Saints and Blesseds of Ukraine

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After a shocking wave of Russian military strikes across Ukraine on Thursday – attacks that sparked a full-scale military assault on the country – Ukrainian officials say they are ready to retaliate against the Russian invasion and say they will win.

Catholic Ukrainians, and those around the world who pray for their country, may well turn to the intercession of the Ukrainian Saints and Blesseds.

Here are a few – among many others – that are worth knowing.

Blessed Michaelina Josaphata Hordashevska

Born in Lviv in 1869, Michaelina was known for her unusual piety as a child. At 18, she felt called to devote herself entirely to God and made a private vow of chastity.

Michaelina planned to enter an order of contemplative, cloistered nuns, until her spiritual director urged her to consider instead a new apostolic community of sisters, who would serve the poor as nurses, teachers, catechists and babysitters.

The Servants of Mary Immaculate Sisters were founded in 1892. Michaelina, taking the name Sister Josaphata, was the community’s first superior at age 23; the group started with just seven younger sisters. Within 10 years, there were 128 sisters in Ukraine, and the sisters soon moved to Canada to serve the Ukrainian immigrants living there.

Under Sister Josaphata’s leadership, the active life of the community was attractive and evangelically effective, and it eventually became the largest community of nuns in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Sister Josaphata faced difficulties in the community: due to internal divisions, she was only authorized in 1909 to make perpetual profession in the community she had co-founded. She also faced health problems: in her forties, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and, after a long and painful illness, she died at age 49 in April 1919.

She was beatified in 2001, during the pastoral visit of Pope Saint John Paul II to Ukraine.

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Blessed Volodymyr Pryjma

Born in July 1906 in the village of Stradch in western Ukraine, Volodymyr Pryjma trained as a liturgical cantor and became a cantor and choir director in the parish of his own village.

Married with two young children, he and Fr. Mykola Konrad were captured by Soviet agents on June 26, 1941, while walking on a forest road outside Stradch. They were returning from the home of a sick woman who had asked the priest to hear her confession. It was a Thursday.

When they did not return from this confession, the villagers began to search for Volodymyr and the father. Mykola. A week after they docked, their bodies were found in the forest. Volodymyr had been tortured, then stabbed repeatedly in the chest with a bayonet.

Pope Saint John Paul II declared him a martyr and beatified Volodymyr Prjma, together with Fr. Mykola Konrad, in June 2001.

Saint Vladimir I of Kiev

Born into a ruling family in 958, he eventually served as King of the Rus of Kiev, but only after building an army and waging a combative power struggle against his brother, following the death of their father. By 980, at age 22, Vladimir had built a kingdom that stretched from Ukraine to the Baltic Sea.

A pagan, Vladimir took seven wives and participated in religious rituals that some scholars believe involved human sacrifice. But under Byzantine Emperor Basil II, Vladimir became a Christian in 987, apparently after sending emissaries to study the religious practices of neighboring countries and peoples. Vladimir is said to have found Eastern Christianity to be the finest of all the religions studied by his advisers – although politics probably also played a role in his conversion.

Be that as it may, once a Christian, Vladimir ordered pagan idols to be thrown into the river, churches to be built, and his compatriots to be catechized in the Christian religion. He also built schools and developed programs to help the poor, developing at the same time habits of extraordinary personal charity. His reign – and in particular the Christianity he brought to Ukraine – made him the memory of Saint Vladimir the Great.

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Blessed Klymenty Sheptytsky

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Klymentiy Sheptytsky was an accomplished jurist and politician, who was educated in Poland and became a member of the Austrian parliament.

While he had practiced Latin Catholicism for much of his life, he eventually reverted to the practices of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, then entered a Ukrainian monastery at age 43, renouncing his secular profession.

In 1915, when he was 46 years old, he was ordained a priest and served for decades as hegumen of the monastery, or before, until 1944, when he took over as its head – the archimandrite of the monastery. Archimandrite Sheptytsky opened his monastery to persecuted Jewish boys during World War II, saving as many lives as he could.

Sheptytsky’s brother, the Venerable Andrey Sheptytsky, was the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lviv, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and himself a holy man. The postwar Soviet effort to persecute Ukrainian intellectuals and religious leaders included an effort to intimidate the archbishop—his brother Leon was murdered along with his wife.

Archimandrite Sheptytsky himself was arrested in 1947, forced to renounce his union with Rome and become a Russian Orthodox priest. When he failed to do so, he was sentenced to eight years in prison and died a martyr in a Russian prison in 1951.

He was beatified in 2001.

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