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Oleksandr Bohomaz

Ukraine’s upheavals have been tremendous. In the spring edition of ONE, Bishop Borys Gudziak gave a vivid eyewitness account of last winter’s demonstrations in Kiev. We wondered how the crisis there has affected the next generation of priests and impacted the faith of the people — especially those Greek Catholics who, during the Soviet regime, were forced to practice their faith in secret. Antin Sloboda from CNEWA’s office in Canada reached out to one seminarian in Kiev, who answered several questions via email and, in the process, give us a rare glimpse at the life of a man who hopes one day to serve as a priest in Ukraine.

ONE: Tell us a little bit about your background.

Oleksandr Bohomaz: I was born in 1988 in the little town of Nyzhni Sirohozy in Ukraine’s southern region of Kherson. As a child, I was baptized in the Orthodox Church, the only church in our district. My family did not go to church regularly, since the church was quite far away. In my social environment and among my classmates, churchgoers and believers were laughed at. I was ashamed to speak publicly about God and I did not have courage to do so.

After the completion of the secondary school I went to study at Melitopol Pedagogical University, where I received a degree in history. I worked for two years as a teacher and as a part-time lecturer at the same university where I had studied.

ONE: How did you discover your vocation to priesthood?

OB: In the final years of college, I met a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest — Father Petro Krinitski. Initially, I had a very negative attitude toward Catholic priests because of ingrained prejudices and stereotypes. However, when I got to know Father Krinitski better and I saw how he treated other people, I started to attend daily liturgies at the small chapel where he ministered.

As I grew in my discovery of God and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, I realized I wanted not only to become a Greek Catholic, but to dedicate my entire life to minister as a priest in this church. In 2011, I applied to the seminary of the Three Hierarchs in Kiev.

ONE: What inspired you to want to become a priest?

OB: I aspire to bring people closer to God. Our people are very poor, materially and spiritually. Soviet rule wounded spiritual life in Ukraine, and now it is strongly needed. Many people struggle with addiction — families are broken.

My family has been also touched by the problem of alcoholism. I believe only Jesus can help us to overcome these challenges and that he calls me to dedicate my life to proclaiming his love to all people.

ONE: What is seminary life like?

OB: It is totally different from how I am used to living. We have a well-structured schedule, which has time for prayer, studies and recreation. It’s a real pleasure to observe how all of us at the seminary mature and grow spiritually and in our humanity. We are like a real family.The seminary puts special focus on how to live with God and our neighbor.

ONE: How would you describe the faith of the people of Ukraine, especially now? Have you noticed a change since last winter?

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