March 4, 2022

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Martyrs of Ukraine, pray for us and for your beloved homeland

Sean GallagherThe people of Ukraine are suffering grievously after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s military forces on Feb. 23 to invade the eastern European country.

Unfortunately, the people of this country, populated by millions of Orthodox and Catholic Christians, has endured similar suffering throughout much of its history.

This was especially the case after the Communist Revolution in Russia that established the Soviet Union about 100 years ago.

In the decades that followed, scores of the faithful of the Greek Ukrainian Catholic Church died as martyrs during a merciless persecution carried out by communist authorities.

Many of these martyrs have been beatified since the downfall of European communism in the 1990s.

Here are the stories of a handful of these martyrs of Ukraine, provided by, where information on more saints and blessed from Ukraine can be found.

• Blessed Mykolai Charnetskyi—Born in 1884, he was ordained a priest in 1909 and joined the Redemptorist order in 1919. He later served as a bishop during a time of severe persecution, was arrested for his faith in 1945 and sent to do hard labor in Siberia. After his release, he ministered covertly, was subject to constant surveillance and occasional torture. He died in 1959 as a martyr.

• Blessed Zenon Kovalyk—Born in 1903 in Ukraine, he joined the Redemptorist order and was ordained a priest in 1937. He was arrested for his faith three years later while preaching during a Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He died as a martyr in 1941 by being crucified against a wall in Lviv, Ukraine.

• Blessed Symeon Lukach—Born in 1893, he was ordained a priest in 1919 and later served as a seminary professor. He may have been secretly ordained a bishop in 1945 during a period of severe persecution of the Church by Soviet authorities. Arrested for his faith in 1948, he was imprisoned until 1955. He ministered covertly after his release until he was imprisoned again in 1962. He died as a martyr in confinement in 1964.

• Blessed Ivan Sleziuk—Born in 1896 in Ukraine, he was ordained a priest in 1923 and appointed a bishop in 1945. Communist authorities imprisoned him because of his faith, and sentenced him to hard labor in Siberian prison camps on several occasions. He died in 1973 as a martyr.

• Blessed Klymentii Sheptyskyi—Born in 1869 in Ukraine, he became a monk in 1911 and an abbot in 1944. During World War II, he gave refuge to persecuted Jews. He was arrested for his faith in 1947 by Soviet authorities and was imprisoned in forced labor camps where he died as a martyr in 1951.

These are only a few of the long list of holy martyrs who have strengthened the Church in Ukraine. At any time, their stories should inspire us in our own lives of faith.

At this time of intense suffering for the people of Ukraine, however, let us call on the prayers of that country’s martyrs so that, through their intercession, our heavenly Father might bring about a true and lasting peace for Ukraine.

Martyrs of Ukraine, pray for us and for your beloved homeland.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter and columnist for The Criterion.)

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