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Leading Ukrainian prelate recounts priestly vocation under Communist persecution

CWN - May 29, 2012

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has recounted how his priestly vocation developed in the midst of Soviet persecution.

“I grew up in a completely atheistic society where all forms of the transcendental were eliminated,” recalled Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, now 42. “We were taught that there is no God … For the first time I met a priest who came in the middle of the night to celebrate the funeral and then would quietly disappear. And, like a small boy I was curious as to who this person – the priest - was and what was he doing. I saw in that person a real witness of the presence of Christ. This priest was imprisoned twice because of his ministry and through this priest, I really found someone and something worth giving one’s life for. This was an alternative, especially for us young people, to the official values that society was teaching us.”

Later, as a teenager, he began his seminary formation.

“I met my seminary professors at least once every two months and when I met with them, I was always given a book,” the prelate said. “I would then copy and study the book for two months. This method allowed me to study and have a copy for myself of the Gospel of St. Luke for example. This is how my initial formation began. This kind of formation would have taken years to prepare me properly for the priesthood and I know that it was not enough, but this is how I started my priestly formation.”

“As a teenager, at that time I was not aware of the dangers because it was completely a secret and every teenager had his own secret,” he added. “Neither my mother nor my father was aware of this, and this was my personal secret. It was after a year that I understood the dangers that could have resulted had I been discovered by the secret police.”

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