September 8, 2019


During the 2019 Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, being held in Rome 1-10 September, 2019, the bishops, together with many other bishops, priests, religious sisters from both the Ukrainian Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, as well a hundreds of faithful gathered into the major basilica of St Mary to celebrate, honour and promote the saintly legacy of Blessed Josaphata.

Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska was the co-founder of the now global congregation of religious women known in English as the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (SSMI). Blessed Josaphata was declared "blessed" by Pope St. John Paul II when he visited Ukraine in 2001.

The reason for the mega-celebration in Rome that this year marks 150 years since the birth of Blessed Josaphata and 100 years since her "passing into eternal life". Of course, the timing only made perfect sense that the event would coincide with the Synod of Bishops.

Among the other hierarchical dignitaries were the Rector of the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, the Secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches - Archbishop Cyril Vasyl, the local hierarch (ordinary) for Eastern-Rite Catholics in Russia - Bishop Joseph Werth and the Apostolic Exarch for Eastern-Catholics in Serbia - Bishop George Dzudzar. There were many Sisters of Blessed Josaphata's Congregation, the SSMI, as well as other religious orders, Seminarians and a great number of lay-faithful, - one of the most prominent among the latter was the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See (i.e. the Vatican) - M. Tetyana Izhevska.

In his sermon at the Liturgy, His Beatitude Sviatoslav spoke about the life and times of Blessed Josaphata. "We could say that the world at that time was in a fever", he explained. "The second half of the 19th Century was a time when in western Europe entire countries fell, while others were born. It was a time when even the Pope lost his sovereign states and declared himself a 'prisoner of the Vatican', and when our Ukrainian people, like storks, flew off to all corners of the earth. It was in this social climate that our Divine Saviour came to us to take humanity by the hand and heal the fever of that time, of that world. That hand that began to serve there - where the need was greatest - was Josaphata and her Sisters."

His Beatitude explained that it was at that time, when the people of Ukraine found themselves in various land throughout the world, they had no one to help them, because they were often regarded as second- or third-class people. It was to those places that the Sisters Servants went. "We are thankful first of all, to Josaphata, that she took the hand of God, and was that living icon of Christ the Saviour, because it was through the Sisters Servants that our people in all the corners of the Earth felt that God came to them to serve them. Otherwise from the world at that time no one could expect any service or help."

His Beatitude, who expanded his sermon to encompass a wider discourse on the concept of 'serving', reminded those gathered that it was in that very basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore that the enlighteners of the Slavs - Saints Cyril and Methodius - came to celebrate the first Divine Liturgy in old-Slavonic and to receive the Pope's approval of their translation of the Liturgical texts. "In this Basilica today, we implore the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary for Ukraine and our Ukrainian People. Lord, come to us! Take us by the hand that we would know that we are travelling through this world, through history together with You. Grant us to hear today the words of our Josaphata, "Glory to God! Honour to Mary! For us - peace!"

At the close of the glorious Divine Liturgy, the superior general of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, Sr. Sophia Lebydovych, addressed the Bishops and Faithful. Among other things, she said, "We give glory and thanks to God for the gift of the person of Blessed Josaphata. We are thankful for her open, sensitive heart toward the needs of her Church, we are thankful for the example of her life. For us Sisters, this event is an opportunity to draw even closer to Blessed Josaphata. She was a daughter of her Church, she felt a need to serve Ukrainian migrants in the faraway countries where they settled, sending Sisters to them. Mother Josaphata gathered us together today in this magnificent Marian basilica and this is a sign that Mary takes us by the hand. Thank you, Your Beatitude, for your fatherly openness."

Later that day, in the chapel of the General House of the SSMI, His Beatitude Sviatoslav and all the Bishops of the Synod were on hand to bless the new Tabernacle and iconostas, as well a reliquary for the relics of Blessed Josaphata.

[Excerpted from the article by Ruslana Tkachenko, UGCC Information Department]

A brief video of highlights from the extraordinary event...

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