Saturday, 31 December 2016

My ten years of priesthood

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Ordination of Father Vasyl Tyhovych as a priest in the Church of St. Nicholas in the Ivano-Frankivsk region. 24 December 2006. Ordination of Father Vasyl Tyhovych as a priest in the Church of St. Nicholas in the Ivano-Frankivsk region. 24 December 2006. Photo: Vasyl Tyhovychs pictures archive.

About the priesthood as a lifestyle – Father Vasyl Tykhovych, the spiritual leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Denmark.

Thinking about 10 years of priesthood with happy heart, I thank God that he called me to the road to the priesthood. Thanks for his care and support that rich blessing is manifested in the whole period of my mission in Denmark. It is this joy that I share with you, dear reader.

I remember the inauguration ceremony and realize how much kindness is bestowed upon me by God, and can not help it but thinking of the words of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John: «This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us...» 1 John 4, 10. «You did not choose me, but I chose you...» John 15,16.

The priesthood as a lifestyle

Yes! The priesthood is a gift that you do not deserve. I often ask myself: «Why did God choose me? I am not different than other guys who have a lot of weaknesses and infirmities». And till this day I have not found a definite answer, but I understand that priests are instruments in God's hands and  through them God's blessing fills people's lives. Through the priests visible signs people receive God's invisible grace and blessing.

Very often I am asked: «How is it going at work?» or hear the phrase: «the priest in the church and outside the church are just like all other people». The priesthood is a suit that you can not put on and take of again, it's not a profession but a lifestyle. I understand that where I go, my priesthood goes with me and it is not in the clothes. Just as a Christian can not be a Christian only in the church. The Lord calls the priest to the road to meet others. On this road, it is different: sun and rain, day and night. And to go to the road's end with dignity the priest needs your support, understanding and especially your prayers.

Arrive on time

The priesthood – it's a lifestyle. Sometimes when we invite guests, my wife prepares a delicious dinner, and then the phone rings and I must go immediately. I have to apologize to the guests, the mood goes down, but I realize the importance of my priesthood and I do not go, but run into a bus or a train, and if it is in the city (the priest lives in Copenhagen, ed.), then I sit on the bike to reach the site quickly. And I thank God afterwards that we managed to give the last sacraments. The cases are different: someone wants to commit suicide, someone has scandals in the family, someone has mental illness, someone wants to get rid of the fetus, etc., and I hurry because an accident can happen.

During an interview I was asked what I have done in previous years of priesthood? I had no answer, because apparently I had not managed to do something big. We have organized three wonderful religious communities, but we do not have our own churches. And I think the Lord employs a priest to built up human souls. Someone preserve the family, someone chooses the right decision. People share their problems, and I try to give good advices. After a short time, they have written that conversation helped them, and now everything is very well. I rejoice with them and thank God. After each serious conversation, these people becomes very close to me.

wedding Ukrainians in Denmark

Wedding in the Ukrainian community in Copenhagen. Photo: Archive of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Denmark.

«He was here»

I was asked, do the priestly activities not affects your personal life? I said first of all that the priesthood and my person are inseparable, one can not assume that there are moments when I'm not a priest. Certainly affected. Sometimes I think of a situation in a few days or weeks, and some of them I remember for many years. I remember when I gave the last sacraments to a young and very beautiful woman, mother of a 3-year-old son. The hope of life was gone. This case was many years ago and I remember the conversation.

The hardest thing is to hold a young dying in the hand. Once I came to the hospital, and a dying man said, «Father, bless me to life». I obviously gave blessings and supported him with words, but it was very difficult, because when I a couple of weeks later came to him, he was already dying. I came to the hospital room, and he saw me, and the tears rolled. That very moment he died in front of my eyes.

And there are cases where people die with great relief in the heart and happy eyes. An old man, who was 90, was dying in a hospital and asked for a priest. To him came the Danish, but he did not want him, then the Russian came, but he did not want him. He said: «I know that in Copenhagen there is a Ukrainian priest, find him for me». I arrived, the man was alone. Gave him sacraments, were short of time with him, and stayed there without knowing how long the man would still live and walked away again. And when I was gone, the person who found me went to him, and the man said «He was here» and died. Such and similar cases are forming me as a priest.

Being a priest-friend

Today I thank God for these wonderful people I met in Copenhagen, Vejle and Aalborg. Many of them have become my friends, and it always pleases. The biggest thing I could achieve would probably be, being a priest-friend to each family. In the words of Pope Francis: «A good priest not only knows the names of all his parishioners, but also the names of their dogs». In my service I always try to be open, so each of you can become a friend of the priest. Unfortunately the believers in our communities are scattered across the country, and often have to overcome a lot of kilometers to come to worship in a particular community, but these efforts are not in vain, the Lord is always rewarding.

I, for myself, was convinced that God works even if the priest is imperfect. Because it is not human, but God's action. Sometimes after the sermon it seems to me that it has not been very good, but then one comes and says thank you, because the words was like for them and they touched their hearts deeply. I understand that this is not my merit, but that they were open to God's action.

Ukrainian priest in Denmark Vasyl Tykhovych

During the celebration of the Baptism of two babies in the Ukrainian community in Copenhagen, September 2016.
Photo: Vasyl Tyhovychs private archive.

I remember a case when we in one of the communities celebrated Easter on a Saturday evening. After the inauguration of Easter baskets, I was asked if they already could eat? And my spontaneous reaction was: «Those who confessed and received the sacrament, experienced a spiritual encounter with the Risen Christ, they can already eat, and those who did not, can eat whenever they want». These words heard by a young guy who came to the church through a friend. His appearance was very different from the others: long hair, long leather coat with different brands on. At the end of it all, he came to me and asked for help. I replied that he could come the next Sunday to the temple, but must admit that I had not expected to see him again in the temple.

And this guy came back and not only came, but came with the intention to change his life. This time with trimmed hair and in normal clothes and did not differ from other parishioners. During the conversation, he said that he was struck by these words about eating food, and he wanted to change his life. And have done so: has often confessed, then married and is a good parishioner now. As you can see, the Lord God himself led one person to the church, and the priest was a tool. Such cases have been many of these 10 years. So I thank God who allows me to witness His presence.

The priest and the Lord God

I am the only Ukrainian priest in Denmark, therefore, I meet different people: the practicing Christians and those who come to the temple for the first time; from different regions of Ukraine; those who belong to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, and those who do not; those who are not baptized or are atheists. But for me there is no difference who the person is. When a person comes to the conversation with a priest, I do not ask what church you belong to. For me it is important that it is someone who needs a priest.

Meetings with the priest is not only in the church but in the streets, in the park, at a café, and every time I go to a meeting, I pray that God acts through me. Sometimes the conversation takes hours. I remember a case in which two men were in love with the same woman. They needed to talk, but the emotions did not allow them to do this. They've got the idea to talk together in the temple in the presence of a priest. I think that this idea was brilliant. So we were four in the temple: two adult men, the priest and the Lord. These people could thereby avoid fights and talked quietly.

The path of mistakes and victories

I feel that in this country a priest is really needed, although the usual Sunday services are not as many as could be wished. However, the people who need the presence of a Ukrainian Priest, are many. For example, I baptized through 10 years of priesthood more than 130 children. It is a gift from God for our society and our church.

christening of Ukrainian child in Denmark

Christening in Vejle. Photo: Archive of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Denmark.

Of course, experience from the church helps me to fulfill my mission, but despite that I am a priest, I can be wrong. In the first 10 years of priesthood, I have made many blunders and mistakes. And from them I have learned. After 10 years of priesthood I ask you all for forgiveness for that and urge you to pray for me. Forgive me if I somehow have offended someone, gave advice that was not helpful or made anyone's life more difficult.

Especially, forgive my jokes. I will always remember a bad joke when I wrote in the social network, that I in my service should be transferred from Copenhagen to Kyiv. Many people who are close to me, believed in it and it was very painful to accept. If I had foreseen the consequences it had, I would never have done it. But there also came something good out of it. Some said that this news caused them to think about why they did not go to the temple when it was possible. And also that day Bishop Peter phoned me and asked if anyone had informed me wrong. I said: «I was not deceived, but I joked. – What did you write? – That you will take me from Denmark and provide the Ukrainian society a better priest. – Whether it will be better, I do not know, but I can give them another!» Either way, every priest knows that he is one of Jesus soldiers and is sent to where he is most needed.

Today I celebrate 10 years of priesthood, I ask all of you to support with prayer, so that I can be a good worker in Christ's vineyard. May God send my generous blessings on you and your family!

Information from biography

Father Vasyl Tyhovych was born 17 January, 1981 in the village Novosilka, Zalischytskyj district in Ternopil region.

On 24 January 1981 he was baptized.

In 1987-1996 he went to primary school.

In 1996-1998 he continued his studies at a high school.

In 1998-2004 he studied in Ivano-Frankivsk Theological Academy.

In 2003-2004 he was prefect of Ivano-Frankivsk Theological Academy.

In 2004-2005 he studied at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.

On 17 July 2005 he married Svitlana Perchyk in Ukraine.

In August 2005, he moved with his wife to Denmark and helped as a seminarian in the creation of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic community in Copenhagen.

On 10 December 2006 Vasyl Tyhovych got the diaconal ordination.

24 December, 2006 Vasyl Tyhovych was ordained as a priest.

31 December, 2006 Vasyl Tyhovych performed his first Divine Liturgy in Ukraine.

8 April, 2007 he performed the first Divine Liturgy in the church community in Copenhagen and then started to hold church services in Denmark.

1. January, 2008 Father Vasyl became appointed as administrator of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Denmark.

6 July, 2008 the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic community in Vejle was created.

20 August, 2012 Father Vasyl Tyhovych received biritualizm (the right to serve in the Latin rite) of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (the Vatican) at the request of the Danish Catholic Bishop Czeslaw Kozon. Since then, Father Vasyl has helped the Roman Catholic community in Copenhagen in St. Ansgar's Cathedral.

25 March, 2014 he got permanent residence permit in Denmark.

On 1 November, 2014 Father Vasyl became appointed as a judge in the church tribunal in Copenhagen diocese.

11 April, 2015 the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic community in Aalborg was created.

On 1 December 2016 Father Vasyl Tyhovych became incardinated as a priest of the Apostolic Exarchate in Germany and Scandinavia.

Translation by Joergen Deleuran

Read 1829 times Last modified on Wednesday, 04 April 2018

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