Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky proclaimed Patron of Prison MInistry
June 22, 2015
On July 19, 2014 in Zarvanytsia Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky was proclaimed Patron of Prison Ministry. This is a TV report of the event.
On July 20, 2014 before a crowd of 200,000 people during the All-Ukraine Pilgrimage to Zarvanytsia, Ukraine, Patriarch Sviatoslav solemnly proclaimed Blessed Vasyl as the Patron of Prison Ministry for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. This proclamation was made at the Pontifical Divine Liturgy at this Marian Shrine during the “Little Entrance”. The Decree was read by Bishop Bohdan Dzurah.
Blessed Vasyl was chosen by the Synod of the UGCC as Patron of Prison Ministry because of the example of ministry that he gave while he was imprisoned on death row and later in the labor camps in Vorkuta , the place of Russian coal mines above the Arctic Circle.
On June 27, Catholic Church in Canada celebrates the life and witness of Blessed Vasyl Vsevolod Velychkovsky. Born in 1903 in Stanyslaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk), in Eastern Galicia, today's Western Ukraine. In 1920 he entered the seminary in Lviv. In 1925 he took his first religious vows in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and was ordained a priest by the Most Reverend Josyf Botsian, Bishop of Lutsk. As a priest-monk Vasyl Velychkovsky taught and preached in Volyn. In 1942 he became hegumen of the monastery in Ternopil. Because of religious persecution by the Soviet Government he was arrested and sent to Kyiv. The death penalty was changed to 10 years of hard labor.
In 1959, the Apostolic See appointed Father Velychkovsky a Bishop of the underground Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. He was ordained a Bishop in 1963 in a Moscow hotel room by Metropolitan Josyf Slipyj, who had just been released from prison and was on his way to the Second Vatican Council. Metropolitan Slipyj made him the locum tenens, the person in charge of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine during his absence. Bishop Velychkovsky worked to strengthen the underground Church. In 1969, he was arrested after writing a book on Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Three years later, he was deported out of the Soviet Union. Following the invitation of the Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop of Winnipeg, Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk, who was also a Redemptorist, Bishop Velychkovsky came to live in Canada. Stricken with a heart disease stemming from his imprisonment, he told a Canadian audience, "The prisons and camps ruined my health and my strength, but this was my fate; the Lord God placed this cross on my shoulders." He gave retreats to clergy, but his visit among the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada did not last long. On June 30, 1973, Bishop Velychkovsky died at the age of 70 in Winnipeg, where he was buried. Thirty years after his death, Vasyl Velychkovsky's body was found to be almost incorrupt, his toes had fallen off and were subsequently divided to be used as holy relics. Beatified in 2001, the intact remains of Blessed Bishop and Martyr Vasyl Velychkovsky are enshrined at St. Joseph's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.