No one guessed which saint I was going to do today… Now I am depressed…
Continuing my series about saints, I have chosen someone who is not technically canonized yet, but he is a blessed who has a feast day, so he counts close enough. His name is Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky.
Vasyl was born in Stanislaviv, in then Austria-Hungary on June 1, 1903 (an excellent day and year which I remember vividly). In 1920 he entered the seminary in Lviv and five years later, he was ordained a priest and took religious vows in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, better known as the Redemptorists. In other words, he was a priest-monk type (or so I can put it no plainer). He preached and taught in Volyn. In 1942 he became abbot of the monastery in a city called Ternopil. What happens next is the fault of the Communists. (they may be the ones a person would always blame if he sees the green-skinned Wood-Elves in the 1977 cartoon, The Hobbit, but that can be ignored).
Bl. Vasyl was arrested in 1945 by the NKVD and sent to Kiev during the religious persecution. The official punishment was death, but the Soviets nicely changed it to ten years in hard labor (in other words, a cruel concentration camp) because they were just so nice in that way.
On release in 1955 Vasyl went back to Lviv, and was ordained a bishop in 1963. What the Soviets should have learned from the Romans is that persecution never works to actually quell Christianity and the proper way to do so is to make Christians grow comfortable and lukewarm, but apparently the Soviets were no history scholars. In 1969 Vasyl was imprisoned again for three years for his religious activities. Released in 1972, he was exiled outside the USSR. He then did what anyone does if he does not like the political climate at the time—he moved to Canada. He went to God on account of his injuries from prison in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on June 30, 1973. He was seventy years old (why his feast day is three days too early, I do not know.
Thirty years after his death, Vasyl Velychkovsky’s body was found to be almost incorrupt, except for the fact that his toes had fallen off, which were subsequently divided to be used as holy relics (it is a very Catholic thing to distribute body parts of holy people throughout the world, by the way).
He was beatified in 2001 by Pope St. John Paul II. On July 20, 2014, at the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Zarvanytsia in Ukraine, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, solemnly proclaimed Vasyl patron of prison ministry for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. A prison minister might as well pray to him—especially, I think, if the minister is trying to share Christ with the inmates. Also, if the reader happens to be a prisoner somewhere under the charge of religious activity (which I sincerely hope is not the case now) or risking it (which is also unfortunate), I think you ought to ask Bl. Vasyl for his intercession.
Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky
Pray for us