Between Nazism and Communism: The Zeal of Fr. Seraphin

Source: FSSPX News

Pope Francis has just recognized the heroic virtues of Fr. Seraphin Kaszuba, a Capuchin priest who served his Polish brethren caught in the crossfire between the two great totalitarianisms of the 20th century.

Ludvík Kazimir Kaszuba was born on June 17, 1910, in Zamarstynów, near Lvov, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After entering the Capuchin novitiate in Poland at the age of 18, he became Fr. Seraphin at his priestly ordination in 1933. In 1940, he fled the troops of the Reich when they invaded Poland and returned to live in Lvov, which had been occupied by the Soviet troops, allies to the Germans, since September 1939.

Two years later, the first Ukrainian insurrectionary army formed in neighboring Volhynia, in the hopes of founding an independent Ukraine. In the meantime, the Germans had taken control of the country after Operation Barbossa. Much violence and many massacres were perpetrated among the different populations.

During these difficult times, Seraphin Kaszuba refused to leave his parishioners, going from one village to the next as they were destroyed or razed to the ground. He even survived several attacks on his presbytery.

Under the Soviet government, the persecution grew more intense, and the populations were deported to Siberia. Fr. Seraphin was nonetheless able, at first, to register legally as a priest in Rivne, in what is now Ukraine. While exercising his ministry mostly in Volhynia, he also went to Latvia and Lithuania, territories under the yoke of Communism.

In 1958, the Soviet authorities withdrew his right to exercise his priestly functions publicly. Then began his long and difficult clandestine ministry in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, and Estonia.

His desire to be closer to his suffering brothers led Fr. Serpahin in 1963 to Kazakhstan, where the Soviets had deported tens of thousands of Poles. He secretly exercised his ministry while officially working for a bookbinder.

Arrested in 1966, and condemned to prison, the Capuchin escaped the following year and continued his apostolate in Kazakhstan. His death was an illustration of his life of union with God: in 1977, in his native land city of Lvov, he breathed his last while reciting his breviary.

Many families in Ukraine have kept altars on which the priest secretly celebrated Mass in the homes where he had taken refuge.