As part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Marian Fathers presence in Latvia, an international scholarly conference “Servant of God Jānis Mendriks – a witness to the faith” was held at the monastery in Viļāni on May 10, organized by the Postulator General of the Congregation of Marian Fathers, Fr. Dr. Andrzej Pakuła, MIC.

In his introduction to the conference, Fr. Pakuła presented the course and prospects of the beatification process of Fr. Jānis Mendriks, noting that, thanks to the research already carried out, there is reasonable hope that he will be included among the blessed of the Church. He also informed the conference that Fr. Dr. Dmitrijs Artjomovs, MIC will be appointed Vice-Postulator of the beatification process; his duty will be to collect the relevant documentation.

Three papers were delivered during the conference. Fr. Dr. Dmitrijs Artjomovs MIC, in his paper “Historical sources for the study of the biography of the Servant of God Jānis Mendriks – the state of research,” presented the current collection of historical sources, indicating that dozens of documents are available and described that relate to the life of the Servant of God, his martyrdom in the Vorkuta camp, and the belief of the faithful that he gave his life in defense of the faith.

Polish historian Fr. Dr. Jan Kosmowski, MIC, gave a lecture on “The life of the Servant of God Jānis Mendriks in the context of the persecution of the Catholic Church.” In his speech, he pointed to the anti-religious policies of the USSR, which led to the deaths of many Christians convicted on extrajudicial grounds for “anti-Soviet activities,” including many clergymen. This historical context is also very important for understanding the decisions made by Fr. Jānis Mendriks, who, on the one hand, “did not seek death,” but in a moment of danger, when many prisoners were threatened with execution, wanted to be with them, not taking the opportunity to avoid death.

Fr. Dr. Andris Ševels MIC delivered a paper on “The spiritual life of the Servant of God Jānis Mendriks in the light of his writings,” demonstrating that the profile of the spiritual life of the Servant of God is particularly characterized by his Marian devotion, Eucharistic devotion, pastoral zeal, concern for each person entrusted to him, and sincere joy in the conversion of sinners.

The conference concluded with a discussion, during which inaccuracies in the presentations were shown and a plan of action for the Marians in Latvia in the framework of Fr. Mendriks beatification process was defined.

Fr. Jānis Mendriks was born in 1907 in the parish of Kalupe, entered the Congregation of Marian Fathers at the age of twenty, and was ordained a priest in 1938. He served as vicar in Viļāni parish and was pastor of Ostrone parish. During World War II he was sentenced to death by the German occupation authorities, so he was forced to flee and hid with the faithful in Lamiņi, Talsi, Tukums and other parishes until the end of the war. After the war, he served in Talsi, Ārlava, Sabile, Kandava, Višļi. His last place of ministry was the parishes of Elerne and Jaunborne.

Arrested in 1950, he was accused of anti-Soviet activity and sentenced to ten years in a labor camp in Vorkuta.

In 1953, during the revolt, he decided to stay with the inmates, who were in danger of death, as it was decided to force them to go to work. According to a witness and friend of Fr. Jānis, he said that “as a priest he had to carry out his ministry where people’s lives were in danger”. He was executed along with other prisoners.

Jānis Mendriks’ diary and two letters were published in Latvian in 2019, and in Polish in 2021.

In connection with the ongoing beatification process, which began in 2003, we ask the faithful to pray that the Servant of God Jānis Mendriks be beatified, and we encourage you to pray for various needs through his intercession. We also ask you to inform the Marian Fathers in Latvia of the graces received.