing to be done for her condition, she set herself to learn how to function independently, and then turned to charitable work on behalf of other blind people. In 1911 she founded the Society for the Care of the Blind, which included educational and vocational programs for children and adults.
After becoming a Third Order Franciscan, she conceived the idea of a new religious congregation. This was established in 1918 as the Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross, with Czacka, now Mother Elzbieta, as superior. The charism of the congregation was to pay penance for the “spiritual blindness” of the world, but eventually its apostolate joined with the work of the Society for the Care of the Blind. The order was itself open to other blind sisters.
Under her administration, schools for the blind opened in many cities in Poland. Czacka remained in Warsaw throughout the Second World War, where she helped hide Jews and offered assistance to the underground resistance. She herself was wounded when a bomb fell on the house where she was staying. After retiring in 1950 from active work, she died on May 15, 1961. She was beatified in 2021.
“Sister Elzbieta, who as a young girl lost her sight, devoted her whole life to assisting the blind. May [her] example encourage us to transform darkness into light with the power of love.”
—Pope Francis, on the beatification of Elzbieta Roza Czacka