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Saint of the Day: St. Nicholas Charnetsky

Ukrainian Bishop Persecuted by the Communists


© José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro | CC BY-SA 4.0

Bishop and Martyr (1884-1959)

Special Note: In 2023, April 2 is celebrated as Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord and the beginning of Holy Week.As a way of honoring the Passion of Christ and the witness of the martyrs, all of the saints highlighted during this Holy Week will be chosen from those who offered their lives for Christ. The reflections and prayers will be taken from the liturgical texts of the corresponding day of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum.

His life

+ Nicholas (or Mykolai) was born in Semakivtsi, Kolomyia Raion, Ukraine, and was raised in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He was ordained a priest in 1909.

+ Following his ordination, Nicholas completed a doctorate in theology in Rome and spent the next several years teaching in the seminary in Ivano-Frankivsk and serving as a spiritual director for the students.

+ In 1919, Nicholas entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (the Redemptorists) and professed vows the following year, working in a local parish and teaching in a minor seminary staffed by members of his community.

+ His ministry became focused on promoting better relations between Catholic and Orthodox Ukrainians and he became esteemed by people of both traditions. He was consecrated as a bishop in 1931 and he exercised a fruitful ministry until the Soviet invasion of Ukraine in 1939.

+ Following the end of the Second World War, the Soviets invaded Ukraine a second time and Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops were arrested and Church properties were handed over to the state-sanctioned Russian Orthodox Church. Bishop Charnetsky was arrested on April 11, 1945, and charged as a foreign agent of the Vatican. He was sentenced to hard labor in Siberia.

+ Nicholas’ six-year sentence was extended to eleven years and he spent time in more than 30 prisons and he suffered more than 600 hours of torture and interrogation.

+ By 1956, his health was so destroyed that prison officials decided to release him so that he would die somewhere other than prison. He recovered somewhat and was able to serve the Ukrainian Catholic community in a clandestine ministry, including training and ordaining young men to the priesthood. He never lost his humble and charitable spirit.

+ Bishop Nicholas Charnetsky died on April 2, 1959, and he was beatified in 2001. Because his death was ultimately connected to the years of imprisonment and torture, he is honored as a martyr.

For prayer and reflection

Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, / Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.”—Verse before the Gospel for Psalm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Philippians 2:8-9)


Almighty ever-living God,

who as an example of humility for the human race to follow

caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,

graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering

and so merit a share in his Resurrection.

Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(Collect for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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