Brother Anthony is perhaps the best-known Polish Oblate. His great faith and devotion have earned him a place on the path to canonization. Born in 1866, in a small village in the Prussian Partition, Anthony was raised during a period when children were punished for speaking Polish at school and when religious symbols were banned. Anthony’s mother continued to speak Polish with him at home and taught him about Polish culture and history. When he finished his basic schooling he became a blacksmith’s apprentice. Brother Anthony decided to become an Oblate of Mary Immaculate in 1891.

Only a few years after taking his vows he was sent to western Canada. He arrived in St. Albert in 1896. Unlike the first Polish priests who came to serve the Slavic immigrants in Alberta, Brother Anthony worked at missions serving Métis and First Nations communities. He had only been in Canada for a few months when he seriously injured his hand in a sawmill accident in Lac La Biche. It took four days for him to reach Edmonton and by then it was too late to save his hand. Brother Anthony bravely endured the amputation with only his Oblate cross to ease the pain.

In spite of his injury, Brother Anthony continued to work as a blacksmith, gardener, and swineherd. From 1911 to 1947 he served at St. John’s College in Edmonton where he was affectionately known as “Brother Ave”, since his response to most every need was to say an “Ave” or Hail Mary. There are many stories of how brother Anthony’s faith and prayers positively affected those around him. Even now, sixty-five years after his death, the Catholic Church is recording incidents where prayers to Brother Anthony have been answered. It is hoped that these will aid his cause for beatification.

Anthony Kowalczyk, OMI at St. Albert Grotto, 1930s – 1947. Musée Héritage Museum, St. Albert Historical Society fonds