Holy Alphonsus Liguori
Holy Alphonsus Liguori was born in Marianella near Naples on September 27, 1696. He was the first born of a rather large family belonging to the Neapolitan nobility. His received a broad education in the humanities, classical and modern languages, painting and music. He composed a Duetto on the Passion, as well as the most popular Christmas carol in Italy, Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle, and numerous other hymns. He finished his university studies earning a Doctorate in both civil and canon law and began his practice in the legal profession.
In 1723, after a long process of discernment, he abandoned his legal career and, despite his father's strong opposition, began his seminary studies. He was ordained a priest on December 21, 1726, at the age of 30. He lived his first years as a priest with the homeless and marginalized young people of Naples. He founded the "Evening Chapels". Run by the young people themselves, these chapels were centers of prayer, community, the Word of God, social activities and education. At the time of his death, there were 72 of these chapels with over 10,000 active participants.
In 1729, Alphonsus left his family home and took up residence in the Chinese College in Naples. It was there that he began his missionary experience in the interior of the Kingdom of Naples where he found people who were much poorer and more abandoned than any of the street children in Naples.
On November 9, 1732, Alphonsus founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, popularly known as the Redemptorists, in order to follow the example of Jesus Christ announcing the Good News to the poor and the most abandoned. From that time on, he gave himself entirely to this new mission.
Alphonsus was a lover of beauty: musician, painter, poet and author. He put all his artistic and literary creativity at the service of the mission and he asked the same of those who joined his Congregation. He wrote 111 works on spirituality and theology. The 21,500 editions and the translations into 72 languages that his works have undergone attest to the fact that he is one of the most widely read authors. Among his best known works are: The Great Means of prayer, The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, The Glories of Mary and The Visits to the Most Holy Sacrament. Prayer, love, his relationship with Christ and his first-hand experience of the pastoral needs of the faithful have made Alphonsus one of the great masters of the interior life.
Alphonsus' greatest contribution to the Church was in the area of Moral Theological reflection with his Moral Theology. This work was born of Alphonsus' pastoral experience, his ability to respond to the practical questions posed by the faithful and from his contact with their everyday problems. He opposed the sterile legalism which was suffocating theology and he rejected the strict rigorism of the time... the product of the powerful elite. According to Alphonsus, those were paths that were closed to the Gospel because "such rigor has never been taught nor practiced by the Church". He knew how to put theological reflection at the service of the greatness and dignity of the person, of a moral conscience, and of evangelical mercy.
Alphonsus was consecrated bishop of St. Agatha of the Goths in 1762. He was 66 years old. He tried to refuse the appointment because he felt too old and too sick to properly care for the diocese. In 1775, he was allowed to retire from his office and went to live in the Redemptorist community in Pagani where he died on August 1, 1787. He was canonized in 1831, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1871 and Patron of Confessors and Moralists in 1950.
Blessed Gennaro Sarnelli
Gennaro Maria Sarnelli, the son of the baron of Ciorani, was born in Naples on September 12, 1702. At the age of 14, he decided to become a Jesuit, but his father dissuaded him because of his youth. So he began the study of law and received a doctorate in ecclesiastical and civil law in 1722. He distinguished himself in the courts. He enrolled in a religious confraternity for members of the legal and medical professions. Among the rules of this association there was the practice of visiting the terminally sick in the Hospital of the Incurables. It was here he heard the call of the Lord to become a priest.
In September 1728 he became a seminarian and in the following year decided to join a society of missionary preachers, the Congregation of the Apostolic Missions.
During these years, he was known for his care of the poor, not only in the hospital, but also by devoting himself to catechizing and helping young children forced into child labor. He visited the elderly in a nursing home and the galley slaves in the hospital at the docks. During these years he developed a friendship with St. Alphonsus Liguori and joined his apostolate of organizing spiritual communities led by lay people in the poor sections of Naples. In July 1732 he was ordained a priest.
Following his ordination he was assigned as director of religious instruction in a parish in one of the poorer quarters. There he became aware of the rampant evil of forcing young girls into a life of prostitution. He decided to direct all his energy against the conditions that made this prostitution an economic necessity. In the same period he tenaciously defended St. Alphonsus against unjust criticism after he had founded the missionary Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer outside Naples on November 9, 1732. In June of the same year, Gennaro went to help his friend during a mission and decided to become a Redemptorist, while continuing to be a member of the Apostolic Missions.
After his entrance into the Congregation in April 1736, he committed himself unsparingly to parish missions and to writing and lobbying in defense of "young girls in danger." He also wrote on the spiritual life and worked so hard he was almost at death's door. With the consent of St Alphonsus, he returned to Naples for treatment and there renewed his apostolate for the rescue of prostitutes.
As well as taking part in the Redemptorist apostolate and that of the Apostolic Missions, he promoted meditation in common among the laity. In 1741 he planned and took part with St. Alphonsus in a vast preaching program in the environs of Naples led by Cardinal Spinelli, the Archbishop, and eventually took over leadership of the project. Despite his poor health, he continued the project until the end of April 1744, when he was forced to retire to Naples where he died at the age of 42 on June 30.
Sarnelli has left us thirty works on meditation, mystical theology, spiritual direction, law, pedagogy, and other moral and pastoral themes. By his social action in favor of women he was ahead of his time and is considered one of the pioneers on this subject in Europe in the first half of the eighteenth century. In May 1996, Pope John Paul II beatified him.
Holy Gerard Majella
Holy Gerard was born in southern Italy on April 6, 1726. His father died while Gerard was still young, forcing him to be apprenticed to a tailor. His frail health, quiet disposition, and gentle ways led him to being bullied by fellow workers and by his employers.
He was refused admission to the Capuchin Order on account of his youth, so he lived for a time as a hermit. His great love for Jesus crucified caused him to lead a very ascetical lifestyle. Getting to know the Redemptorists, he applied to them but was initially rejected because of his poor health. On his insisting, however, he was reluctantly accepted and sent to the novitiate with a note saying: "I am sending you a useless lay brother."
Gerard was professed in July 1752, and quickly disproved the prediction of his uselessness by his excellent service as porter, tailor, and sacristan. His prayerfulness and dedication began to be too great to overlook and so he gained a reputation for sanctity. This brought a large number of persons to him for guidance in the spiritual life. He readily responded, revealing a remarkable gift for sensing the deep interior reality of a person. Because of this genius, of his ability to bring relief to the sick, and of his care for women in childbirth, many miracles were attributed to him and he gained the nickname "The Wonderworker."
His popularity eventually led to accusations of sexual misconduct, which he bore patiently until they were proven false.
He died on October 16, 1755, worn out by his austerities and by tuberculosis. Very many Catholics throughout the world honor him as the special patron of new mothers and of families, and his reputation as "The Wonderworker" continues to our day.
Holy Clement Hofbauer
Holy Clement was born in Moravia (the present Czech Republic) on December 26, 1751. In baptism he received the name of John. The death of his father in 1757 reduced the family to such poverty that John had little time for schooling in his early years. He became a servant in a monastery and learned the trade of baker. He used much of his free time for study with a view to becoming a priest.
In his thirties, he lived as a hermit, first in Austria and then in Tivoli near the chapel of Quintiliolo. Here he changed his name to Clement.
He returned to Vienna where the generosity of friends enabled him to study in the university. In 1784, dissatisfied with the pervading Josephism of the University of Vienna, he made a journey to Rome, accompanied by a fellow student, Thaddeus Hübl. The two pilgrims were attracted to the Redemptorists, newly established in the Church of San Giuliano, and were received as candidates. After a shortened novitiate they were professed in March 1785 and ten days later they were ordained priests.
With Father Hübl, Clement returned to Austria, hoping to establish the Redemptorist Congregation in Vienna. When that proved impossible under Josephist laws, he went to Warsaw, where in 1787 he was given charge of the German church of St. Benno's. There he inaugurated a vigorous pastoral activity and drew a rapid increase of candidates to join himself and Father Hübl. The church of St. Benno's became the scene of a "perpetual mission" with each day a busy program of preaching, instruction, confessions, and devotions. There were also orphanages and schools for both boys and girls. This activity continued until 1808, when at the order of Napoleon, St. Benno's was closed and its community dispersed.
With one companion Clement established himself in Vienna, where he remained until his death. As chaplain to the Ursuline convent and church he exercised an extraordinary influence throughout the city and much further afield. In particular he was able to advise and encourage some of the most important personages of the new Romantic Movement as well as others who were working for the Catholic revival in German-speaking lands. His ceaseless activity drew on himself the attention of the police.
From the time he came to Warsaw, he repeatedly attempted to extend the Congregation, especially in South Germany and Switzerland. But he did not live to see this. His prayers were answered only a few weeks after his death when the Redemptorists received permission to begin a community. But from this community the Redemptorists spread throughout northern Europe and into North and South America.
Holy Clement died in Vienna on March 15, 1820. When Pope Pius VII heard the news he declared: "Religion in Austria has lost its chief support." Redemptorists venerate him as their greatest leader for spreading their apostolate throughout the world.
Blessed Peter Donnders
Peter Donders was born in Holland in October 1809. Because his family was poor, the two sons could be given little schooling but had to work to support the family. From an early age, however, Peter had formed the desire of becoming a priest. At the age of twenty-three with the assistance of his parish, he was able to attend the seminary and be ordained priest in June 1841.
While still in his theological studies he was guided by the seminary directors to go to the Dutch missions in Surinam (Dutch Guyana) on the north coast of South America. He arrived in Paramaribo, the principal city, in September 1842 to begin his pastoral work. His first duties included regular visits to the plantations along the rivers of the colony, where he preached and administered the Sacraments mainly to slaves. His letters express his indignation at the treatment of the African peoples forced to work on the plantations.
In 1856 he was sent to the leper station of Batavia and this was to be, with few interruptions, the scene of his labors for the rest of his life. In his charity he not only provided the benefits of religion to the patients, but also cared for them personally until he was able to persuade the authorities to provide nursing services. He was able to improve the conditions of the lepers by energetically bringing their needs to the attention of the colonial authorities.
When the Redemptorists arrived in 1866 to take charge of the mission of Surinam, Father Donders and one of his fellow priests applied for admission into the Congregation. The two candidates took their vows in June 1867. Father Donders then returned to Batavia.
Because of the help he now had in caring for the lepers, he was able to devote time to a work he had long wished to undertake. The new Redemptorist turned his attention to the native peoples of Surinam. He continued with this work, previously neglected through lack of manpower, almost until his death. He began to learn their languages and to instruct the natives in the Christian faith, until failing strength compelled him to leave.
In 1883 the Vicar Apostolic, wishing to spare him the heavy burdens he had so long carried, transferred him to Paramaribo and later to Coronie. He returned, however, to Batavia in November 1885. He resumed his previous occupations until weakening health finally confined him to bed in December 1886. He lingered for two weeks until his death on January 14, 1887. The fame of his sanctity spread beyond Surinam and his native Holland until Pope John Paul II beatified him in May 1982.
Holy John Neumann
Holy John Neumann (pronounced Noi-man to distinguish him from the English writer, John Cardinal Newman) was born in Bohemia on March 28, 1811. He attended school in Budweis and entered the seminary there in 1831. Two years later he passed to the university in Prague, where he studied theology.
When his preparations for the priesthood were completed in 1835, he could not be ordained for his own diocese of Budweis because of the limit placed on the number of priests. He offered himself, therefore, for work in a "mission country," the United States. On his arrival in New York almost penniless, he was accepted into the diocese and was ordained priest in June 1836. He was assigned to mission churches near Buffalo, where he labored zealously for four years.
He then felt the need for spiritual support and applied to the Redemptorists. He became the first priest to enter the Congregation in America when he took his vows in Baltimore in January 1842. From the beginning he was highly regarded for his evident holiness, for his zeal and affability. His knowledge of six languages made him particularly apt for work in the multilingual American society of the nineteenth century.
After working in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, in 1847 he was appointed superior of the Redemptorists in the United States. Father Frederick von Held, superior of the Belgian province to which the American houses belonged, said of him: "He is a great man who combines piety with a strong and prudent personality." He needed these qualities during the two years he was in office as the American foundation was passing through a trying period of adjustment from its European background. Shortly after his period of service as superior, Redemptorists of the United States were ready to become an autonomous province in 1850.
Father Neumann was named Bishop of Philadelphia and was consecrated in Baltimore in March 1852. His diocese was a very large one and was going through a period of considerable development. He gave particular attention to organizing a diocesan education system of parish schools and providing religious Sisters and Brothers to teach in them. He also founded the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis to provide teachers. Among the more than eighty churches built during his episcopate, was the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, which he began.
Holy John Neumann was a short man, never robust in health, but in his short lifetime he also found time for a considerable literary activity in addition to his pastoral duties. As well as numerous articles in Catholic papers, he published two catechisms.
He continued to be active right to the end. On January 5, 1860 he collapsed in a Philadelphia street and died. When he was canonized in June 1977, he became the first man who was a United States citizen to be declared a saint.
Blessed Francis-Xavier Seelos
Francis Seelos was born in the diocese of Augsburg on January 11, 1819. He studied philosophy and began the course of theology in the University of Munich before he considered joining the Redemptorists. After visiting their house in Altötting he decided to go to America to enter the Congregation.
He made his profession in Baltimore in May 1844 and was ordained priest there in December. In the following year he was sent to Pittsburgh, where he ministered with St. John Neumann. After being rector in Pittsburgh in 1857 he was affected by a very serious illness of the lungs with hemorrhaging. In spite of all fears, he was cured and was able to fill further posts as novice master, director of students and rector of the house of studies of the American province.
Father Seelos was always an active and highly successful missioner, particularly devoted to the confessional and was revered as an exceptional confessor and spiritual director.
He was greatly relieved to learn that he had escaped the bishopric of Pittsburgh for which his name bad been proposed.
His pastoral sense was deep and moved him to spend a great deal of effort caring for the poor, sick, and neglected. While caring for yellow fever victims in New Orleans, a year after being appointed there, he contracted the disease himself and died of it on 1867. Francis Seelos was beatified in 2000.
Blessed Kaspar Stanggassinger
"Saints have special intuitions", wrote Father Stanggassinger. "What is important for me, who am not a saint, are the simple eternal truths: the Incarnation, the Redemption, and the Holy Eucharist."
Kaspar Stanggassinger, born in 1871 in southern Germany, was the second of sixteen children of a respectable farming family. From his youth he had a growing desire to become a priest. When he was ten years old, he went to Freising to continue his schooling where he found the studies rather difficult. His father told him that if he did not pass his exams he would have to leave school. So he made up his mind, dedicated himself faithfully to prayer, and began to make steady progress in his studies. During vacations, he formed boys' clubs to occupy the youngsters and keep them out of trouble. Every day the groups attended Mass, went hiking, or made a pilgrimage. Kaspar's dedication extended even to risking his life to save one boy in danger when mountain climbing.
He entered the diocesan seminary in 1890 and from his writings of that period we can see his efforts to reach spiritual maturity. To better discern the Will of God he voluntarily followed a rigorous prayer schedule. It was soon clear to him that the Lord was calling him to live as a religious. After a visit to the Redemptorists, he was inspired to follow their vocation as missionaries. In spite of his father's opposition, he entered the Redemptorist novitiate in 1892 and was ordained a priest in 1895.
Kaspar had entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer with the intention of being a missionary. But instead, he was appointed to educate future missionaries in a seminary. To this task he dedicated himself wholeheartedly, seeing this as a response to the vow of obedience he had taken as a religious. During the week he taught classes and counseled the students. On weekends he always assisted at churches in neighboring villages, especially by preaching. Although very busy, he was ever patient and understanding of others, especially of the students who saw in him more a friend that a teacher. Although education procedures in that day age were very strict, he never acted harshly and took care to immediately apologize if he thought he had wronged someone.
He was deeply devoted to the Eucharist and in his preaching invited all to have recourse to our Sacramental Lord in times of need and anxiety, speaking to Christ as a friend. His preaching was a constant reminder to the faithful to take the Christian life seriously, growing in faith by means of prayer and continual conversion. His style was direct and appealing, and he did not have recourse to the threats of punishment that were common in the preaching of the time.
In 1899 the Redemptorists opened a seminary in Gars, Bavaria. Father Stanggassinger was sent there as director. He was 28 years old at the time, but was only able to preach one retreat to the students and to participate in the opening of the school year before succumbing to a case of peritonitis on September 26. His simple holiness was of such power that in April 1988 Pope John Paul II declared him "blessed," a saintly model of Christian life.
Blessed Mykolay Charnetskyi
Mykolay Charnetskyi was born to a large and pious peasant family on the 14th of December 1884 in the Western Ukrainian village of Semakivka. Mykolay was the eldest of nine children. He received his primary education in the village of Tovmach and then entered St. Nicolas gymnasium (grammar school) in Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk).
Charnetskyi discovered his vocation to the priesthood at a young age and soon declared his intention of becoming a priest. In 1903 bishop Hryhoriy Khomyshyn sent him to Rome for studies. During Charnetskyi's short visit to Ukraine, bishop Hryhoriy Khomyshyn ordained him a priest on the 2nd of October 1909. Fr. Mykolay then returned to Rome to continue his studies and received the degree of Doctor of theology.
From the autumn of 1910 Fr. Charnetskyi was professor of Philosophy and Dogmatic theology at the Stanislaviv seminary. He was also the Spiritual Director in the same seminary. Deep in his heart, however, Fr. Mykolay longed for the monastic life. Hence, in October 1919 he joined the Redemptorist novitiate in Zboiska near Lviv, and one year later, on the 16th of October 1920, he professed his vows as a Redemptorist.
Filled with eagerness to work for the reconciliation of Christians and to convert the spiritually abandoned people, in 1926 the Redemptorists of the Lviv Province founded a missionary center at Kovel in the Volhyn region. Fr. Charnetskyi, being an ardent missionary, was sent there. Very soon he gained the utmost respect of the local people and even that of the Orthodox clergy. Having opened a monastery and a church in Kovel, Fr. Mykolay did his best to preserve the purity of the Eastern Liturgical rite. In 1931, taking into account Fr. Charnetskyi's devoted work, Pope Pius XI appointed him titular bishop of Lebed and an Apostolic Visitor for the Ukrainian Catholics in the Volhyn and Pidliashsha regions. These regions became the field of Charnetskyi's activity - first as a missionary, then as a bishop - for almost 14 years.
As the first Ukrainian Redemptorist bishop he experienced persecution from the very outset of his activity. During the Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine in 1939 the Redemptorists were forced to leave the Volhyn region, and bishop Charnetskyi moved to Lviv, to a Redemptorist monastery in Zyblykevycha (now Ivana Franka) street.
After the revival of the Lviv Theological Academy in 1941, Bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi joined the faculty of the Academy as a professor of Philosophy, Psychology, and Moral Theology. His calmness, based on a strong and unshakable faith, his spirit of obedience and prayer gave his students good reason to consider their professor a saint. Bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi was for them an exemplary figure of both a monk and a virtuous person.
In 1944 the Soviet troops entered Galicia for the second time. This marked the beginning of bishop Charnetskyi's via dolorosa. He was arrested on 11 April 1945. He was held in the prison of the Soviet secret police in Lonskoho street. There, the bishop suffered many afflictions: interrogations in the middle of the night, cruel beating and torture. Later Bishop Charnetskyi was transferred to Kiev, where he spent another year of suffering - until his case was taken to court. Bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment for the crime of being a "Vatican agent". He served this term together with the Metropolitan Yosyf Slipyi first in the town of Mariinsk in the Kemeroc region (Siberia), then later at a number of other prison sites as well.
According to credible sources, during the period of his imprisonment (from his arrest in Lviv in April 1945 until his release in 1956), Bishop Charnetskyi spent altogether 600 hours under torture and interrogations, and at different times was imprisoned in 30 prisons and prison camps. Despite all these sufferings, the bishop always managed to find a word of consolation for his fellow prisoners. He supported them morally and he knew all of them by name. It is no wonder that bishop Charnetskyi was very popular among the prisoners, as he was the only source of consolation for them.
Bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi spent the last years of his imprisonment in a prison hospital in Mordovia. In 1956 his health declined to the extent that the doctors did not have any hope as regards his survival. A special robe, in which the prisoners were buried, had already been sewn for bishop Charnetskyi. Taking into account the hopeless condition of the bishop and that the Soviet regime could avoid the blame of causing the bishop's death, the prison administration decided to release him and send him to Lviv. After his return to Lviv in 1956 and due to his contracting hepatitis and a number of other diseases, Bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi was immediately hospitalised. Everybody was sure that Bishop Charnetskyi would soon die. But, the Lord had a different plan: He decided to prolong the life of a man whose faith and work was so valued and needed by the Ukrainian Church. Soon the bishop recovered and moved to an apartment in number 7 Vechirnia Street together with Br. Klymentiy, C.Ss.R. There, Bishop Charnetskyi continued his apostolate of endurance and prayer. He spent most of his time praying and reading. Those who visited the bishop in that period witnessed to have often found him in a state of ecstasy. During his stay in Lviv, Bishop Charnetskyi remained faithful to his mission of a Good Shepherd: he supported his confreres spiritually, prepared candidates for the priesthood and ordained more than ten priests.
Unfortunately, bishop Charnetskyi's "miraculous" recovery did not last long. On the 2nd of April 1959 the bishop died in a state of holiness. His last words were a cry calling on the aid of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. The funeral of Bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi took place on the 4th of April 1959. The description of the funeral kept in the archive of Yorkton Province of CSsR (Canada) ends with the following words: "We all think that the day of his canonization will come - for he was indeed a saintly bishop".
Everybody who knew bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi gave an unanimous testimony of his sainthood. It was no surprise then that immediately after his death many people started addressing their prayers to Bishop Charnetskyi. One finds this impression of sainthood and of a powerful intercession before God during prayers at the bishop's tomb in the Lychakiv cemetery. Numerous people visit the place of Bishop Charnetskyi's burial to obtain his intercession when praying to God for various favours. One woman, whose arm was about to be amputated, applied soil from the bishop's grave to her arm, which resulted in a complete healing. Since then, people have been taking soil from his grave to remedy various diseases.
Taking into account the testimonies of bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi's virtuous life, and particularly his endurance, courage and faithfulness to the Christ's Church during the period of persecution, the beatification process was started in 1960. On 2 March 2001 the process was completed on the level of eparchy, and the case was handed over to the Apostolic See. On 6 April 2001 the theological committee recognized the fact of bishop Charnetskyi's martyrdom, on 23 April his martyrdom was verified by the Assembly of Cardinals, and on 24 April 2001 Most Holy Father John Paul II signed a decree of the beatification of bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi, a blessed martyr of Christian faith.
Blessed Dominick Methodius Trcka
On April 24, 2001, in the presence of the Holy Father, the Decree of Martyrdom was promulgated for five Redemptorists, four Ukrainians and one Czech.
The Czech, Blessed Dominick Methodius Trcka, was born July 6, 1886, in Frydlant nad Ostravici, in Moravia, now the Czech Republic. In 1902 he joined the Redemptorists and began his novitiate in 1903.
He made his profession August 25, 1904. Having completed his studies, he was ordained in Prague, July 17, 1910.
He spent his early years as a priest preaching parish missions. In 1919 he was sent to work among the Greek Catholics in the area of Halic, in Galizia, and then in Slovakia in the Eparchy of Prešov, where he carried on intense missionary activity. In March 1935 he was appointed by the Congregation for Oriental Churches as apostolic visitor of the Basilian monks in Prešov and in Uzhorod. When the vice-province of Michalovce was founded, Fr. Trcka was appointed vice-provincial on March 23, 1946. He began to work zealously to found new houses and to form young Redemptorists.
During the night of the April 13, 1950, the Czech government suppressed all the religious communities. After a summary trial, Fr. Trcka was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment, during which he was subjected to lengthy interrogations and torture. In 1958 he was transferred to the prison of Leopoldov. He was suffering from pneumonia contracted during solitary confinement, which was imposed on him for singing a Christmas hymn. He died March 23, 1959.
He was interred in the prison cemetery, but after the liberation of the Greek-Catholic Church his remains were transferred to the Redemptorist plot in the cemetery of Michalovce on October 17, 1969.
Pope John Paul II proclaimed him to be Blessed Dominick Methodius on November 4, 2001.
Blessed Ivan Ziatyk
Ivan Ziatyk was born on 26 December 1899 in the village of Odrekhova, some 20 kilometers south-west of the town of Sanok (now a territory of Poland). His parents, Stefan and Maria, were poor peasants. When Ivan was 14, his father died. The burden of bringing up the child was taken up by his mother and elder brother Mykhailo, who took the place of his father for Ivan.
In his childhood, Ivan was very quiet and obedient. Already when studying in the village primary school, he displayed his capabilities as a gifted student. It was also possible to to notice the boy's profound piety. Ivan received his secondary education in the Sanok gymnasium, where he studied from 1911-1919. During his studies in the gymnasium, Ivan's academic performance was very good and his behaviour excellent. In 1919 Ivan Ziatyk entered the Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Przemysl, and he graduated with distinction on 30 June 1923. That same year, after having completed his theological studies, Ivan Ziatyk was ordained a priest.
From 1925-1935 Fr. Ziatyk worked as a prefect of the Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Przhemysl. In addition to the spiritual direction of the seminarians, he also contributed to their intellectual formation: He taught Catechetics and Dogmatic Theology at the same Seminary. In addition to his work at the Seminary, Fr. Ivan Ziatyk also performed the duties of spiritual director and catechetics teacher at the Ukrainian Girls' Gymnasium in Przemysl.
Fr. Ivan Ziatyk was a person of great kindness, obedience, and spiritual depth. He always made a deep impression on those around him. Fr. Ziatyk for quite a long time had had a desire to join a monastery. Although this intention was not welcomed by his Church superiors, on 15 July 1935 Fr. Ivan Ziatyk made the final decision to join the Redemptorist Congregation.
After completing his novitiate in Holosko (near Lviv) in 1936, Fr. Ziatyk was sent to the monastery of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk). However, he did not stay long: in autumn of 1937 Fr. Ziatyk moved to Lviv, to the monastery at number 56-58 Zyblykevycha (now Ivana Franka) Street. There, he took charge as economo of the monastery. Fr. Ziatyk's duty also was to substitute the superior, Fr. De Vocht, in his absence. In 1934 the Redemptorists opened their Seminary in Holosko, and Fr. Ziatyk joined its faculty as a professor of Scripture and Dogmatic Theology. From 1941-1944 Fr. Ziatyk was superior of the monastery of Dormition of Mother of God in Ternopil, and from 1944-1946 he was superior of the monastery of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Zboiska (near Lviv), where the Redemptorist gymnasium ("Juvenate") was based.
The end of World War II was the beginning of a terrible period in the history of Ukraine, of the Greek-Catholic Church, and of the Lviv Province of CSsR. Having arrested all the Greek-Catholic bishops, in the spring of 1946 Soviet secret police gathered Redemptorists from Ternopil, Stanislaviv, Lviv, and Zboiska to Holosko, and placed them in a non-heated wing of the monastery. Fr. Ziatyk was among those gathered in Holosko. Redemptorists stayed there for two years under constant surveillance of the secret police. Their presence was checked three or four times a week. The confreres were often taken for interrogation, in the course of which they were promised various benefits in exchange for betrayal of their faith and monastic vocation. On 17 October 1948 all the Redemptorists staying in Holosko were told to board trucks which transported them to the Studite monastery in Univ.
Soon thereafter, the Redemptorist Provincial Fr. Joseph De Vocht was deported to Belgium. Before his departure, he transferred his duties of Provincial of the Lviv Province and of Vicar General of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church to Fr. Ivan Ziatyk. This caused the police to pay special attention to Fr. Ziatyk. On 5 January 1950 a decision was made to arrest him, and on 20 January the warrant was issued. After numerous interrogations, on 4 February 1950 Fr. Ivan Ziatyk was accused: "Ivan Ziatyk indeed has been a member of the Redemptorist order since 1936; he promotes the ideas of the Roman Pope of spreading the Catholic Faith among the nations of the whole world and of making all Catholics".
The investigation of Fr. Ziatyk's case lasted for two years. Fr. Ziatyk spent the entire period in the Lviv and Zolochiv prisons. During the period from 4 July 1950 to 16 August 1951 alone, he was interrogated 38 times, while the total number of interrogations he underwent was 72. Despite the cruel tortures that accompanied interrogations, Fr. Ziatyk did not betray his faith and did not submit to the atheist regime, although his close relatives were accustomed to persuade him to do so.
The verdict was announced to Fr. Ziatyk in Kiev on 21 November 1951. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for "cooperating with anti-Soviet nationalistic organization and anti-Soviet propaganda". The term was to be served in the Ozernyi Lager prison camp near the town of Bratsk in Irkutsk region.
During his imprisonment, Fr. Ziatyk suffered terrible tortures. According to witnesses, on Good Friday 1952 Fr. Ivan Ziatyk was heavily beaten with sticks, soaked in water, and left unconscious outside, in the Siberian frost. Beating and cold caused his death in a prison hospital three days later, on 17 May 1952. Fr. Ziatyk was buried in the Taishet district of Irkutsk region. The Great Architect laid another precious tile into the great mosaic of martyrdom…
Taking into account the testimonies of Fr. Ivan Ziatyk's virtuous life, and particularly his endurance, courage and faithfulness to the Christ's Church during the period of persecution, the beatification process was started on the occasion of the Jubilee Year. On 2 March 2001 the process was completed on the level of eparchy, and the case was handed over to the Apostolic See. On 6 April 2001 the theological committee recognized the fact of Fr. Ziatyk's martyrdom, on 23 April his martyrdom was verified by the Assembly of Cardinals, and on 24 April 2001 Most Holy Father John Paul II signed a decree of beatification of Fr. Ivan Ziatyk, a blessed martyr of Christian faith.
Blessed Vasyl Velychkovskyi
Vasyl Vsevolod Velychkovskyi was born on 1 June 1903 in Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk) to a family of the Velychkovskyi's and Teodorovych's, both of which had had a long tradition of priests in their families. Vasyl's parents, Volodymyr and Anna, brought up their children in a spirit of Christian devotion. That is why Vasyl had a desire to work for the salvation of souls since his very childhood.
Vasyl Velychkovskyi received his gymnasium education in the town of Horodentsi. Being an ardent patriot, the fifteen-years-old gymnasium student joined the Ukrainian Galician Army to fight for the independence of his motherland during World War I. After his safe return from the army in 1920, Vasyl Velychkovskyi entered the Lviv seminary. In 1924, he was ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytskyi. It was at that time that Velychkovskyi discovered his monastic vocation. With assistance from his aunt Monica, he joined the Redemptorist novitiate and a year later, on 29 August 1925, he professed the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Since Velychkovskyi had already completed his theological studies, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Y. Botsian immediately after completing the novitiate, on the 9th of October of the same year.
From the very beginning of Fr. Velychkovskyi's monastic life, his superiors noticed his talent as a missionary. In order to develop this talent, after Fr. Velychkovskyi spent two years teaching at the Redemptorist gymnasium "Juvenate". He was also sent to Stanislaviv to conduct missions together with his more experienced confreres. This was the beginning of Fr. Velychkovskyi's apostolic work, which lasted for 20 years - until the beginning of the persecution of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
On 16 November 1928 Fr. Velychkovskyi arrived at the Redemptorist monastery in Kovel. There, he immediately became involved in missionary work among the Galician settlers, scattered throughout the Volhyn, Pidliashshia, Kholm and Polissia regions, who had departed from the Greek-Catholic Church and joined the Russian Orthodox Church. Along with this work among the Galician settlers, Fr. Velychkovskyi also organized missions for the local population of Volhyn, Polissia, and Belarus. Using financial support from Motropolitan Sheptytskyi and other sponsors, he founded several churches and chapels. In 1935 Fr. Velychkovskyi returned to the Stanislaviv monastery and became superior there.
Fr. Velychkovskyi continued his apostolic activity on a large scale, even though the Greek Catholic Church underwent persecution at the hands of the Soviets after their occupation of Western Ukraine in 1939. In 1940 he organized a procession in which some 20 thousand faithful participated carrying crosses through the streets of Stanislaviv,. Despite the threats from Soviet secret police, Fr. Velychkovskyi did not give up. In 1941, on Metropolitan Sheptytskyi's request, he departed for Central Ukraine to work with the Orthodox Ukrainians of Kamianets-Podilskyi. However, the pro-Ukrainian activities of the new priest caused suspicion among the Germans who had recently occupied the town. Just three days after his arrival, Fr. Velychkovskyi was accused of cooperating with Ukrainian national resistance organizations and was ordered to leave the town in twenty-four hours. He moved to Ternopil and became a superior of the Dormition church monastery in that town.
Having seized Galicia for the second time in 1945, the Soviet regime in just one night of 10-11 April arrested representatives of the entire Greek-Catholic hierarchy. On 26 July 1945 Fr. Vasyl Velychkovskyi was arrested in Ternopil - "for anti-Soviet propaganda". During the interrogation he was offered the option of joining the Russian Orthodox Church in exchange for his freedom. The answer was: "Never!" Later Fr. Velychkovskyi was transferred to Kiev prison, where the investigation of his case lasted for almost two years. Finally, the Kiev regional court sentenced him to death - for two anticommunist phrases ("red horde" and "red gang") which occurred in a pocket calendar issued by Fr. Velychkovskyi in Stanislaviv in 1939.
During the three months spent in a death row cell, Fr. Velychkovskyi continued performing his duties of a priest. He taught prisoners to pray; he instructed them on the truths of Christian faith, and prepared them for receiving the Holy Sacraments. He led them to the doors of heaven. Finally, the night came when the guards led Fr. Velychkovskyi out of his cell. However, they did not go downstairs, to the place of execution, but upstairs, to the office of the prison administration. There, Fr. Velychkovskyi was informed that his death sentence was changed to a ten-year prison term.
In the first two years of his term Fr. Velychkovskyi was in a prison camp in the Kirovsk region; later, he was transferred to the Vorkuta mines. Despite the exhausting work, Fr. Velychkovkyi celebrated the Liturgy almost every day - using tins for liturgical accessories. "That tin" - says Metropolitan Hermaniuk - "was his chalice, his dyscos, his altar, his church … and nothing was able to destroy his church, for it was [based on his] strong conviction and God's grace". Several months before his release, Fr. Velychkovskyi's fellow prisoner friends managed to arrange for him to work in the prison hospital rather than in the mines. This change saved his life - for his health had been ruined by ten years of imprisonment and exhausting labour. On 9 July 1955 Fr. Velychkovskyi was released.
After his return to Lviv Fr. Velychkovskyi did not find any church or chapel where he could serve, but this did not discourage him. He occupied a small room in number 11 Vozzyednannia Street. Here, he built an altar out of empty cardboard boxes. The faithful visited Fr. Velychkovskyi in groups of five or six to participate in Liturgies. During the period of the Greek-Catholic Church's underground existence he was not afraid to celebrate daily Liturgy, to conduct spiritual exercises, and to provide spiritual leadership for many devoted Christians. In 1959 the Apostolic See appointed Fr. Vasyl Velychkovskyi a bishop of the "Silent Church"; because of a complicated situation in the Soviet Union, his Episcopal ordination became possible only four years later.
The ten-year-long imprisonment did not "correct" or change Bishop Velychkovskyi. He continued "spreading anticommunist propaganda among the people, did not participate in socially-useful work, did not perform the duties of a Soviet citizen; he wrote a book about the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, wherein attempts were made to prove through specific examples that atheists cannot be good citizens; he listened to Vatican radio broadcasts". This list was sufficient to justify a new arrest of Bishop Vasyl Velychkovskyi on 2 January 1969. This time the imprisonment lasted for three years; the term was served in Kommunarsk near Donbass and was the cause of a severe heart disease for Bishop Velychkovskyi.
On 27 January 1972 the second term of imprisonment was over. This time bishop Velychkovskyi was not allowed to return to Lviv; instead, he was sent to Yugoslavia for "recreation". He used this opportunity to visit his sister in Zagreb and then Bishop Velychkovskyi departed for Rome, where he met Patriarch Yosyf Slipyi. He also had a private conversation with Pope Paul VI. Shortly afterwards, following the invitation of Metropolitam Maksym Hermaniuk, Bishop Velychkovskyi visited Canada.
Unfortunately, his visit of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada did not last for long. On 30 June 1973 Bishop Velychkovskyi died at the age of 70 having served as a bishop for 10 years. Although his heart became silent in his body, it continues to sound in our souls: "Fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev 2,10).
Taking into account the testimonies of Bishop Vasyl Velychkovskyi's virtuous life, and particularly his endurance, courage and faithfulness to Christ's Church during the period of persecution, the beatification process was started on the occasion of the Jubilee Year. On 2 March 2001 the process was completed on the level of eparchy, and the case was handed over to the Apostolic See. On 6 April 2001 the theological committee recognized the fact of bishop Velychkovskyi's martyrdom. On 23 April his martyrdom was verified by the Assembly of Cardinals, and on 24 April 2001 Most Holy Father John Paul II signed a decree of beatification of Bishop Vasyl Velychkovskyi, a blessed martyr of our Christian faith.
Blessed Zynoviy Kovalyk
Fr. Zynoviy Kovalyk was born on 18 August 1903 in the village of Ivachiv Horishniy near Ternopil to a poor peasant family. Before becoming a monk he worked as a primary school teacher in his village. He had a strong character and never compromised his faith. The dream of Zynoviy's childhood was to become a priest. Having discovered his vocation to consecrated life, Zynoviy Kovalyk joined the Redemptorists. He professed vows as a Redemptorist on 28 August 1926. Shortly after professing his vows, Zynoviy was sent to Belgium for philosophical and Theological studies.
After his return to Ukraine, on 9 August 1932 Zynoviy Kovalyk was ordained a priest. On 4 September 1932 Fr. Kovalyk celebrated his first Liturgy in his home village of Ivachiv. The little icons commemorating his ordination bore the following inscription: "O Jesus, receive me [as a sacrifice] together with the Holy Sacrifice of Thy Flesh and Blood. Receive it for the Holy Church, for my Congregation and for my Motherland". Christ received these words as a most pure offering. Little did Fr. Kovalyk know that those words were prophetic, and that soon - in just nine years - they would come true in his martyrdom…
After his ordination Fr. Kovalyk departed, together with bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi, to the Volhyn region to serve the cause of reconciliation with Orthodox Ukrainians. The young priest was a true joy to his confreres. Fr. Kovalyk had a good sense of humour, beautiful voice and clear diction. He was a great singer and truly a preacher with a "golden mouth". His apostolic devotion attracted thousands of people. Fr. Kovalyk loved the Mother of God with all his heart, and always displayed sincere piety towards her. These qualities of Fr. Kovalyk brought him great success in his missionary activities.
Having spent several years working in the Volhyn region, Fr. Kovalyk moved to Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk) to conduct missions there, both in town and in suburban villages. Immediately before the Soviet invasion of 1939 he moved to Lviv, to the Redemptorist monastery in Zyblykevycha (now Ivana Franka) street, and took charge as economo of the monastery.
The courageous priest continued preaching the Word of God even after the Soviet invasion had started. An important field of Fr. Kovalyk's work was hearing confessions, and it is in this field that he had particular success: he was always approached by a great number of people seeking spiritual support.
While most of the Galician Ukrainians were overpowered by terror, Fr. Zynoviy displayed admirable courage. Most of the preachers were extremely cautious in their sermons. They tried to avoid the burning issues of the day and concentrated on exhorting people to be faithful to God. Fr. Kovalyk, on the contrary, was never afraid to openly condemn the atheistic customs introduced by the Soviet regime. His sermons had a great impact on the audience, but at the same time constituted no small danger for the preacher. When advised by his friends of the possible danger resulting from such manner of preaching, Fr. Kovalyk answered: "I will receive death gladly if such be God's will, but I shall never compromise my conscience as a preacher".
The last great sermon by Fr. Kovalyk took place in Ternopil on 28 August 1940 on the occasion of the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. That day, Fr. Kovalyk had some ten thousand faithful in his audience. His old dream of martyrdom was to come true in just a few months…
On the night of 20-21 December 1940 the agents of the Soviet secret police entered the Redemptorist monastery to arrest Fr. Kovalyk for his sermons on the Novena of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, which he had been delivering in the monastery's church. Before leaving his confreres, Fr. Kovalyk asked his superior Fr. De Vocht for the last blessing and absolution.
Although the Redemptorists had long tried to find out about their arrested confrere, it was only in April 1941 that they received information about Fr. Kovalyk being kept in prison in Zamarstynivska street (the so-called "Brygidky" prison). During his six months long imprisonment, Fr. Kovalyk underwent 28 painful interrogations; three times he was brought to other prisons and interrogated there. After one such interrogation, which was accompanied by especially cruel tortures, Fr. Kovalyk fell seriously ill due to considerable loss of blood.
While in prison, Fr. Kovalyk continued his apostolic work. He shared a tiny (4,20 by 3,50 metres) and unfurnished cell with 32 other inmates. Fr. Kovalyk together with the prisoners went through a third of the rosary on weekdays and through the whole rosary on Sundays. In addition, Fr. Kovalyk conducted liturgical prayers; in May he organized prayers to the Mother of God, and on the feast of Epiphany he treated the inmates to the liturgical consecration of water. Apart from prayers, Fr. Kovalyk heard confessions, conducted spiritual exercises and catechism, and consoled the inmates by narrating - in his peculiar humorous manner - various religious stories. No wonder that the prisoners - people in the greatest need of hope and consolation - truly loved Fr. Kovalyk for his apostolic character.
In 1941, when German troops started their offensive, the prison keepers, eager to flee but not able to take the prisoners along, started shooting the inmates. However, it was not enough for them just to shoot Fr. Kovalyk: reminding him of his sermons about the crucified Christ, they nailed Fr. Kovalyk to the prison wall in full view of his fellow prisoners.
When German troops entered Lviv, they immediately opened the prisons to clean up the piles of corpses that had already started to decay. The people rushed to the prisons hoping to find their relatives. As the witnesses relate, the most horrible sight was that of a priest crucified upon the prison wall, his abdomen cut open and a dead human foetus pushed into the cut.
To characterize Fr. Zynoviy Kovalyk, we can rightfully use the words from the vespers of Martyrs regarding the glorious and invincible warrior, who armed himself with the Cross, defeated the foe, and received the crown of victory from the only Victor and Ruler who reigns forever. The blessed martyrdom of Fr. Zynoviy Kovalyk can serve as a graphic representation of the following words from Scripture: "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and the suffering shall not meet them … For although the suffering has met them in the eyes of men, their hope is filled with immortality; having suffered a little, they will experience great blessings, for God has tried them and found them worthy of Him"(Wisdom 3,1.4-5).
Taking into account the testimonies of Fr. Zynoviy Kovalyk's virtuous life, and particularly his endurance, courage and faithfulness to the Christ's Church during the period of persecution, the beatification process was started on the occasion of the Jubilee Year. On 2 March 2001 the process was completed on the level of eparchy, and the case was handed over to the Apostolic See. On 6 April 2001 the theological committee recognized the fact of Fr. Kovalyk's martyrdom; on 23 April his martyrdom was verified by the Assembly of Cardinals, and on 24 April 2001 Most Holy Father John Paul II signed a decree of beatification of Fr. Zynoviy Kovalyk, a blessed martyr of Christian faith.