Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Watch and Read More about "The Light of His Eyes"

Recently, Mother Iliana was interviewed by Matt Fradd on his show "Pints with Aquinas." Among other things in this long-form interview, she talks about her new book, The Light of His Eyes. You can find the video of the interview here

To read more about her book, you can check out this article in the National Catholic Register, "Never Forget: God Is Your Loving Father, and He Thinks You're Worth Dying For."

We have been really blessed to hear how Mother Iliana's book is touching so many people's lives! 

Monday, November 20, 2023

“A Man of Trust” -- Father Vasyl Lonchyna

 We'd like to share with you the story of the life of our very own, Mother Iliana's, great-grandfather, Father Vasyl Lonchyna, who was martyred for the faith on November 21st, 1946. Recently, his story was translated into English by Christine Gilbert, and so we are blessed to be able to share his story with you.

He was born on February 1, 1886, in the family of a wojt* in the village of Derniv in the Lviv region. He finished German gymnasium and Theological faculty of the Lviv University. In 1912, he got married (in marriage he had three children) and was ordained a priest. Until 1915, he was parochial vicar in the village of  Hlyniany (Lviv region). After that, he labored in the church of St. Paraskeva and its daughter church of St. Nicholas, both in Lviv.  He was a prisoner of  Thalerhof. He was very active in church ministry. Father Lonchyna was imprisoned on October 22, 1945, and in the spring of 1946 he was condemned to ten years  imprisonment and was sent to a camp in the Donetsk region. There, after  a brutal beating during an interrogation, he died on November 21, 1946.

Humble and gentle by nature, with a soft and compassionate heart, Father Vasyl showed amazing resilience, courage and uncompromisingness when there was a concern about important things  –  his faith in God, Church and parishioners. He never left his faithful, he never renounced the Greco-Catholic faith, he despised threats because, as he used to say, “I know what I will die for.” He consciously accepted his arrest, exile, and, eventually, his martyr’s death.

Born in a family respected among the villagers (Father Vasyl`s father was the wojt) and the boy was raised well and obtained a good education. While he was studying at the Lviv University in Theology Faculty, he attended the Third Velehrad Congress. The young student became enamored of the idea of the union of churches towards which Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky was striving. The young man dreamed to become a genuine apostle of Christ, sacrificial and selfless…

Already in the first month of the 26-year-old priest’s ministry in the village of Hlyniany, he was noticed as the person with excellent pastoral and organizational skills. In 1915, Father Lonchyna was transferred to St. Paraskeva Church and the daughter church of St. Nicholas in Lviv,  where he labored until his arrest in 1945 (first as vicar, later as a pastor). 

Before long the priest faced a serious challenge:  he was suspected in “russophilism” and the Austrian government sent him to Thalerhof  (one of the most terrible concentration camps  of   the  20th Century;  there, in a picturesque area at the foot of the Alps, the imprisoned died from cruelty, hunger, and inhumane conditions).Who knows if Father Lonchyna would come back if the protohegumen of the Basilian Fathers had not interfered. After almost two years of imprisonment, the priest returned again to his family and parishioners. Being thankful to God for salvation, the shepherd returned to work with zeal. At the parish, he founded fellowships and fraternities, which developed successfully, in particular, The Apostolate of Prayer, the Fraternity of St. Nicholas, the Fraternity of Good Death (the first one in Lviv), and the Marian Sisterhood. In addition to that, Father Vasyl during a long period of time was head of the “Cantors’ Mutual Help” fellowship, since  he understood very well the value of the art of cantorship in the preservation of the Ukrainian tradition of liturgical singing. On the whole, Father Vasyl’s activity was multifaceted and active, and so his part in Theological Scientific Society should be mentioned here. 

Father Vasyl was not only a wise and good spiritual father for his flock, but also a wonderfully practical man. St. Nicholas church was not in its best condition, so the pastor, together with the help of his faithful (mostly poor residents of Zhovkva and Krakow suburbs), did not only rebuild his church:  thanks to his efforts the exterior of  the church was decorated by the work of the famous painter Petro Kholodny. 

Despite his comprehensive and fruitful activity, Father Lonchyna remained very mild and modest in everyday life. His daughter recalled: “Daddy was gentle, calm, noble, and very much loved by all. He always prayed with me before bed, teaching me to be good, kind, obedient, and to obey the elders…” 

The priest`s calm and sincere nature did not impede him to stand for his principles, for in such cases he was completely imperturbable and unbreakable. For example, in the so called “language case” in 1930 when he and two other priests were sued for daring to use the Ukrainian language in correspondence with the government. The priests managed to win the case, which was a great rarity at that time. 

Father Vasyl showed indomitable character in those difficult times when Soviet soldiers occupied Galicia and started the first persecutions of the Ukrainian Church. He did not have any illusions about the new government and said to his family that the priesthood will be in relative safety as long as Metropolitan Sheptytsky lives. The pastor, as his faithful, understood well the danger. More than once parishioners tried to convince the priest to leave the region. He invariably answered, saying that he will remain with his congregation until the end, and will not betray his vow. 

They began to call the priest in for questioning. One day when he was at the district prosecutor’s office, he heard a loud noise behind the door – it was indignant parishioners come to free their priest. The enraged prosecutor promised to release him. Amazed by the father`s authority among those people, the prosecutor tried to persuade Father to enter the service of the new government. He asked the priest does he not fear imprisonment and death… No, Father Lonchyna was not afraid, because “he knew what he will die for”. This whole story ended with the wife of that same prosecutor (who  really  did release him) bringing her child to Father Vasyl to be baptized. Obviously, they decided that such priest can be trusted. 

But the government didn’t leave Father Vasyl in peace, and he continued to be called in for  questioning. Fr. Havryil Kostelnyk who was infamous for his“reunification” activities, tried  to convince Father Vasyl to  transfer to Orthodoxy. Finally, on October 22, 1945, they arrested the unbreakable  priest. The “socially dangerous priest” was accused of many “sins,” such as being “a man of trust” during the German occupation (as the Ukrainian Central Committee called community representatives who protected their community’s interests).  Being in that position, Father Lonchyna especially cared for poor families in need of help. 

Father was convicted to ten years in prison. The priest was sent to Donetsk region in Novobutovka’s mine in the Makiyivka district where there were truly inhumane conditions: exhausting work, hunger, and dysentery, since the prisoners often ate straight from trash cans. And in all this horror, Father Vasyl preserved his human dignity and faith. He drew his strength from prayer. This made an impression on the prisoners: when they were unable to think about anything else other than finding something to eat, they saw someone next to them calmly, praying over a crumb of the daily ration and consuming it nobly as is from God’s hand. They often saw the priest  as he sat tired on a bench,  and having humbly bowed his head, spoke something to the Lord… 

In the camp Father lost his health very quickly. But even in this state the government did not leave the nearly powerless priest in peace. They again started to call him for questioning. During one such interrogation he was beaten so hard that he could not stand on his feet again. In his 60th year of life, on the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, November 21, 1946, Father Lonchyna departed into eternity. Another wonderful person passed away, a person who knew how to love God and people and be faithful to the ideals of his own faith up until his last breath.

*“A Polish senior civil administrative officer and the highest representative of the government of a rural gmina, i.e., of a commune (gmina) comprising only villages... The word wójt is derived from Latin  advocatus  via German Vogt.” –Wikipedia.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

A Thank You Letter from Mother Cecilia

Dear friends and benefactors,

Thank you for your incredible support of our monastic life! At our Bridegroom's Banquet on Saturday, November 4 (and in donations given remotely), we raised over $135,000, $100,000 of which will be matched! These funds will allow us to continue our monastic life and to save for our next building project, which may be more poustinias or an addition to the monastery building. We continue to discern the next step.

As I shared at the end of the banquet, your support is incredibly important to us, because there are few things that we do that actually bring in any income. And, as I said, the things that we do don't seem like much of anything to the world. But you believe. You believe that our life of prayer is enough. You believe that just being and being loved by God are enough. And your support allows us to continue to do this and to be an example of this to you and to others. So thank you!

The banquet was a beautiful event! Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB, was our first monastic Emcee, and he shared some beautiful thoughts and stories about how people are encouraged simply by the knowledge that monks and nuns exist and are praying. Our video on obedience was probably the most beautiful yet of our videos. And for the first time, we nuns were the "entertainment," answering questions submitted by our guests and presented by Fr. Boniface. The questions ranged from topics such as "What saints have personally impacted you?" to "What's your favorite junk food?" Everyone enjoyed some laughs as our minds blanked and we passed the mic off to our sisters! We also just enjoyed being with 300 wonderful people, who are just some of those who make our monastic life possible.

Being hegumena for the first time at our banquet gives me an even greater appreciation for all the ways that you support us: financially, with your time and talent, and through your prayers!

God bless you! And know that you are in our hearts and prayers!

Mother Cecilia

Photos from the Bridegroom's Banquet can be found here

Sunday, November 5, 2023

"'Be It Done unto Me': Reflections on Obedience" is on YouTube!


Without further ado, we are very excited to share with you our newest video, "'Be It Done unto Me': Reflections on Obedience." We encourage you to watch and pray with what you hear and see. We also would like to express our gratitude to David Bratnick, our filmmaker friend who did an incredible job putting this together for us. We hope that this video will bear much fruit!

Saturday, November 4, 2023

You can still donate online today!

The day of the Bridegroom's Banquet has finally arrived, and we're busy getting ready to welcome everyone!

The funds we raise tonight, as well as the donations that have already been sent in, will be matched by a generous donor, up to $100,000. If you'd still like to donate and have your generosity doubled, you can donate online by this evening. Please visit this link to make a pledge or donate by credit card or EFT. 

We are so grateful for your generous support of our monastic life. We're amazed by the magnitude of the generosity we receive each year at Banquet time. We couldn't live this life without you. Thank you. 

Stay tuned on Sunday for the release of our new video "Be It Done unto Me: Reflections on Obedience" on YouTube!

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Thank you!


We have a lot to be grateful for! 

Thank you to everyone who came out and braved the cold and rain for our Fall Work Day. We were so glad to be able to welcome so many new people to our monastery. We were also amazed that we could get everything on our lists done and still have time for more jobs. We're really grateful for everyone's willingness to help us, especially when the weather was so cold and wet. The day ended with Vespers in our chapel (photo above), and then we all crammed into the monastery for the potluck dinner. It was great to be with all of you who came! Thank you!

We are also very glad to see that we were able to reach exactly the number of people we hoped for for our Bridegroom's Banquet. Registration ended on October 16th, and we have just over three hundred people registered! This year's banquet is going to be the biggest yet, and we're praying that the evening will be a blessing for all of you who come. We're looking forward to it! 

For those who are unable to attend the banquet, if you'd like to make a donation to our monastery and have it matched by our matching donor, you can donate online here. Donations can also be sent in by mail. Please write out the check to "Christ the Bridegroom Monastery" and mark it as "Bridegroom's Banquet," and your donation will be doubled. Our address is 17485 Mumford Road, Burton, OH 44021. To have your donation matched, please send it in by the evening of November 4th. We're so grateful for your support of our monastic life! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Hear Mother Petra's Story on "The Journey Home"

Mother Petra's interview on The Coming Home Network's show, "The Journey Home" recently aired. She tells her story of growing up Wesleyan and how she came into the Catholic Church.  Mother Petra was especially grateful to get to visit The Coming Home Network because their ministry was very helpful to her as a new Catholic, and she hopes that others struggling with questions like hers will find resources and accompaniment through the CHN. 

You can find her interview here