The woman who prayed a mission into existence.
Františka was memorialised as “the woman who prayed a mission into existence”, but her story is much deeper than that. She was born in Southern Bohemia, which is in modern-day Czech Republic, in 1881 in a typical rural village as the youngest of a large family. Her father was a miller. She remembered him as intelligent but brutal. Her mother was deeply religious. Františka left her home at eighteen after her mother's death. Years later, in 1913, she joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Vienna. She was baptised on a stormy night in the Danube River under the cover of darkness. “What a glorious event’, she wrote of the experience, “My heart swelled with a feeling of satisfaction…I felt myself filled with a new power.” This power would become a touchstone for her during many difficult years ahead.
During World War I, her family struggled to survive. Františka had married František Alexim Brodil, whom she met after moving to Vienna in 1898. They were married in 1904 and had two children. Františka recalls they were on the brink of starvation. “The last two years of the war were so horrible that we almost died from starvation. Bread, potatoes, and a few vegetables were doled out to us, but never enough for a healthy meal.” She wrote of the time, “We managed to live through it; but were skeletons compared with what we were upon entering the war.”
After the Armistice in 1918, her family was forced to leave Austria. New restrictions mandated all government jobs be held only by Austrians, forcing her husband out of employment. Soon after starting a new life in Prague, her beloved husband passed away at age 51 and she was left alone to care for their two daughters. She was only 38.
She was the only member of the Church in the new country of Czechoslovakia. Františka was entirely isolated in her religion, yet she diligently taught her daughters the Gospel of Jesus Christ and sent her church contributions to Vienna every six months. She prayed fervently for missionaries to come and even wrote letters to Church leaders in Vienna and Switzerland in the hope that they would answer her prayer.
After nearly a decade of isolation, Františka was visited by representatives from the Church. They met with government officials and received permission for missionaries to come to Czechoslovakia.
However, no one came. She felt darkness hover around her and began to despair. “Oh how bitter and disappointed I felt. I was deeply unhappy.” She remembered that time as her “darkest hours”.
An entire year passed and the thought came to her to write personally to the top leadership of the Church, the First Presidency. “The thought continually stayed with me. An unseen power seemed to be pushing me to do it. It was my last try in this matter.” The leadership of the Church responded to her letter and they began corresponding, asking her many questions about the current political situation in her country.
Then in 1929, on a hill near Karlštein castle, Czechoslovakia was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel and a mission was formally organised. “Few people can realise the joy we experienced,” Františka wrote of the experience. “We [had] been praying for years for this day.”’
Františka passed away shortly after this milestone, at the age of 52. She was eulogised as “the woman who prayed a mission into existence” but alongside her prayers was a legacy of deeply committed effort. She wrote countless letters, advised on politics and stood firm in her beliefs.
Garth, Arthur. “Praying a Mission into Existence” The Latter-day Saints Millennial Star, No. 13, vol. 94: pp. 193-197, 1932.
Research: Sarah Smart
Writing: Sarah Smart
Editing: Amy Epps & Louise Paulsen
Photography: Courtesy of Jared Pratt
Garth, Arthur. “Praying a Mission into Existence”. The Latter-day Saints Millennial Star, No. 13 Vol. 94, pp. 193-197, 1932.