The Servant of God, Andrew Sheptytsky was born 29 July 1865 in Ukraine in the Village of Pryblichy located in the Yavoriv Municipality of the Lviv Province. He was baptized with the name Roman. Although being raised in a family of noble lineage, his upbringing instilled in him a deep sense of Faith.
In 1888, as Ukrainian Christians were celebrating 900 years of Christianity, he entered a Monastery of the Order of Saint Basil the Great and took the name of the Apostle Andrew.* He was ordained a priest in 1892. His academic brilliance, leadership qualities and personal dedication and sanctity soon saw him chosen as the bishop of Stanislaviv - today's Ivano-Frankivsk - in 1899. Events soon developed where the Metropolitan See of Halych (Kyiv-Lviv) needed to be filled. The young energetic Bishop Andrew was the natural choice. He became the Metropolitan-Archbishop in 1900 - thus, effectively, becoming head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
He conscientiously undertook his responsibilities as the head of the Church and the Spiritual leader of the people. He worked tirelessly at what he saw as the tasks of paramount importance: the deepening of the faith of his people; the revitalization of the Eastern-Byzantine Rite which was proper to his Church; and the development of cultural and social awareness among the people.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was fast developing and spreading. As "head and father" of this church he insisted on taking care of the spiritual needs of his people. He traveled to Brazil, Argentina and twice to North America. Canada and the United States now have Metropolian Provinces and Brazil is rumored to have the same soon established. This is due in no small part to the intervention and support of Metropolitan Andrew at a critical moment in Church History.
In his dedication to God and his people, Metropolitan Andrew knew that the work would be difficult and challenging. Having truly unconditionally dedicated his life to the Will of God, he was able to welcome any challenge. For this dedication and pureness of heart he was able to lead with boldness. Not unlike Moses of old or Our Lord himself, his position and attitude were at first questioned even by some of his own. However, his clear vision of what must be done kept him forging ahead. He never hesitated to come to the defense of truth and justice. Aside from dramatic confrontations with Nazis and Communists during their respective occupations, he was first imprisoned by Moscow just prior to the tragic revolution from 1914-1917. He even declared his willingness to the Apostolic See to give his life in "martyrdom for the Faith and Church unity in exchange for the suffering of his people" and even requested permission for this should the occasion arise. During the Second World War he remained with his people and openly protested the Nazi mistreatment of Ukrainian and Jews. He personally saved a few hundred Jews from certain death by hiding them in his own home and monasteries.
One of the threads that one can find sewn throughout all his endeavors is that of Church unity. His ecumenical position, although "before its time" was courageous, but orthodox and is even reflected in the present ecumenical attitude that the Catholic Church has been developing since the Second Vatican Council.
Some of his hopes weren't realized in his lifetime. Somehow Divine Prividence works in such a manner. Moses never entered the Promised Land. The great Christian "movement" at one point seemed hopeless with its founder left hanging on a cross with only his mother and one young Apostle standing below. So it was with Metropolitan Andrew. After years of struggling and building and strengthening his Church and people, he died and within just over a year his Church was destroyed at the hands of the Soviet liberators. However, his efforts were not in vain. Much of his work, is now being fully appreciated and developed. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that most of the various endeavors now in motion in the Ukrainian Catholic Church were either directly or indirectly initiated or reanimated by the efforts of Metropolitan Andrew.
Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky died on the 1st of November 1944. The process that would see him formally recognized by the Church as a Saint - an example of holiness and Christian living and who in the presence of God continued to intercedes for his Church and people - was officially initiated December 5, 1958.
As has been customary in the Ukrainian Catholic world since the day of the "Great Metropolitan's" death, memorial services were held today to commemorate the 53rd anniversary of that date. In the Cathedral Church of St. George in Lviv, where Metropolitan Andrew once preached to his people, Bishop Julian Voronovsky of the neighboring Eparchy of Sambir-Drohobych, led the celebration of the Divine Liturgy and later the requiem service in the crypt at the tomb of Metropolitan Andrew.
- * (Ancient Ukrainian chronicles have the Apostle Andrew traveling as far as the hills of Kyiv and, erecting a cross, foretelling of the site becoming the capital of a great nation and a radiant Christian center.)
- It is interesting to note that Metropolitan Andrew's brother, Archimadrite Clement Sheptytsky, who became a priest and a monk of the Studite Rule of life, is also a candidate for Sainthood.