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From punk rock to patristics: A Ukrainian priest’s story

o. Igor Seliščev OP

fot. arch. prywatne o. Igora Seliščeva

Arkadiusz Wojtas, OP - published on 07/19/23

Punk rock and studying the Church Fathers are two radically different pursuits, but Fr. Igor has gone from one to the other as part of the same search.

“I’ve always been attracted to being with people, enjoying their freedom and spontaneity. That’s why my buddies and I started playing in a punk rock band, because that’s what this music is. Playing guitar or drums, we were musically searching for something new, something that would inspire us, nourish us, but also simply satisfy us,” recalls Fr. Igor Seliščev, a Dominican currently living in the city of Khmelnytskyi, in Western Ukraine.

The road to faith

Looking at the friar in the white habit, it’s hard to connect him with the young boy with long hair who used to meet with his friends in garages to seek escape from the grim reality of Donetsk, where he grew up, through punk rock.

Listening to him today as he hosts broadcasts on an internet radio station, looking at his photos with young people and the faithful who come to the youngest Dominican monastery in the world, it’s easy to forget that the front line is only a few hundred miles from here. And although the city itself is in Western Ukraine, Russian rockets have fallen here as well.

o. Igor Seliščev OP

Indeed, there’s only a superficial appearance of peace. The war has made its presence felt in Khmelnytsky. Dominicans and residents are taking in refugees from other parts of the country. Some students from Fr. Igor’s pastoral ministry have already been drafted. The rest are waiting in suspense for their turn. Fr. Igor is with them and helps them face difficult questions as they walk the road towards faith that he himself walked a few years ago.

Punk rock and the search for truth

Igor was raised in a religiously indifferent family. He abandoned his studies at the polytechnic institute after just two years because, as he notes, “It wasn’t my thing. I went there because everyone else was going, but that’s not enough motivation.” The passion he followed afterwards was linguistics, and he eventually graduated with honors.

In addition to punk rock and linguistics, Fr. Igor is constantly searching for the truth. “I was always passionate about the world. I wanted to learn about it and I wanted to find my place in this world; I wanted to discover the truth,” he says. This search led him to conversion and baptism.

o. Igor Seliščev OP

“Like any neophyte I was very zealous at the beginning. I would call this zeal of mine apostolic radicalism. I quickly felt that the Lord was calling me to a religious order, because it is such a radical form of life, and I found apostolic radicalism in the Dominicans.” While it wasn’t love at first sight, he soon found that he simply felt comfortable with the Dominicans, that they were creative and free people.

This search for freedom and creativity, however, took Fr. Igor even further, to the Christian writers of the early centuries of the Church:

During my conversion, I heard and read a lot about the Church Fathers, about returning to the sources, about the origins of Christianity. It’s amazing that often these fathers came from a pagan environment, that they became Christians freely, and although they are similar to each other, each of them retained individuality and distinctiveness. This is very close to me.

o. Igor Seliščev OP

Exploration without fear

Today, Fr. Igor wants to lead the people he lives and works with in Ukraine to the same sources. “The idea is not to focus on the here and now, but to see where the source of our faith is. This, unfortunately, is not much talked about in Ukraine.” Hence Fr. Igor’s idea to reach people in an even better way with the truth about God, who wants to work in people’s lives, through patristic studies.

Together with his confrere from the novitiate, Fr. Andrew Monka, he’s going to study in Rome. Andrew will study Scripture; Igor, the Fathers of the Church. Between the two of them they’re going to study both the Bible and Tradition, the two wings of revelation.

“In Christianity, I see first and foremost a spontaneous search for the truth, which is Jesus. It’s a search without fear of making a mistake. After all, I can always come back, the way is always open. All my life I have been going this way, and I’m convinced that I will continue to do so,” says Fr. Igor.

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