News - Events - Photos
Sharing Our Faith
Links and Information
WHAT IS A SAINT?
A SAINT is someone who lives for Christ, someone in whom Christ lives, someone who is truly with Christ.
Everyone is called to be a saint, but not everyone is called a saint. Those whom the church calls saints are those men and women who showed by their lives that they truly lived for Christ, in Christ, and with Christ. Their lives were marked by love, toil, and suffering - all for the sake of Christ. They were even ready to die for the sake of Christ.
The Church has named thousands of saints. Some of them, like St. Theresa the Little Flower were saintly right from childhood. Others, like St. Augustine, lived a very sinful life before being converted to Christ. Still others, like St. Paul or St. Francis of Assisi, experienced a miraculous moment that changed them forever. The most important thing is that all of them lived, not for themselves, but for others, for Christ, for God.
One remarkable person, who lived a saintly life but whom the church has not yet named a saint is the Servant of God, Andrij Sheptytsky, who died on November 1, 1944. For almost half a century, Andrij had been the leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. His people affectionately called him "the Great Metropolitan."
Metropolitan Andrij Sheptytsky was born on July 29, 1865 into a noble family. His father was Count John Sheptytsky and his mother was the Countess Sophia. The name given to him at birth was Roman. Although Roman's family was of Ukrainian descent they thought of themselves as Polish, since their country had been under Polish domination for centuries. However, Roman learned from his parents some of the Eastern prayers and became familiar with the way of worship of the Ukrainian Church. He discovered that among his ancestors were a number of bishops and monks. He felt a desire in his heart to go back to his Ukrainian roots. Already at the age of ten he had the feeling that God was calling him to be a priest.
HIS DECISION TO BECOME A UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC PRIEST
By the age of 16 he had made an important decision. "If I do become a priest," he said, "it'll be in the Byzantine rite!" At first his parents were shocked and tried to change his mind. At that time it was not an easy thing to be a Ukrainian Catholic priest. In Roman's society, Ukrainian priests were not generally held in high esteem and were often treated unkindly. It is no wonder that Roman's parents were afraid for him. Besides, Roman belonged to a rich noble family. Many other choices were open to him. He could easily become an important officer in the army or in the royal court, or a respected priest of the Roman Catholic rite.
Roman, however, felt strongly that God was calling him to serve the Ukrainian Church. He chose the humble life of a Basilian monk. Before entering the order, however, he travelled and studied. After graduating from University with an excellent education, he entered the Basilian order at the age of 23. It was customary for monks to take a new name upon entering the order. Roman took as his own model and patron, St. Andrew, the patron of Ukraine. And so he became "Brother Andrij".
Brother Andrij continued his studies and was soon ordained a priest. By 1899, at age 34, he was not just a priest, but a bishop as well. In 1900 he was appointed to be the Archbishop of Lviw and Metropolitan of Galicia (Western Ukraine), the leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
A "GOOD SHEPHERD", LIKE HIS MASTER
Throughout all his long life, Metropolitan Andrij was an example of good Christian living, not only for his own flock, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but for every person living in the world. "Be a good Christan, love your neighbours!" This was a rule he not only preached but himself followed every day. Anyone who needed help could come to him. He turned no one away. He worked hard to be a "Good Shepherd", like his Master, Jesus Christ. He defended the poor, the needy, the persecuted, whether they were Catholic, Orthodox or Jews. He did this without any regard for his own health, comfort or safety. He put everyone else before himself.
As a young man, Andrij had made the decision to serve the Ukrainian Church. Now that he was the Metropolitan, how hard he worked in looking after the Ukrainian Catholic Church! He built up seminaries and monasteries so that the Church would have good priests, monks, and sisters. He travelled across the sea to visit the Ukrainian people who had settled in other countries, such as Canada and the United States, and he did what he could to help them develop their churches.
UNITY - HIS GREAT HOPE AND DESIRE
There was one problem that was always in Andrij's mind. He was saddened to see that the Ukrainian people were broken into different churches, with different faiths. He loved his Orthodox brothers and worked hard to help them come into union with the Catholic Church. He wanted very much for all his people to be united in one body, one faith. "How good and how pleasant a thing it is to see brethren dwell together in unity." (Ps. 132). This was Andrij's great hope and desire.
The years of his leadership were full of struggle and suffering for Metropolitan Andrij. As World War I and then World War II came along, he fought for the freedom of the Ukraine and the rights of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. In that short period, the Ukraine was invaded and ruled first by Tsarist Russia, then the Polish, then the Soviets, then the Germans, and finally by Communism. Those who took over the country were not kind to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Some of them did not believe in God at all. There were times when Andrij was imprisoned just for speaking out against these Godless people.
The worst blow came at the end of Andrij's life. The Communist government which took over just before Andrij's death was to destroy everything that he had so carefully built up. As he died, on November 1, 1944, the great Metropolitan put all his hopes in God, for he knew that God could do what men could not, that out of the ruins would be built a new life and a victory for Christ. Before he died, Andrij had foretold the complete destruction of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Ukraine. This prediction came true. But Andrij also predicted that in the future the Ukrainian Catholic Church would grow strong again and spread throughout the East.
HE DIED, A MAN OF GOD AND A SAINT
All Ukrainians believed that Andrij died a man of God and a saint. The number of people who came to his funeral was so large that the Communist authorities did not dare to interfere in any way.
After the death of Andrij Sheptytsky, the Church in Ukraine became a Church of Silence. The Church was practically destroyed; countless bishops and priests were sent away to prison. The faithful were forbidden to worship. And yet the seeds of faith that Andrij Sheptytsky so carefully planted continued to grow. In Ukraine, people prayed and studied in secret. Priests were ordained and did their work quietly, secretly. Faith in Jesus Christ remained alive in spite of danger of imprisonment and death. There is no doubt that the great Metropolitan, already in Heaven, did not rest, but like Jeremiah, he was still "the prophet of God, who loves his brethren and fervently prays for his people" (II Mac. 15,14) in their time of need. And Andrij's prediction has come true. The Church in Ukraine has regained its freedom and has been renewed.
The Catholic Church is presently discussing the big question : "Shall we give to the Servant of God, Andrij Sheptytsky, the honor of being called a saint?" In the minds and hearts of the Ukrainian People, however, he is, without a doubt, already a SAINT!