Editors’ note: Prior to Russia’s invasion, Anna Nekrasova-Wilson interviewed rectors and seminarians of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine to discuss what is involved in the formation of future priests for a country that had been at war along its eastern border for already eight years. The country’s circumstances necessitated formation that would allow priests to be “Closer to the People” in their pain and suffering, they said. And all the more so after Russia’s invasion. Listen to her impressions from her reporting, featured in the September issue of ONE, and the key insights she took away from her interviews. A full transcript follows.
The formation of future priests is one of the fundamental tasks of the church, as it is a question of its future. In this article, we explore how the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church forms a new generation of Christian leaders and what challenges they face today.
For young people in Ukraine, becoming a priest is not always an easy decision. And in some cases, they do not have the support of family and friends as there are many other opportunities for young people to succeed and help the church in other ways. The globalism and dynamism of the modern world affects the younger generation, especially when they need to make such a lifelong decision, and it is becoming quite a challenge for people who are thinking of going to the seminary.
However, the biggest challenge for Ukrainian society and the church is an eight-year ongoing war, which also effects the focus of the formation program. Priests have to serve in different conditions and deal with a lot of human pain and sorrow.
We spoke with seminary rectors and seminarians about the specifics of teaching and preparing candidates for the priesthood and asked them to share their concerns and thoughts and above all their experiences. One of the main questions I asked in my research was, “What does it mean to be a good priest today?”
Many people with whom I had the opportunity to speak emphasized one simple but important thing: To be a good priest is first of all, to be a good person. So simple, but so difficult at the same time.
The path that priests follow throughout their lives and seminary education is an important first step that sets them up for their service and gives them the platform to develop in the fundamental dimensions — spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and human — in this combination that helps to build a new identity for the future priests, a priest who is not afraid to share their honest experience, first of all spiritual but also their experience as a person.
Anna Nekrasova-Wilson is a journalist and producer from Ukraine, currently based in London. She has worked with USA TODAY, Die Zeit and The Wall Street Journal.