EUROPE/UKRAINE - Capuchins have been working for over 3 centuries in the Ukraine, overcoming difficulties

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Kiev (Agenzia Fides) – In 1707, the Capuchin Franciscans opened their first convent in Leopoli, followed by the opening of another 10 houses in the Ukraine. After the foundation of the Polish Province (1754) that had 20 convents and some 220 religious brothers and priests, these foundations had a hard time, due to the division of the Ukraine territory between Austria (Galicia) and Russia. At the close of the century, the czars of Moscow had acquired a large portion of the Ukraine and tried to impede any communication with Poland, which is what led the Order to create the new province of Rutena, formed by 65 religious.
In 1830-31, Czar Nicolaj reduced the number of the community, deporting the majority of them to Siberia. In 1888, all the convents were destroyed and the Franciscans only remained in Galicia, which was under the Austrian Empire. The difficult situation lasted until the Second World War, when two of the religious were killed and the rest deported to Siberia, where they managed to keep the underground Church alive. In the Soviet Ukraine, only one Franciscan remained: Servant of God Serafin Kaszuba. After his death in 1977, the Capuchins remained outside the country until 1988, when Ukrainian Franciscan Father Stanislao Padewski, today Bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporizhia, was invited by the parish priest of Bar, to return to the Ukraine.
In 1989, Fr. Stanislao founded a convent next to the partially destroyed Church in Starykonstiantyniv, where he celebrated Christmas Mass. With the help of the brothers of Krakow, he managed to reopen the convent in Krasyliv, 40 km from Starykonstiantyniv. In 1991, the Minister General of the Order received a warm welcome from the local people and met with the three novices and several aspirants, a sign that the Franciscan ideal continued alive in spite of the difficulties. In the years that followed, new convents were founded and old ones reopened, so that the Franciscans increased their presence in the eastern part of the country. On June 13, 1995 the, Custody of the Ukraine was erected, formed by 9 religious residencies in 4 convents: Starykonstiantyniv, Vinnitsa, Krasyliv, and Kiev.
On 2004, the Custody was raised to Vice Province of the Ukraine and Russia, and according to a report from the magazine Capuchin Missionary Continents, there are 38 religious that are rapidly growing. The large number of new aspirants has led them to have to build a formation house in Starykonstiantyniv and Krasyliv. The rest of the formation is being given, for now, in Poland. (AM) (Agenzia Fides 18/2/2009)