July 29, 1865 - November 1, 1944
Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky was born Count Roman Alexander Maria Sheptytsky in 1865 in the Ukrainian village of Prylbychi. The son of a polonized (and therefore latinized) Ukrainian Aristocrat, Jan Sheptytsky and Sophia Fredro (daughter of the Polish literary figure), he was conscious of the fact that his ancestors included some notable bishops and Metropolitans of the Greco-Catholic Church of Kyiv. After many obstacles created by his father, the young Count Sheptytsky was able to enter the Ukrainian monastery of the Order of Saint Basil the Great (OSBM) in 1891 and accepted the monastic name Andrey. In 1900 he was made Bishop of Stanyslaviv and shortly afterwards, at the age of 36, became the Metropolitan, i.e. the ranking hierarch of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. He remained at this post until his death on 1 November, 1944.
His life was an example of heroic virtue. An extremely active pastor, who used his personal wealth to fund thousands of philanthropic projects, he was also a man of deep prayer. A gifted preacher and prolific writer, he reached out to his people constantly, teaching uneducated peasants the basics of hygiene and agricultural techniques, and dialoguing with the intelligentsia among his own people and the cultured classes of all Europe. He traveled widely, visiting his flock in Western Europe, North and South America, and seeing to it that they would have bishops of their own to take care of them. Never of good health, his last fifteen years were a constant agony of pain and paralysis. Even so, he valiantly led his Church through extremely difficult and oppressive times.
His two great passions in life were the restoration of authentic Eastern Christian Monasticism in his Church, (which he achieved through the creation of monasteries following the Studite Typicon) and the union of Churches. He specifically laboured at Orthodox-Catholic reconciliation, decades before this became fashionable. For this he was often looked upon as dangerous and insufficiently loyal to Rome. He was, however, a firm believer in a strong papacy, which caused many Orthodox to mistrust this saintly man as well, even though he loved them dearly and stood up for them when they were persecuted. He valued education (having the equivalent of three doctorates himself) and founded the L’viv Theological Academy in 1929, naming Fr. Josyf Slipyj as its rector. This same man would later be Metropolitan Andrey’s coadjutor and successor, and a direct heir to many of Metropolitan Andrey’s great dreams and aspirations.
Metropolitan Andrey led his flock of some five million faithful through two world wars. He was arrested by the Czarist forces in World War I. Polish and Nazi German authorities would keep him under house arrest in later years. He courageously saved many Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Metropolitan Andrey died as the Red Army occupied his city of L’viv once again in 1944. Before his death, he predicted the annihilation of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, and its eventual resurrection. Both his predictions came true. In 1946 the Soviet Secret Police, with the assistance of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church staged a pseudo-council of the Ukrainian Church, during which a small group of frightened clergy voted to liquidate their Church and join the Moscow Patriarchate. No Ukrainian Greco-Catholic bishop ever agreed to this. For almost half a century, the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church was the world’s largest outlawed religious body. As the Soviet Union crumbled, this Church came out of the Catacombs with over five million faithful, thousands of priests and over three thousand parishes. Many believe this survival of the Church in Ukraine to be a miracle worked by Metropolitan Andrey. The cause for his beatification and canonization is underway.
Metropolitan Andrey believed in the necessity of the Union of Churches, to be achieved through mutual understanding and sacrificial love, as well as a return to the sources of the faith. He enjoined all people to pray for God’s Wisdom. His life and his legacy are an inspiration to the staff and students of the Institute that bears his name.
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