Soldier’s Son Becomes Priest, UCU Teacher, Chaplain

Friday, September 22, 2017

As a young man, Fr. Nazarii Mysiakovskyi dreamed of serving in the army, like his father. From his childhood, he visited military bases, spent time around soldiers, and “knew” that his life would lead him to military service. But the family had another, parallel story that became decisive in his life and led him to serving God.

At the end of the 1960s and early 1970s, the aunt of Fr. Nazarii’s late grandmother was the provincial superior of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in the province in Serbia. With the post-Khrushchev thaw, his grandmother was able to visit the nuns in Serbia, and eventually the sisters travelled to Lviv, Ukraine, where his grandmother’s apartment became an “underground church.” With Ukraine’s independence, the nuns often visited his grandmother and Fr. Nazarii as a child had many opportunities to interact with them.

“In 2001, I had the opportunity to lodge for a month with the sisters in Serbia,” recalls Fr. Nazarii. “There I saw how the sisters work with the poor, the seriously ill, and conduct morning prayer, which I participated in every morning. Every day I observed the ladies – young, smiling, joyful – and wanted to understand why they had chosen God. Once during a three-day retreat in the village of Khorhosh, before I laid down to sleep, I felt that God was telling me that the path on which I had been going up to that time was not mine.”

Fr. Nazarii had changed when he returned to Lviv. Prayers that he heard did not leave his head, and a great hunger for prayer had awakened in him. Finally, he got up the courage to give God an ultimatum, saying: “God, good. If you want me to go on this way, I’ll try to enter the seminary. If it works out, that means it’s truly your will. If not, the army is always open.”

Generally, young men enter the seminary who have served as altar boys from childhood and had devout practices. At that time, Fr. Nazarii had no such grounding. And he did not even think that one evening could radically change his life plans. So he decided that trying to enter the seminary without preparation would be the best opportunity to understand if God truly wanted this.

“I was accepted into the Lviv seminary on my first attempt, and accepted this as the will of God, Who was expecting me to serve,” explains Fr. Nazarii. “My father positively accepted my decision and always repeated that he served in the army 27 years for the three of us, that is, for my two younger brothers and me, one of whom is already a priest and the other who in June completed his studies at the seminary.”

And so he began his studies at Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv, at which professors of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) also teach. “Spiritual practices, prayers were very natural for me, so I can’t say that it was difficult to study or unusual,” recounts Fr. Nazarii. “Rather, I became more deeply and deeply involved, studied church history, ministry, and never regretted my chosen path.”

Upon completing his studies at the seminary, Fr. Nazarii went abroad to study, at the Catholic University of Eichstaet and eventually at the Theology Faculty in Fulda (both in Germany). He was encouraged to do this by the rector of Lviv seminary at the time, now His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. After passing an exam in the German language, he started his doctoral studies and researched the pastoral ministry of the Ukrainian Catholic Church regarding children and young people. And he returned to Lviv in April with a doctorate.

“Many did not support my decision to ‘pack’ my family with me and return to Ukraine, where there were no guarantees,” said Fr. Nazarii. His wife of four years lived with him in Germany, where their two children were born. “However, travelling to Germany, I knew that I wanted to return home. For me it was important to study for Ukraine and here use my knowledge and contacts.”

Fr. Nazarii already had experience cooperating with UCU, because at one time His Beatitude Sviatoslav made him the contact between the seminary and the university’s student council. Now, having returned after his doctoral studies, Fr. Nazarii had an offer to work for UCU’s Pastoral Department, and, with the blessing of Metropolitan Ihor Vozniak of Lviv, he agreed. He is now a chaplain at UCU and has also become a curator (resident advisor) at UCU’s Patriarch Josyf Slipyj Collegium and the teacher of a course on youth ministry for UCU’s licentiate (graduate degree) program. He considers contact with youth and students to be the special task of a chaplain.

“I want to be a friend to the students, so I try very hard to find an individual approach to each,” says Fr. Nazarii. “I have noted that UCU students are very creative, because the university’s environment gives them the possibility for greater self-development. In a university like this, the task of chaplains is not only to minister to theology students, who are already acquiring a theological education, but especially to students of other faculties and to bring the living God to them.”

Fr. Nazarii is convinced that the university responds to the needs of the times, of Ukrainian society, as it tries to maintain world-class educational standards and the high intellectual level of staff and students and, above all, the absence of corruption.

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