The Mission Society works to provide support for the Byzantine Catholic Church in Slovakia and the Transcarpathia Oblast in western Ukraine. We are all volunteers who belong to the Byzantine Catholic Metropolia of Pittsburgh.
First of all, we PRAY to God for healing of the division of the Churches, for the spiritual growth of the American Byzantine Catholic Chruch; for the renewal of the Greek Catholic Church in Trans-Carpathia and Slovakia; for the canonization of Bishop-Martyr Theodore Romzha of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church; and for the building up of the Kingdom of God in justice and charity among all people.
We assist the (Ruthenian) Greek Catholic Church in the Trans-Carpathian Oblast of the Republic of Ukraine, which is the territory of the ancient Eparchy of Mukachevo; the Exarchate of Kosice in southeastern Slovakia; the Eparchy of Presov and Blessed Paul Gojdich Seminary in eastern Slovakia; priests in those dioceses and the Eparchy of Hajdudorogh, Hungary, with Liturgy intentions.
The Mission Society Office is in the Blanchette House at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our chaplain is Father Christopher L. Zugger, former pastor of the parish (1985-2008). Our office workers and board members are all volunteers who give of their time freely. You can Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . At this time we can only take donations by postal mail.
Boronyavo is a small town in the eastern part of Trans-Carpathia, not far from the junction of the Hungarian and Romanian borders with Ukraine. It is in a mountainous area known as the Hutsul Region or Hutsylchyna, a district of rugged mountaineers with a distinct culture and dialect. The small church was surrounded by fields in a valley of these mountains, and was defended against Communist destruction by devout Greek Catholic faithful of the area.
The church and monastery date back for centuries, and a small community of monks has lived here since the 1400s at least. After the Union of Uzhorod in 1646, whereby the local Orthodox Church entered into union with the Roman Catholic Church, the monks came under the Rule of Saint Basil. The Austrian Emperor Joseph II saw no need for small, contemplative communities in his empire, and the monks of Boronyavo were forcibly dispersed by imperial decree in 1771. However they kept their vows, and were able to reestablish their monastery.
The icon is based on a vision of Our Lady that one of the monks had. It was enshrined in the chapel. During the closure, the shrine was protected through the intervention of townspeople who loved the monks. Immediately God began to work miracles in the church, including the dramatic conversion of an atheist and many healings. Huge pilgrimages began to the shrine, particularly on the feast of the Annunciation (March 25), Saint Elias (July 20), and the Dormition/ Assumption of the Virgin (August 15), which is the largest of all the pilgrimages.
After the Soviet conquest of 1944-1945, and Czechoslovakia’s forced cession of the entire province to the USSR, the native Greek Catholic Church was bitterly persecuted by the Soviets. The monastery was closed, the monks arrested, and plans set to destroy the entire site. But the icon of Our Lady was taken away to the city of Khust and hidden in an apartment there, and the local peasants regularly defended the buildings against destruction, even when bulldozers were brought in. Many people were arrested, but the church was never given over to Orthodox use, and it survived Soviet rule. Barbed wire was wrapped around the site of the shrine, and people would tie rags as a sign of their prayers onto the wire in defiance of the guards.
In 1991, after three years work of restoration, the church was re-dedicated. Bishop Ivan Semedi of the Greek Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo stepped aside at the altar to allow the former superior, arrested in 1946 and sent to the Arctic prisons, to come forward and offer the first public Divine Liturgy. The icon was enthroned above the Royal Doors of the iconostas in 1992, back where it belonged at last.
Basilian monks from Galicia were brought in by Bishop Semedi, and they ultimately replaced the humble church with a Ukrainian Baroque church that now serves as the shrine. The icon travels around Transcarpathia to visit parishes so that people have the chance to honor the Mother of God and ask her Divine Son's blessings through her prayers.
Father Chris Zugger is an ordained priest of the Byzantine Catholic Church (1981). He hears confessions, assists at Divine Liturgies, services and classes in the parish, under the direction of the pastor. He provides spiritual direction for laity and clergy.
Father Chris’ health problems give him a good perspective on the redemptive value of suffering, and his research over the years provides information for talks on topics as diverse as Contemplative Prayer in the East; Carmelite Saints; Righteous Gentiles in the Holocaust; Scottish Catholics; Irish Catholics in Penal Times; Catholic resistance to the Nazis and Communists; the Church in China; Eastern Church Fathers; Syriac Spirituality; Liturgical Life of Eastern Churches.
Father helps where he can in the Eparchy of the Holy Protection of Mary of Phoenix and in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. He is very thankful to God for the opportunity to continue to serve Him in new ways, and for the fact that Bishop Gerald Dino created this arrangement whereby he can continue to live where he has spent most of his priesthood.
His new book is the result of eight years of interviews and research covering the history of the Ruthenian Greek Catholic church in the USSR and independent Ukraine. Here you will find not only background history of the Church before 1945, but the heroic witness of Blessed Theodore Romzha (killed in 1947), Bishop Petro Oros (executed 1953), Bishop Alexander Khira who died in Kazakhstan, and scores of priests, their wives, their children, and other people who fought to keep their beloved Church alive in a hostile society.
Read about the anti-religious attitudes of the Soviet Union, the imposition of harsh legislation, and the rupture of a 1,000 year old culture and Church. Also discover the determination of people to keep their faith in Jesus Christ and Catholicism alive by worshipping secretly at night, in forests, in barns, and how the Church survived with not one legal building and constant harrassment by the feared secret police. Discover the new ways Bishop Khira and underground priests came up with training new priests, establishing forbidden parishes, and nurturing the faith in an incredibly hostile atmosphere.
Included are short histories of what happened to the other Byzantine Catholic Churches in the Soviet bloc, five maps, over 70 photographs including some from the dreaded Gulag camps. Be inspired to renew your own faith in God and your own dedication to His Church and to realize that the impossible can be achieved, but only when relying on God's grace.
Visit Father Chris' Blog
This work traces the history of Soviet Catholicism from its rich life in 1914 through its tentative fate in the first sixty years of the USSR. It tells of the faithful men and women shackled by dictatorship, doomed to deportation, and abandoned by their own church in the west.