“Don’t worry. Nothing will be all right!” This counterintuitive statement from Fr. Joe Walijewski shows his radical faith in God – nothing’s all right by our own efforts, but God can make things right. How did this man get such faith?
Champion of the Poor depicts the life of Fr. Joe Walijewski, the son of Polish immigrants in Michigan. He lived from 1924-2006 and worked as a priest in the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, as well as a missionary in South America (Bolivia and Peru). Inspired by the movie Boys Town, young Joe has a childhood dream of becoming a priest and making a home for homeless boys and girls. He also feels called to serve in South America. He faces difficulties: his ability to pass seminary, the challenge of moving to South America, and the uphill struggle to find resources to help those most in need. But he perseveres and displays great faith – and introduces the great faith of people in Peru to the rest of the Church.
As in The Tale of Patrick Peyton, the team at Voyage Comics brings to life a little-known priest on the way to sainthood. It’s an excellent contribution to the cause for Fr. Joe’s canonization, now at the Servant of God stage, and an easy introduction to a Catholic role model for young audiences.
The art is of the same excellent quality one sees across Voyage Comics publications. The characters are rendered with a realistic eye, and the text is easy to read.
The story is well-framed, with Fr. Joe giving a summary of his own past, so that the narrative can focus around his desire to fulfill his vocation of building an orphanage. It is an enjoyable, brief read that can appeal to any Catholic who wants to know more about contemporary spiritual role models. I would rate this book E for Everyone – in terms of content and complexity. It’s simple and straightforward enough for young audiences, but the content is also interesting for older Catholic audiences. The graphic novel makes for great history-based entertainment, introducing readers to something not well known and inspiring them to learn more.
The information about canonization would probably not interest Protestant or secular readers. The purpose of the book is to invite readers to pray for Fr. Joe’s intercession and canonization. But Catholics looking to show young readers good, modern stories will want to grab this graphic novel. It is a great reminder that saints come from humble backgrounds and aren’t always internationally famous. Saints start like everyone else, but show an extraordinary trust in God.