NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry & Blog Administrator

Monday, November 1, 2021

Saint of the Month - November 2021: Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska

Bl. Josaphata Hordashevska
She served "where the need was greatest"
Memorial: November 20th

Born in Lviv, Ukraine, on November 20, 1869, this foundress of a congregation was baptized Michaelina Hordashevska.  Fortunately for her she had a devout family - members of the Eastern Rite Ukrainian Catholic Church - and their faith rubbed off on her.  From a young age she displayed a level of piety uncommon in children - she was inclined to pray in solitude and even practiced mortifications that included regularly eating bitter plants.

At the age of 18 while participating in a retreat, Michaelina had a powerful spiritual illumination that prompted her to consecrate herself completely to the Lord through a private vow of virginity.  She also resolved to become a religious, which in her time and place, was only possible through the cloistered Basilian Sisters.  Her spiritual director, however - a Basilian priest named, Fr. Jeremiah Lomnytskyj - had, for a long time, been discerning the need for an active congregation that would serve the temporal and spiritual needs of the people of Ukraine.  He believed Michaelina was an answer to his prayer.

In 1892, after much prayer and discernment, Michaelina heroically agreed to partner with Fr. Jeremiah in realizing a new congregation, regardless what challenges it entailed.  The priest sent her to nearby Zhovkva where she stayed in a convent of Polish Felician Nuns to learn the norms of religious life from them.

After two months of training with the Felicians, Michaelina was dressed in the blue habit she designed and professed vows as the very first member of her new congregation.  She then traveled to the village of Zhuzhelyany where Fr. Jeremiah had 7 postulants excitedly waiting to also consecrate themselves in active service to God.  Thus, on August 27th, 1892, the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate was officially born - their motto: Serve the people where the need is greatest.

An actual photo of Bl. Josaphata Hordashevska

From the start, Mother Josaphata (Michaelina's name in religion) began earnestly forming her new sisters in the charism of serving Christ in others.  They initially implemented their mission by simply visiting their community to care-give the sick in their own homes, and babysit children who would otherwise be alone while their parents worked.  As more people began seeking their help, and support poured in, the Sisters Servants opened daycare centers where they not only watched over children, but also taught them reading and writing; they established clinics to provide basic medical care for the sick-poor; they taught catechism to both children and adults; volunteered in local parishes to upkeep churches and fulfill various ministries.  It goes without saying, their work prospered and grew.  In fact, by 1902 the congregation had 26 convents with 128 members throughout Ukraine.

Although she was the co-founder and the first nominated superior of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, sometime during the early years of her religious career, Mother Josaphata was deposed by order of the Archbishop of Lviv, and her influence suppressed, as a result of dissension that arose in the congregation; she humbly complied and never complained when she was appointed the most difficult tasks.  In May 1909 she was vindicated and reinstated to a post of authority as the Vicaress General.

Through her ups and downs in religious life, Mother Josaphata was a consistent role model of charitable service for her spiritual daughters; once described as having "loved God concretely in His needy ones".  A particular incident related of her gives us excellent example - neighbors once reported to the Sisters Servants about a dying woman abandoned in a barn.  The founder immediately set about looking for her and when she located the poor lady, she carried her to one of their clinics.  Upon discovering there were no open beds for the patient, she took the woman into her room where she laid her in her own bed, despite the patient being covered with grime and ulcers.  Mother Josaphata tenderly washed and treated the woman - sleeping on the floor beside the bed - until the patient peacefully expired under her loving care.

Mother Josaphata's own death occurred on April 7th, 1919, from tuberculosis of the bone; she was only 49-years-old.  It was an extremely painful trial, but the founder endured it with patience and faith, and even accurately predicted the exact date she would pass into Eternity!  She was initially interred in the village cemetery of Krystynopil, where local devotion sprung up around her tomb, but her remains were later transferred to her congregation's Generalate in Rome in 1982.  It was during this exhumation that her body was found to be mysteriously incorrupt.

After reports continued to pour into the Generalate of favors granted through the intercession of Mother Josaphata, her Cause for Canonization was officially opened in 1992.  So far she has been Beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on June 27th, 2001; another confirmed miracle is needed to raise her to Sainthood.  Let us pray for her speedy Canonization.

Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska,
pray for us!

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