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Answering the Call

Recently ordained priests rejuvenate the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

text by Mariya Tytarenko with photographs by Petro Didula

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“From now on I will only call my son ‘Father,’ ” says Myroslava Sergeeva proudly. Just a few hours earlier, she watched her son, Petro Moysiak, profess his obedience during an ordination ceremony inside the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of the Transfiguration in Kolomiya, a city in western Ukraine, 124 miles south of Lviv.

Father Petro Moysiak recently finished six years of study at Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv. Though now a priest, he does not officially graduate until he completes a year of training in a parish. In the coming weeks, he will depart for Argentina to do just that.

His early ordination is in fact a rare exception, one that required the intercession of the recently elected head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk.

“Our Petro is quite experienced,” explains his stepfather, Valeriy Sergeev. “In 2003, he graduated from Ternopil National Academy of Economy with a graduate degree in accounting and auditing. And from November 2003 to February 2004, he experienced the war in Iraq.”

“All that time I was searching for God in places where there was no God: in accountancy and in war,” says the 29-year-old priest. “At Ukraine’s peace mission in Kut, Iraq, there were no chaplains and almost no one practiced Christianity. I did take my prayer book with me and always read it. The other guys would make fun of me. Later on though, they asked me to remember them in my prayers.”

“Here’s the interesting thing,” begins the young priest’s spiritual mentor, 38-year-old Father Petro Holiney. “In Petro’s letters from Iraq, there was nothing written about a possible future in the priesthood, but at the same time all his letters hinted at his true calling.”

Born in the well-established village of Deliatyn, 30 miles outside the regional capital of Ivano-Frankivsk, Petro Moysiak grew up in a traditional Ukrainian Greek Catholic family — which was still an underground church until he was 9 years old. As a child, he sang in the church choir and served as an altar server.

In 2001, he established two youth groups, St. Josaphat the Martyr for boys and St. Olha for girls. Both groups help local senior citizens, disabled persons and orphans in villages throughout western Ukraine. They also sing traditional carols at Christmas and organize summer camp activities in the Carpathian Mountains for children.

“This year we are celebrating our tenth anniversary,” says Father Petro Moysiak’s 19-year-old sister, Oksana, a member of St. Olha. “And this is all thanks to my brother.”

Father Moysiak and Father Holiney represent a new generation of young priests who face unique challenges in a changing corner of the world that has experienced a spiritual revival in the post-Soviet era.

Both men find great inspiration in the teachings and work of the late Father Mykhailo Kosylo, a talented pedagogue, poet and founder and rector of Lviv’s late Soviet-era underground Ukrainian Greek Catholic seminary, which operated from the 1970’s through the early 1990’s. Father Kosylo secretly trained a total of 20 seminarians, the last of whom was Father Holiney. Other clergy often refer to these priests as “Kosylivtsi” after Father Koslyo.

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Tags: Education Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Priests Seminarians Vocations (religious)