Episode 91 with Father John Sianchuk on Ukrainian Bishop Bl. Vasyl Velychvoksky
The Story of the Redemptorists
Fr. John Sianchuk, a Redemptorist priest and part of the Redemptorists of the Yorkton Region, Province of Canada spoke on Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky. The Yorkton Redemptorists are an Eastern Church branch of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. They serve the Ukrainian Catholic Church in North America and are based in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Canada. Alongside work in parishes, with young adults and youths, and numerous retreats and missions, the order also celebrates unique ministries like the Shrine to Blessed Martyr and Bishop Vasyl Velychkovsky, who was also a Redemptorist.
A Martyr of Ukraine
Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky (1903 –1973) was a priest, and later bishop, of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, one of the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome. He died in 1973 of his injuries sustained while imprisoned by the Soviet Union, and is considered a martyr of the faith.
Velychkovsky was born in then-Austria-Hungary. In 1920, he entered the seminary in Lviv. In 1925, he took his first religious vows in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (better known as the Redemptorists) and was ordained a priest. In 1942, he became abbot of the monastery in Ternopil.
Courage Under Persecution
Because of religious persecution by the Communist Soviet Union, he was arrested in 1945 by the NKVD and sent to Kyiv. The punishment of death was commuted to 10 years of hard labor. He was released in 1955 and returned to Lviv, where he was ordained as bishop in 1963. In 1969, he was imprisoned for three years for his religious activities. Released in 1972, he was exiled outside the USSR. He was tortured and suffered much while imprisoned and eventually died of those injuries in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on June 30, 1973, at the age of seventy.
An Incorruptible Exhumed
Thirty years after his death, Vasyl Velychkovsk’s body was found to be nearly incorrupt; his toes had fallen off and were subsequently divided to be used as holy relics. He was beatified in 2001; the intact remains of Vasyl Velychkovsky are enshrined at St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
A Witness Enshrined
Doctor Thatcher visited the shrine five years ago while giving a mission in Winnipeg and was deeply touched. He was a brave man and suffered much at the hands of the Soviets. He continued to preach and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Blessed Vasyl’s courage under persecution is particularly relevant in this time of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He is an inspiration for all of us.