Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska,
Co-Foundress of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate
Co-Foundress of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate
Michaelina Hordashevska was born on November 20, 1869, in Lviv, Ukraine. In 1888, at 19 years of age, she took part in a spiritual retreat, directed by Fr. Jeremiah Lomnytskyj, OSBM, and, feeling called to offer her life to God, sought his direction privately. With his permission, she made a private vow of chastity for one year, in May of 1889, which she renewed in May of 1890, and then for three years in 1891. By that time, Fr. Jeremiah had also asked if she would consider being the first member of a new congregation of active religious women, which he had arranged to found with Fr. Kyrylo Seletskyj, pastor of the village of Zhuzhel.
On June 17, 1892, Fr. Jeremiah sent her to the Polish Felician Sisters in Zhovkva to experience life in an active religious community. The Felicians would have liked for her to enter their community, but Michaelina knew that belonging to a Polish community would distance her from her Ukrainian people, wounded by political oppression. On August 22 of that year, she returned to Lviv and designed and sewed her own habit, which distinguished this new community as unique.
On August 24, she was officially vested in this new habit, and received the religious name, Josaphata, after the great Ukrainian martyr for unity, St. Josaphat Kuntsevych. She then left for Zhuzhel, where she met seven girls who were to join her in this fledgling community, she as a novice, and they as postulants. On August 27, 1892, the newly-founded congregation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate was inaugurated in the church in Zhuzhel, and Sister Josaphata was appointed Superior and formation directress.
Over her whole religious life, she initiated the educational and health care ministries and oversaw the opening of many new missions, but not without trials. After the initial few years, it became apparent that the two founding priests had different visions for this congregation. Sr. Josaphata was often caught in the middle, defending her Sisters from works that were not in the spirit of their initial mandate.
By 1902, the Congregation numbered 128 Sisters in 26 homes across western Ukraine. They had their first General Chapter on August 26 of that year, at which Sr. Josaphata was elected Superior General, with Fr. Lomnytskyj ceding his position as Commissary/ Procurator of the Congregation. Internal divisions within the congregation led her to resign her position, in a letter to Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytskyj. Under the new Superior General he had appointed, she and her sister, Sr. Arsenia Hordashevska, were denied permission to pronounce perpetual vows for two consecutive years, and Sr. Josaphata was sent to the most difficult missions.
Without perpetual vows, she was not permitted to participate in the second General Chapter, according to the Constitution of that time. That Chapter saw her elected General Vicaress in absentia, and the delegates petitioned the Metropolitan for permission for her to pronounce her vows. Permission was granted, and the following day, May 11, 1909, she pronounced her perpetual vows and became the new General Vicaress, as elected by the Chapter.
Three years later, she began to suffer from tuberculosis of the bone. On March 16, 1919, she predicted that she would die on April 7, the Feast of the Annunciation, on the Julian calendar. She died on that day, as she predicted.
In November 1982 the mortal remains of Sister Josaphata were transferred from the cemetery in Krystynopil, Ukraine, to the Generalate in Rome. Her mortal remains were placed in an urn, which rests now in a small altar in the chapel in the Generalate. Hundreds of visitors to the Generalate have sought her intercession for their temporal and spiritual needs. The Generalate has received numerous testimonials of special graces received through her intercession.
The Process of Canonization of the Servant of God Josaphata Hordashevska was initiated in the Eparchy of Przemysl in Poland in March, 1992. Present were Sister Frances Byblow, then Superior General of the Sisters Servants, and Sister Dominica Slawuta, who became the postulator, and later, wrote a biography of Sister Josaphata, “Prayer and Service”, which was published in Canada in 1996. It is available in English, Ukrainian, Spanish, and now also in Slovak.
On April 6, 1998, Pope John Paul II read the decree proclaiming the heroic virtues of the Servant of God Josaphata Hordashevska, co-foundress of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, and granted her the title of Venerable. On April 24, 2001, in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican at 11:00 am, the decree recognizing a miracle through the intercession of Venerable Sister Josaphata Horashevska was promulgated.
Sister Josaphata was beatified, proclaimed Blessed, by Pope John Paul II on June 27, 2001, during his pastoral visit to Lviv, Ukraine, the place of her birth.
Over a million witnessed this long-awaited event! Her first class relics — a portion of her bone — may be venerated in the chapel at the Provincial Home of the Sisters Servants in Toronto. (Though the Generalate also receives many requests for relics, requests for first class relics should include a recommendation from the bishop.)
Blessed Josaphata Feast Day
Blessed Josaphata’s Feast Day has been officially assigned as November 20, the day of her birth, rather than April 7, the day of her passing, since the latter was already a major Feast of the Mother of God, Annunciation, on the Julian Calendar. As well, Sisters Servants across the world celebrate smaller “Josaphata Days” on the 7th of every month, a practice begun in anticipation of her beatification.
PRAYER Through the intercession of Blessed Josaphata
Lord God, we praise and thank you
for having called your servant, Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska,
to uplift the hearts of the people in Ukraine,
through evangelization, education and care of those in need.
As Co-Foundress, she was the first to live the charism
of a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate.
Her virtuous life and evangelical witness
encouraged her Sisters to go beyond the borders,
bringing the Gospel message to all people.
May our prayers for her canonization be for your greater glory
and the spiritual good of souls. Grant us the graces for which we humbly pray,
through her intercession. Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be…
Acknowledgment of prayers answered through the intercession of Blessed Josaphata are to be sent to:
Postulazione delle Ancella di Maria Immacolata,
Via Cassia Antica, 104
00191 ROMA, Italia
With Ecclesiastical Approval Winnipeg, November 2014