Bronislaus Markiewicz was born on 13 July 1842 in Pruchnik, Poland, in what is today the Latin Rite archdiocese of Przemyśl. He was the sixth of eleven children of Jan Markiewicz, burgomaster (chief magistrate) of the city, and Marianna Gryziecka. He received a solid religious upbringing in the family. Nevertheless, later during his secondary schooling in Przemyśl, he went through a period of doubt and wavering where his faith was concerned, due largely to the very anti-religious climate in the school. He did manage to overcome this fairly quickly and regained inner peace and serenity.
After matriculating, young Bronislaus entered the Major Seminary in Przemyśl in 1863 when he felt that God was calling him to the priesthood. After the usual years of studies were completed, he was ordained priest on 15 September 1867. Following six years of pastoral work as assistant parish priest in the Harta parish and then in the cathedral parish at Przemyśl, and wanting to do further preparation so he could work with young people, he did two years of pedagogy, philosophy and history at the University of Leopoli and Krakow. In 1875 he was appointed parish priest of Gać, and in 1877 of Blażowa. In 1882 he was given the task of teaching Pastoral Theology at the Major Seminary in Przemyśl.
Feeling called to religious life, in November 1885 he left for Italy and entered the Salesians. He had the joy of meeting St John Bosco and it was before him on 25 March 1887 that he professed his vows. As a Salesian he carried out many duties the superiors had given him and he sought to fulfil them with dedication and zeal. Given the austere lifestyle and difference in climate, in 1889 Bronislaus fell seriously ill with tuberculosis, and was at death’s door. But he recovered and spent some time convalescing, still in Italy until the superiors gave him permission to go back to Poland on 23 March 1892. There he became parish priest at Miejsce Piastowe in his diocese of origin, Przemyśl.
Other than the usual parish activities, Bronislaus Markiewicz dedicated himself in the spirit of Don Bosco to the education of poor and orphaned youth. He opened an institute for this purpose in Miejsce Piastowe where he offered those who were boarding there all the spiritual and material support they needed, preparing them for life also with job training in classrooms he opened at the institute. In 1897, with this in mind, he founded two new religious Congregations who drew their inspiration from Don Bosco, adapting their rules to the specific nature of his own charism. Accepted once more among the clergy of the Przemyśl diocese, Father Markiewicz continued his activities as parish priest and director of the institute to which he gave the motto Work and Temperance as their programme (1898). He sought approval for it as a religious Congregation under the protection of St Michael the Archangel, with male and female branches. Approval came a year after his death: in 1921 for the Congregation of St Michael the Archangel and in 1928 for the Congregation of the Sisters of St Michael the Archangel (both known as Michaelites).
Father Bronislaus continued his activities as formator of young people, orphaned and abandoned youngsters, always with the approval and blessing of his bishop, St Joseph Sebastian Pelczar. He benefited from the help of co-workers, contributing to their preparation and formation himself. He had already offered a home and education at Miejsce Piastowe to hundreds of youngsters, giving entirely of himself for them. Wanting to do even more on their behalf, in August 1903 Father Markiewicz opened a new house in Pawlikowice, near Krakow, where more than 400 orphaned children found a home and possibilities for spiritual formation and job preparation.
His total dedication to the young, his heroic self-denial and his huge workload soon left Father Markiewicz exhausted, threatening his already delicate health given the events in Italy. All this meant the somewhat rapid approach of the end his earthly pilgrimage, which happened on 29 January 1912.
Blessed Bronislaus Markiewicz stood out for his great love for the Lord and his neighbour, especially if they were poor, ignored, abandoned and orphaned. He gave of himself completely for them. He had a deep desire to welcome more and more children and to offer them the human warmth that they so lacked. This deep desire is expressed in his words: “I would like to collect millions of abandoned children, from all peoples, feed them free of charge and clothe their bodies and spirit.” He remained faithful to death to this imperative, combined with his courageous choice for the poor, and heroically accepted all the consequences that flowed from the choices he made.