Bishop and Martyr (1850-1623)
+ Josaphat Kuncevyc was born in Poland in 1580. He became the first great leader of the Ruthenian Catholics, a group of separated Christians who were reunited with the Holy See through the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1595.
+ Josaphat was a member of the Order of St. Basil and he worked to reform the formerly monastic community, giving it a more active character.
+ In 1617, Josaphat was appointed archbishop of Polotsk. As archbishop, he campaigned for the reconciliation of separated Christians, as well as for reform of the clergy.
+ During a pastor visit to Vitebsk, Belarus he was murdered by radical Orthodox Christians on November 12, 1623. Saint Josaphat was canonized in 1867, becoming the first Eastern saint to be formally canonized by Rome. He is honored as one of the patron saints of Poland and of Belarus.
In 1888, a small community of Polish immigrants established a new parish church dedicated to Saint Josaphat in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After outgrowing that first church, they began a major building campaign, completing their new church in 1901. This church, intentionally modeled on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, was designated a basilica in 1929. Today, Saint Josaphat’s Basilica remains an important landmark in the city of Milwaukee and the destination for tens of thousands of pilgrims and guests each year.
“He felt that God had called him to restore worldwide unity to the Church… concerned mainly with seeing his own people reunited with the See of Peter, he sought out every available argument which would foster and maintain Christian unity.”—Pope Pius XI
Stir up in your Church, we pray, O Lord,
the Spirit that filled Saint Josaphat
as he laid down his life for the sheep,
so that through his intercession
we, too, may be strengthened by the same Spirit
and not be afraid to lay down our life for others.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)
Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.