There are now up to three candidates for every place at some seminaries in the Ukraine. Auxiliary Bishop Jaroslav Pryryz of the Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Sambir-Drohobych told Aid to the Church in Need that up to half of seminary candidates in parts of western Ukraine had to be turned away because of lack of space. In some areas two out of every three would-be seminarians are unsuccessful when they apply to begin training.
Speaking with Aid to the Church at the charity’s project headquarters in Konigstein, Germany, the bishop said candidates for seminary have to take up to four exams as part of the selection procedure.
Bishop Pryryz said young men are being drawn to the priesthood because they are seeking a challenge. “When they see good priests, and when they see the Church living out the social gospel, it inspires them," he said.
“Many young men see the positives and negatives – the positive of how the Church serves people – and the negative of how hard life is in the streets and the villages.”
He cited diocesan priest Blessed Omelian Korch, who helped the Jewish people during Nazi occupation, as “a great example for young men.”
Korch was killed in Majdanek concentration camp on the outskirts of Lublin, in Poland in 1944.
Bishop Pryryz said: “His family tried to free him from prison but he wrote to his family telling them not to worry. He stayed with the Jewish people and died with them.”
He added: “The Catholic Church gives a great example of service and suffering – we need to show people a very great example.”
The challenges that the Ukraine has faced under fascist and soviet rule have greatly affected the country since the beginning of the Second World War.
Reflecting on the difficulties of reestablishing the Church after the fall of Communism, Bishop Pryryz thanked ACN for its support: “You have enabled our Church to regain a normal presence in the public life of our country.”
In a country where a third of the population live below the poverty line, Aid to the Church in Need is supporting the diocese’s 86 seminarians and continues to help after ordination by providing Mass stipends to support its 287 priests.
In message to the charity’s benefactors he said: “I send you sincerest greetings from Ukraine and express our heartfelt thanks to you for graciously responding to the calls of the charity Aid to the Church in Need to help our Church meet the many needs that have arisen after a period of prolonged persecution.”
“Together with you, we are building the temple of human souls, whose grandeur depends solely on the sincerity of efforts each one of us is making according to personal ability.”