Today, 29 Jun 2012, is the anniversary of death of Blessed Yakym Senkivsky (a.k.a. Joachim Senkivskyi, Ivan Pedro Senkivsky, Jakym Senkivskyj), who died during Stalin’s persecution of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1941. This persecution was particularly brutal attempt to stamp out belief in God and to remove all Church run institutions and media from daily life. Blessed Yakym is one of the 25 martyrs beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul the Great in 2001, all of whom were members of the Greek Catholic Church in the Ukraine.
Information online about Blessed Yakym Senkivsky is sketchy, but it does give us a portrait of a priest and monk totally dedicated to God. Reading between the lines, Yakym/Joachim was probably the name taken at religious profession and Ivan Pedro was probably his baptismal name.
Blessed Yakym was born in 1896 in the western region of the Ukraine known as Ternopil Oblast. When WW1 began in 1914, Yakym would have been 18, and at that age unless his health was poor he must have been involved in it. Perhaps it witnessing the untold sufferings WW1 caused which inspired Yakym to dedicate his life to God as a priest. His ordination took place on 4 Dec 1921. Yakym must have been a clever chap, because he obtained a doctorate in theology from Innsbruck in Austria. Sending a young priest off to do post-graduate learning in a different country is something a diocese only does when they recognise special intellectual talent.
After only a few short years of diocesan priesthood, Yakym felt a calling from God to an even deeper commitment to Him through the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Responding to that call he entered the Order of St Basil the Great at Krehiv, a monastery that is a popular place to go on pilgrimage to in order to seek the intercession of Our Lady and St Nicholas. Once Yakym had undergone his formation in the religious life and had professed his vows, he was sent to minister in rural areas – perhaps his first true taste of pastoral work given his years in academic study.
In 1931 he was sent to the Order’s monastery in Lviv, in far western Ukraine, and was given increasing responsibilities within the monastery. By 1939 Yakym had been appointed abbot (or prior) of the monastery of St Peter and St Paul at Drohobych. The official term was ‘proto hegumenos’ which is actually a bit more than that, implying leadership over all monasteries in a certain territory. Maybe we would translate it better as Provinicial? Again reading between the lines, responsibilities like abbot, prior and provincial are only given to people of deep spiritual wisdom, practical sense and recognisable holiness of life according to the Rule. Occupying a position like this, Yakym would have been a spiritual leader not only to his fellow monks but also to the whole area.
If he wasn’t an effective spiritual leader from whom the people and monks were drawing strength during the difficult days of WW2 and the persecution, Yakym would not have been a worthwhile person for the Soviet’s to arrest on 26 Jun 1941. Arrest him they did. We can only assume that his days between his arrest and death were full of suffering. His end came, rather fittingly given his monastic responsibilities, on the feast of St Peter and St Paul, 29 Jun 1941. Within Drohobych prison a big cauldron was found, Yakym was placed in it and tortured with boiling water until he died. Thus the holiness of his life was given the martyr’s crown.
Blessed Yakym Senkivsky, pray for us.