SOPOT, Poland — Most countries have credit union pioneers,
individuals they can point to as having been instrumental in
spearheading development of their financial cooperative institutions.
Someday soon, Poland may become the first country to have a credit union
Franciszek Stefczyk, a former country school teacher and political
organizer, is credited with starting Poland's first credit unions in the
early 20th century. SKOK, the Polish credit union system, celebrated
Stefczyk's 150th birth anniversary last year and recently nominated him
to Poland's Catholic Church for beatification. The nomination could
result in Stefczyk being named the first credit union saint.
"Dr. Stefczyk, who has been referred to as the ‘Polish Raiffeisen,' was an ardent Christian, a great Polish patriot and a pioneer of rural cooperative credit unions," said Janusz Ossowski, president of Poland's Cooperative Research Institute. "He was a person of wonderful qualities of spirit and mind whose entire life bears testimony to the belief that the rules of business can be reconciled by the Gospel if those rules are based on true values and the idea of helping one's neighbor."
Beatification, often years in the making, is based on specific criteria established by the Roman Catholic Church. In December, World Council First Vice Chair Grzegorz Bierecki, president and CEO of the National Association of Cooperative Savings & Credit Unions (NACSCU) and a senator in Poland's parliament, nominated Stefczyk for beatification to the Most Rev. Mieczysław Mokrzycki, archbishop of Lvov. Mokrzycki accepted the request, expressed his support and pledged to take further action based on the church's canonization laws.
"Franciszek Stefczyk was an eminent personality, setting the example
for Poles," Bierecki said. "He was a man who, through his personal
example, showed how the Gospel can be put into practice, and he deserves
The credit unions Stefczyk created flourished until 1939, when Nazi
forces shuttered them during the invasion and occupation of Poland. The
credit union movement was further suppressed under the communist rule
that followed World War II. Credit unions remained virtually dormant
until the Solidarity movement helped the country earn its freedom in
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.