Ukrainian Catholic Martyrs

The Kartause Connection online meetings are small but mighty, global yet personal. The October 15 meeting on Christian Witness featured Fr. Yurko Kolasa (LCI ’95-’96) sharing his conversion story and Sr. Gertrude Gillette, OSB, her wisdom, faith and hope.

Fr. Yurko recalled hearing from his dying grandmother, God exists- search for Him! He was seven years old at the time. Several more years passed before he began hearing stories of the martyrs of Communism, reading letters sent from their prison cells and slowly becoming acquainted with those heroes who were not willing to compromise, and who loved Christ to the end.

The astounding statistics tell the story of the atheistic regime’s attempt to stamp out the faith and the recent revival of the Church:

In 1946, there were 7 Ukrainian Catholic bishops, 2352 priests, 31 male and 121 female monasteries, 3 seminaries with 480 seminarians, and about 3.6 million faithful. By 1991, there was one bishop still alive in Ukraine, and about a dozen priests. Today, there are 55 bishops, more than 4,000 priests, around 600 seminarians in five seminaries, and about 5 million faithful.

Fr. Yurko’s message to the faithful in the West is clear and compelling: “Do not be afraid – the victory is already ours in Christ! There are times when the government favors the Church and there are times of persecution. So many of the martyrs of Communism saw only their prison cells where they died; they weren’t able to see the renewal of the Church today. We only need to be ready to commit ourselves entirely to Christ.”

Sr. Gertrude reminded us, drawing from St. Augustine, that the greatest saints are made in difficult times. If things in society worsen, then it can actually be an exciting time because the glory of God will shine all the brighter!
Sr. Gertrude also shed light on why community is so important and what it means to be a witness. She pointed out that community is the Christian way and it has to be continually nourished. “We need to grow in love every day for the people around us – our families, and also our neighbors. It works when we place people before ourselves, when we accept them as they are.”

If you want to give someone an opportunity to change, “Tell a story! You don’t need to have a theology degree or take a special course in catechetics. Everyone has a story to share about how the Lord has worked in his life – sharing that story is what it means to be a witness.”

Several participants shared stories from their experience of living out the faith. An especially moving one was from LCI alumna Julia: she lives in Siberia, a land of exile during the Soviet era, where she has helped her parish establish a monthly Holy Hour of Adoration. After seven years of praying, Julia is happy to report that she now has a group of adorers and the devotion is spreading.

Glory be to God!

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