StartupNaMaxa is an initiative to declare St. Maximilian Kolbe a patron saint of start-ups and entrepreneurs. Father Kolbe was a person whose resourcefulness and perseverance should be a model for every modern businessperson to follow. Even under the most difficult circumstances, he showed the importance of determination, proactivity, a zeal for work and a vision of future actions. We therefore want entrepreneurs to be able to turn to St. Maximilian for help. After a sufficient number of signatures is collected, the petition for the cause will be submitted to Pope Francis during the World Youth Day in Cracow in July this year.
St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe
He is associated mainly with striped concentration camp clothes and with martyr’s death. But St. Maksymilian Maria Kolbe was also an exceptional entrepreneur, who created well-functioning institutions from scratch. We can follow his example – he used all opportunities in his live.
Rajmund Kolbe was born on 8 January 1894 in Zduńska Wola, but soon after, his parents moved to Łódź and then to Pabianice. When Raymond was 12, in his parish church he saw Mary, Mother of God, with two crowns (white and red) in her hands. She asked the boy whether he wanted to have the crowns and at the same time explained that the white crown meant purity and the red one – a martyr’s death. He replied that he wanted to have them. Then, Mary looked at him with love and disappeared – he recalled later. In 1907, the conventual Franciscans from Lviv, organised missions in Pabianice. Raymond, with his elder brother Franciszek, decided to join the Franciscan convent. Both moved to Lviv, where they entered a seminary run by conventual Franciscans. Three years later, they were joined by their youngest brother, Józef.
A man of many talents
In 1910, Raymond entered a convent in Lviv, taking a name of Maksymilian. Later he was sent to study in Cracow and in Rome, where he lived in an international Seraphic college. During his perpetual vows, he took a name of Maria. In Rome, he also attended the famous Collegium Gregorianum. His studies in philosophy and in theology ended with two PhD titles. In addition, he was fascinated with mathematics, science and astronomy. He is the author of e.g. a concept of an etereoplane, i.e. a vehicle for moving in outer space. He was also interested in the theory of transmitting information by means of radio waves, and in the possibility of recording sound and transforming it into a telegraph signal.
A publishing house? No problem!
The changes he saw in the world, the secularity of the society and the trauma of the Big War inspired Maksymilian to create a kind of a fraternity that would worship Mary, which is why in 1917 he started a formation called „Rycerstwo Niepokalanej” (Eng. „Knights of the Immaculate”) among his friends. He wanted to popularise the idea through a newspaper. He was not experienced enough, but for Father Kolbe this was not an obstacle. In 1919, Father Maksymilian, returned to independent Poland. In January 1922, in Cracow, he started publishing a magazine titled „Rycerz Niepokalanej” (Eng. „The Knight of the Immaculate”), initially in 5 thousand copies. The superiors did not believe in the resourcefulness of his brother. Fearing that the activity of the saint-to-be will put the monastery in debts, they sent Maksymilian to Grodno, where he started a printing house immediately. He was working very hard, which soon brought visible effects. In 1927, „Rycerz Niepokalanej” was published in as many as 70 thousand copies, and the number of members of the Knights of the Immaculate has grown to 126 thousand. However, Father Maksymilian has fully developed the publishing potential only when he moved his facilities to Teresin near Warsaw. In 1927 he founded Niepokalanów, which, within a decade has become a biggest Catholic monastery in the world and a residence and a place of work for almost seven hundred brethren.
Do not fear a larger scale
During that period, the number of copies of „Rycerz Niepokalanej” has reached 750 thousand, and – the version for children reached 221 thousand copies. „Mały Dziennik” has reached a number of 137 thousand copies and its Sunday edition – 225 thousand copies. Father Kolbe did not want to limit his activity only to Poland. In the period between 1930 – 1938, St. Maksymilian, together with several other brethren went to Asia for a mission. In Nagasaki, Japan, he started the second „Niepokalanów”. In 1931, he opened noviciate there, and in 1936 – a small seminary. That year, the Japanese edition of „Rycerz Niepokalanej” sold in 65 thousand copies – reached from the level of zero within five years. Father Kolbe did not hide his enthusiasm. He wished to open similar facilities as those in Poland and in Japan all over the world. He managed to do that in China and in India.
During Maksymilian’s absence, Polish Niepokalanów was going through a crisis. However, after coming back from Asia, Maksymilian managed to return the monastery to its intensive rhythm of work. Since 1938, Niepokalanów has also had its own radio station, with a range covering almost the entire country. He is not afraid of any technical news and he wants to make the work as effective as possible. Father Maksymilian also planned to build an airport in order to speed up the distribution of the magazines. For that purpose, he even sent his two brethren for a flying training to Warsaw; the plans were, however, destroyed by the war. On 19 September, the Germans started the liquidation of Niepokalanów. The monks were arrested and placed in Amtlitz, later moved to Ostrzeszów, where they were released on 8 December 1939.
War, not war…
Father Kolbe came back to Niepokalanów immediately. Notwithstanding occupier’s prohibition, he managed to prepare three thousand places for refugees from Wielkopolska, mostly Jews. Apart from providing peace of heart for the refugees, he opened watch and bicycle repair facilities, created forges and steelworks, organised sewing facility and sanitary department. He believed that in spite of war, the monastery must function effectively. On 17 February 1941, Gestapo took St. Maksymilian to Warsaw’s Pawiak, from where he was taken to Auschwitz on 25 May 1941. He died in the death cell on 14 August 1941, opting as a volunteer instead of a co-prisoner. On 17 October 1971, Pope Paul VI celebrated solemn beatification, and on 10 October 1982, John Paul II celebrated his canonisation.
Watch the document about Saint Maximilian
Most Holy Father, As entrepreneurs we know very well that the world of business needs inspiring role models. Only sincere inspiration can provide the strength of will and motivation needed to subdue the earth. We consider St. Maximilian Kolbe one of such people. He is best known for his heroic death in Auschwitz, where he volunteered to die in place of a stranger who was a father to a family, but we also remember him as a brilliant entrepreneur, publisher, journalist and an effective manager. The undersigned of this petition belong to various denominations and have diverse opinions, but we all believe that the achievements and life of St. Maximilian Kolbe should be a role model for the work of many entrepreneurs. That is why we, the undersigned entrepreneurs, activists, journalists and others supporting this petition, ask Your Holiness, with the utmost respect, to designate St. Maximilian Kolbe as the patron saint of entrepreneurs and start-ups beginning their business journey. We sincerely count on Your Holiness’ support on this issue, being aware of the care with which Your Holiness considers the need to build and improve the everyday world.
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The petition is suported by, among others, entrepreneurs and journalists.
CMO, Arcus SA
Kulicki & Młynarczyk
Kulicki & Młynarczyk
CEO, Loranc & Partners
Do It Right e-consulting
Project is coordinated by two entrepreneurs, whose stories are linked with St. Maximilian.
Initiator of petition, St. Maximilian's adorer, entrepreneur, fundraiser
I met Maximilian at primary school. One day, I noticed a picture hanging on the wall which depicted a skinny man wearing glasses and holding a striped uniform. I got inspired, that is why, I asked the priest to tell me something about this man. That person I wanted to know more about was of course St. Maximilian. Since then my life has been accompanied by the figure of Maximilian Kolbe. I was reading about him a lot, especially about the fact he founded Niepokalanow monastery and transformed it into a thriving enterprising place. A few years ago, when my wife Olenka was pregnant, thanks to St. Maximilian, we considered our baby a little miracle. Our son suffered from poor health, his life was in danger and the doctors could not guarantee he would be fine. It was during the Year of Maximilian Kolbe. I was not waiting doing nothing; however, I started praying to him and asked for his support, as well as God’s intercession. It was an endorsement agreement. I promised God that my son would be given a name of Maximilian. Then little Max was born, being a tangible proof of witness of grace God bestowed on us by the intercession of St. Maximilian. I publicly declared on Gnyszkoblog that within 2016 I would read spiritual articles of St. Maximilian Kolbe. The idea that I should not end up only with these articles came to my head during holidays. St. Maximilian is the best contact person for entrepreneurs who want to pray for money to be able to make the world a better place to live. The life in the monastery was enriched by his enthusiasm and creativity – these two aspects which now are difficult to find among any businessmen. OK, but why St. Maximilian? We associate him with a striped uniform and the heroic death in Auschwitz; however, before the war broke out, he every day had beared witness of his entrepreneurship and resourcefulness. When he started his life in the monastery, from the very beginning he was still up to something. He was an inventor who was introducing technical innovations into common usage. He invented one of the first radio stations that broadcast almost nationally and he was thinking of creating his own TV channel in the future. He was a publisher, a printer and a publicist. Simultaneously, he was also a great leader who successfully encouraged his friars and secular people to help him realize his ideas. He was operating not only in Poland, but in Asia as well. His courage and ability to take care of even the farest regions of the world is worth admiring. During the times of occupation, he kept being active. He was creating new workplaces and tried to look for different activities for people seeking for shelter and for those who lived in Niepokalanow, the area he was responsible for. He was prevented from doing all this only when he was arrested by the German for the second time. Isn’t he the right person one should come to ask for help? That is why, I have come up with the idea of StartupNaMaxa – an initiative which hopefully will lead to make St. Maximilian Kolbe a patron of start-ups and entrepreneurs. We started collecting signatures for the petition directed to the Pope Francis, which we would like to give him during the World Youth Day this year in Krakow.
St. Maximilian's Associate, CEO of vintom.
I remember the small pilgrimage my wife and I made to the Niepokalanów monastery at the beginning of our marriage. As we were visiting the museum located there, I saw a display board showing all of St. Maximilian’s initiatives. I spent some time looking at the board and I began to increasingly realize what an extraordinary entrepreneur he was. All the techniques and mechanisms he employed were ahead of their time by at least two decades. In pre-war Poland, his magazine achieved a circulation of 1.5 million – an accomplishment which is unattainable nowadays. He did all of that on his own, from the ground up. He blazed the path for others. It was then that I realized what a remarkable person Maximilian Kolbe was and how he combined spirituality with incredible work organisation. I began to feel a spiritual bond with him. Soon, I received an opportunity to see whether this relationship was mutual. I had made a lot of mistakes when running my first company. I began to doubt whether I should undertake another enterprise, but I decided to entrust it to St. Maximilian. “Entrust” is not really the most precise word to use here though – I established a partner-like relationship with him. It was more or less like this: “I will found a company as a living monument to you and you will help me develop it”. I did not have to wait long. The results we have achieved after a year of business exceed my greatest expectations. You can see St. Maximilian’s hand in it. Since the very beginning, I have felt that St. Maximilian would be in the right place as the patron saint of entrepreneurs. This idea – which, I think, was given to me by Maximilian himself – kept growing inside me as I talked about the extraordinary saint to my various friends. When I met Maciek Gnyszka and told him about how Maximilian took care of my enterprise, Maciek admitted that he himself had come up with an idea to declare St. Maximilian the patron saint of entrepreneurs and start-ups. I wonder how many more people Maximilian called to this task…