Joseph Sebastian Pelczar was born in Poland in 1842. He felt the calling to be a priest at a very early age. He entered the seminary in the city of Przemysl and was ordained in 1864. He was first assigned as a parish priest but in 1866 he went to Rome to study. He completed doctorates in both theology and canon law at the Gregorian University. He remained in Rome until 1877 serving as a professor and then taught in Przemysl and Krakow until 1893. He established libraries, wrote countless books and articles and worked for the poor, orphans, the jobless and the sick though a fraternity which he founded. He was a co-founder of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in order to work with women.
In 1901 Pelczar became bishop of Przemysl and worked tirelessly visiting parishes, reforming seminaries and the education system to give access to all people. He rebuilt churches, established nurseries, kitchens, homeless shelters and schools in order to implement the newly announced social teaching of the Church as explained by Pope Leo XIII. Bishop Pelczar died on March 28, 1924 with a strong reputation for holiness and as a pastor who genuinely cared for his flock.
The process of canonization began on the local level in 1952, but the cause was opened in Rome in 1982. Pope Saint John Paull II declared him Venerable in 1989. A first miracle attributed to Bishop Pelczar was approved and he was beatified by John Paul II during a visit to Poland in 1991. After the approval of a second miracle, the same pope canonized Joseph Sebastian Pelczar in 2003.