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Zofia J. Zdybicka

Zofia Józefa Zdybicka – a female philosopher, university teacher, noun, and a founder of a new concept of the philosophy of religion referring to the classical metaphysical realism. She worked in close cooperation with Mieczysław A. Krąpiec, Karol Wojtyła (St. John Paul II) and Stanisław Kamiński. In 1948 she joined the Congregation of the Ursuline Sisters of the Agonizing Heart of Jesus. She occupied responsible posts in the Congregation’s General Council and in 1983–2003 she was the superior of its Lublin Centre. She performed didactic, administrative and editorial work at the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL), including the work of the dean of the Faculty of Christian Philosophy in 1986–1987 and 1990–1999. She was one of the greatest metaphysicians and philosophers of religion; in Poland she was the actual founder of that, still new, field of study. She taught several generations of students who continue the traditions of the Lublin Philosophical School. She retired in 2000.

She was born on 5th August 1928 in Kraśnik Lubelski as a daughter of Feliks and Helena (family name: Łukasik). In 1948 she passed her secondary school finals at the August and Julius Vetters’ Merchant’s Secondary School in Lublin. In 1956 she started studying at the Faculty of Christian Philosophy of KUL. She obtained all possible academic degrees – first the master’s degree, and then the doctor’s degree for a thesis written under the supervision of prof. M.A. Krąpiec. She passed her postdoctoral examination in 1970. A few years later she became the head of an innovative – not only in Poland – Chair of the Philosophy of Religion. She was granted the title of an associate professor and the post of the KUL university teacher in 1978, and in 1988 she obtained the degree of a full professor of humanities. She updated her education as a research fellow at the Yale University (New Haven, USA 1977/1978), at the Catholic University of America in Washington (1978) and – multiply – at the Catholic University of Louvain. For many years (at KUL) she was the president of the Senate Commission for Contacting Foreign Scientific Institutions, a member of the Editorial Commission, the Commission in Charge of Learning, the Commission in Charge of the Youth, the Commission in Charge of Buildings and a member of the Board of the KUL Scientific Society. She co-edited the magazine “Roczniki Filozoficzne” [Philosophical Annuals], she joined the Scientific Board of the John Paul II Institute at KUL, she edited the part Philosophy of Religion in Encyklopedia Katolicka” [The Catholic Encyclopaedia], she worked as a member of the scientific committee of “Powszechna encyklopedia filozofii” [The Universal Encyclopaedia of Philosophy] and the scientific committee of the book series “Biblioteka Filozofii Realistycznej” [The Library of Realistic Philosophy].

She is a member of the following scientific associations: The Committee of Philosophical Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) PAN (1987–1989), the Polish Philosophical Society, the KUL Scientific Society, the American Biographical Institute, Societas Internationale St. Thomae Aquinatis, Pontificia Academia Sanctae Thomae Aquinatis, the Polish Society of St Thomas Aquinas – a Branch of Società Internazionale Tommaso d’Aquino. She organised a lot of scientific conferences, including the World Congress of Christian Philosophy in Lublin entitled “Wolność we współczesnej kulturze” [Freedom in the Contemporary Culture] (20–25.08.1996). She participated in the meetings of the Primatial Social Council and the Polish Episcopate Council for Culture, for Catholic Education, for Dialogue with Non-believers, as well as the Commission “Iustitia et Pax.” She was a consultant to the Polish Episcopate Scientific Council. She was granted the Gold Cross of Merit (1978), the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2000), the award of the Scientific Council of the “Życie i Myśl” [Life and Thought] magazine: “The Book of the Year” (1978), the title of the “Woman of the Year 1998” (American Biographical Institute) and the Award of the Rector of KUL (1996). In 2014 she was given the award of Idzi Radziszewski, which is granted to scientists each year by the KUL Scientific Association. Also, she received the prestigious Fenix award which is given to authors during the Catholic Editors’ Fair (2011).

Zofia Józefa Zdybicka’s scientific achievements are impressive. They include numerous doctoral theses prepared and defended under her supervision, active participation in the scientific and cultural life of Poland, and – above all – more than 300 written works. The most important ones are: “Partycypacja bytu. Próba wyjaśnienia relacji między światem a Bogiem” [The Participation of Being: An Attempt to Explain the Relations Between the World and God] (Lublin 1972); “Poznanie Boga w ujęciu Henri de Lubaca” [Knowledge of God According to Henri de Lubac] (Lublin 1973); “Człowiek i religia. Zarys filozofii religii” [Person and Religion: The Outline of the Philosophy of Religion] (Lublin 1977, 1993; new amended edition, Lublin 2006; English edition – Person and Religion: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, trans. Th. Sandok, New York 1991); “Religia i religioznawstwo” [Religion and Religious Science] (Lublin 1988, 1992); “Otworzyć serce. Apostolstwo matki Urszuli Ledóchowskiej” [Opening One’s Heart: The Apostleship of Mother Ursula Ledóchowska] (Warsaw 2003; Italian edition – Orsola Ledóchowska. Santa dei tempi difficili e segno di speranza, trans. Z. Brzozowska, Città del Vaticano 2004); “Bóg czy sacrum?” [God or Sacrum?] (Lublin 2007), “Jan Paweł II, filozof i mistyk” [John Paul II, a Philosopher and Mystic] (Lublin 2009); “Pułapka ateizmu” [The Trap of Atheism] (Lublin 2012).

The main area of research carried out by Z. Zdybicka includes the issues concerning the relations: the world–God, the man–God, as well as all the problems resulting from those relations. She pays special attention to the transcendence and immanence of God in relation to the world, to the fundamental issue of the participation of accidental beings in the Absolute. She joins the discussion on the human possibility to know God – to discover His attributes. She puts a lot of scientific effort into the issue of atheism(s), showing its (their) historical image, as well as modern (generally a priori) factors that confirm a “strong” existence of atheist or atheising attitudes.

However, the crucial scientific accomplishments of Z. Zdybicka are related to the philosophy of religion. The question of what religion is and why it exists organises her scientific work into a methodologically uniform whole. What is important is the fact that she does not try to explain a particular religion, but she attempts to indicate an internal structure of religion as such – to show the nature and the metaphysical essence of each religion. According to Zdybicka, religion is an ontic person-person relation between a personal human being and the personal Absolute in which a human person participates as in the ultimate source of his/her existence and the ultimate meaning of life. Such relation is real and existential, necessary, intersubjective, moral, dynamic, consisting of two-way activities, but perfecting the human subject. Thus, it is crucial for human culture as it influences many aspects of most areas of human activity, although the processes of secularisation, desacralisation or liberal freedom seem to be more and more important in the awareness of the inhabitants of the contemporary West.