Years after the collapse of the Soviet regime and the end of communist religious persecution and repression, the country is now experiencing a rebirth of priestly vocations.
Svyatoslav Shevchuk is 49 years old. He might be young, but he has witnessed firsthand Ukraine’s transformation, and knows what persecution and freedom look like.
When he experienced his call to the priesthood in the 1990s, his country was still part of the Soviet Union. Religious practice was strictly prohibited, and seminary studies were secretly kept underground. He saw his fellow Catholic brothers and sisters being persecuted and arrested.
Back then, Shevchuk received donations from abroad that allowed him to cover his life expenses as a seminarian and a Theology student. In 1994, he was ordained a priest.
In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became independent. With independence also came religious freedom. Since 2011, Shevchuk is the archbishop of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. Greco-Catholics might be a minority in Ukraine, but their presence in the country can be traced back to the 10th century.
“Many young people responded to God’s call”
Greco-Catholic Ukrainians are the largest community of all 24 Eastern Catholic churches, and are in full communion with Rome. Shevchuk, who lives in Kiev, is a testimony to the fact that, despite the many difficulties that the country still has to go through in the aftermath of the decades-long Soviet occupation and in the current armed conflicts in the region, many have decided to respond to God’s calling, following the path to priesthood: “Today,” he says, “many young people are responding to God’s call.”
Even if being a seminarian is legally permitted today in Ukraine, religious persecution being officially banned, economic and other kind of difficulties are common and numerous.
Need for authentic pastors
Older Ukrainians still fear espionage, betrayal, and punishment, practices that were the order of the day during the many decades the Soviet regime occupied the country. As many of them live alone, they are often hopeless, and end up alcoholics. “We have a pressing need for true pastors able to become part of the lives of the people, who can accompany them closely,” the archbishop explains.
Shevchuk is quite optimistic, now that the situation has changed: “I am happy to see our seminarians live their vocation without any fear.”
These young men’s formation in the seminary is possible thanks to donations that come from all over the world. These donations are sent by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
We can all contribute, regardless of where we are, to support the Greco-Catholic Church in Ukraine — as Pope Francis has repeatedly said it is his wish — and to help these young men complete their training and studies to become the priests their respective communities need. This Christmas, send them a heartfelt Gift of Faith!
If you are making your Gift of Faith from the U.S., use this link: https://bit.ly/2LLqrIl
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If you are making your Gift of Faith from any other country, use this link: https://bit.ly/34ezTKR