Fr Joseph was one of the first Oblates who laid foundations of the Oblate Province in Poland. Born in 1902, he had a challenging life. First his dreams to be a primary school teacher were challenged as he struggled with studying. When he started his grades were well below average, however his determination and hard work led him to improve considerably and he became one of the promising students. A couple of years later his dreams were nearly scattered by a lung ailment which resulted in a surgery followed by many complications and long recovery. In April, 1920 he returned to his studies which a few months later were interrupted again, this time by an unstable political situation between Poland and Germany. Leaving the school Joseph and his classmates made a pilgrimage to a well-known Marian shrine in Silesia where they prayed before the miraculous image of Our Lady of Piekary. After pouring his heart out to the Blessed Mother Joseph approached an Oblate who was ministering in the shrine at that time. The Oblate recognized the desire of the young man as a vocation to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and directed him to the Oblate Juniorate where the following year Joseph completed his schooling and began his Novitiate. In 1922 on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary he made his first vows.
Although his companion didn’t discern his vocation during their visit to the shrine he joined the Oblates later saying: “It was Joseph’s example which led me to the decision of joining the Oblates.” Fr Joseph not only discerned his vocation but was a means Jesus used to guide a discernment of another young man.
Sometime when we reflect on our saints we think that they were unusual heroes. The heroes we admire but there is no way we can follow. Fr Joseph is a saint who assures us of the passage from the First Letter to the Corinthians, where St Paul recalls Jesus’ words addressed to him: “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
The people who knew Fr Josph Cebula agreed that he was a quiet and shy man, however underneath there were perseverance, determination and commitment to his vocation. He died a martyr’s death but he also lived a saint’s life as he allowed Christ’s grace to work in him.