Skip to content

Former flight attendant’s beatification takes flight

The beatification cause of a young Polish woman who worked as a flight attendant on a budget airline before serving as a lay missionary in Bolivia will take a step forward Friday.

Kraków’s Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski blesses a plaque in memory of Helena Kmieć in Libiąż, Poland, on Feb. 6, 2018. Screenshot from @archidiecezjakrakowska8170 YouTube channel.

Members of the tribunal overseeing the beatification process of Helena Kmieć — who was stabbed to death in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba in 2017, at the age of 25 — will be sworn in May 10, at a ceremony in the chapel of the Bishop’s Palace in Kraków, southern Poland.

Tribunal members will hear from witnesses and gather other evidence to determine whether Kmieć displayed heroic virtue, a requirement for beatification.

Kmieć was born in 1991, a few months before Carlo Acutis, the first millennial to be beatified. But while the Italian teen died in 2006, before the advent of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Kmieć was a user of instant messaging apps.

Fr. Paweł Wróbel, the postulator of her cause, said that when the Polish millennial’s writings were gathered ahead of the formal opening of her beatification cause, they included instant messages.

“We collected what we could collect in terms of Helena’s writings,” he told Vatican Radio in April. “She left behind very few of these writings that are so strictly understood.”

“But it’s a sign of the times — when examining the compatibility of the writings of candidates for beatification with the teachings of the Church, one also examines messages on Messenger, on WhatsApp, or electronic correspondence.”

He added: “She often wrote email messages. Most of her communications were written through electronic media and not through traditional letters or other messages written on paper. This is also a sign of the times, the saints are moving with the times.”


Helena Agnieszka Kmieć was born on Feb. 9, 1991, in Kraków. Her mother died a few weeks after her birth, and she was raised by her father and stepmother.

She attended school in the nearby town of Libiąż, where she was recognized as intellectually gifted. After winning a scholarship to Leweston School, an independent school in southwest England, she majored in chemical engineering and technology at the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice. 

She attended Mass almost daily during her studies, as well as helping children at a Caritas community center, and taking part in the university chaplaincy’s activities. Throughout her education, she also honed her talent for singing

As a student, she encountered the Missionary Volunteering Salvator group, run by the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). In her first mission, she led a summer camp for children in Galgahévíz, Hungary, in 2012. 

In 2013, she worked with street children in Zambia, and in 2014, with young people in Timișoara, Romania.

After graduating in 2014, Kmieć worked for a time as a flight attendant for Wizz Air, a Hungarian low-cost airline. In 2016, she oversaw a parish committee welcoming pilgrims attending World Youth Day in Kraków.

In an application for a missionary trip, she outlined her motivation for mission work.

“I have been given God’s grace … and I have to share this gift,” she wrote. “All the skills I have, the abilities I acquire, the talents I develop, are not to serve me, but are there for me to use to help others.” 

“The greatest gift is that I know God and I can’t keep it to myself, I have to spread it! If I can help someone, make someone smile, make them happier, maybe teach them something, I want to do it!”

On Jan. 8, 2017, she began a six-month mission at a children’s orphanage run by the Servant Sisters of Dębicka in Cochabamba, central Bolivia. 

On the night of Jan. 24, 2017, a man named Romualdo Mamio Dos Santos broke into the orphanage, with the intention of robbing it. He encountered Kmieć and struck her 14 times with a knife. Despite efforts to resuscitate her, she was declared dead. Her killer was later given a 30-year jail sentence.

Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz celebrated Kmieć’s funeral Mass on Feb. 19, 2017, and she was buried at the cemetery at Libiąż. She was posthumously awarded Poland’s Gold Cross of Merit, for her service to people in need. 

Subscribe now

Fr. Wróbel, who knew Kmieć, was appointed postulator of her cause in December 2022. After collecting her writings, he submitted a request to Kraków’s Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski to open the diocesan stage of her beatification cause.

Following consultations with the Polish bishops’ conference and after obtaining consent from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Jędraszewski announced the opening of Kmieć’s cause in an April 7 decree

It said: “After the death of Helena Kmieć, an opinion spontaneously appeared among the faithful about her holy life devoted to God and the Church. Many people prayed and continue to pray through her intercession.” 

“The example of the Servant of God can certainly be an inspiration for people — especially young people — to pursue their vocation to holiness with great passion and commitment through volunteering and missionary activity.”

The decree appealed to “all those who have any documents, letters or information regarding the Servant of God, both positive and negative,” to submit them by June 30.

At the May 10 ceremony, which will be live streamed, tribunal members appointed by Jędraszewski will take an oath promising to carry out their tasks diligently and confidentially. 

After the first session, all later tribunal sessions will take place behind closed doors, except the final session, which will also be public.

The tribunal may decide to set up a subsidiary tribunal in the Archdiocese of Cochabamba, to hear from witnesses in Bolivia.

In an interview published May 7 on the Kraków archdiocese’s website, Fr. Wróbel said that a miracle would be a requirement for Kmieć’s beatification. 

“Only in the case of a martyrdom process is a miracle not required,” he said. “For a beatification process to proceed on the grounds of martyrdom, certain criteria must be met, including that the death inflicted by the perpetrator must be due to either hatred of the faith or virtue derived from it.” 

“We verified the perpetrator’s motivations. This was not the case with Helena.”

Subscribe now

Comments 5