VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Ukrainian Catholic priest persecuted by Communists is being moved closer to sainthood.
On October 9, Pope Francis declared Capuchin Franciscan priest, Serafin Kaszuba, "venerable," the second step towards canonization. When a person is declared venerable, the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, after a thorough investigation, decrees that a person has either died of martyrdom or has led a life of heroic virtue.
Before entering into the Franciscans, Kaszuba, named Alojzy Kazimierz, was born in Ukraine in 1910. He joined the Franciscans in Poland in 1932 and took on the religious name Serafin Kaszuba.
After being ordained a priest in 1933, he worked in Nazi and Soviet-occupied areas, ministering to Catholics who were being persecuted. Throughout, he never left his people, and people who knew him maintain, "He went to those places where he thought he was needed and where no-one else would have dared to travel. He ministered to those in greatest need and with no hope of satisfying their spiritual needs."
He was arrested by the Soviets in 1966 and imprisoned. After escaping, he worked for souls in Kazakhstan until he died in 1977.
The stories of priests suffering persecution at the hands of atheist Communist authorities are growing more numerous.
On October 15, friends are commemorating the life of Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek. He was a Jesuit who was kept prisoner by the Soviets for nearly 23 years. His books, With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me, recount his years of unwavering service to Catholics in Russia who had to live their faith in secret.
Often, he would work all day as a laborer, factory worker or mechanic and spend his nights traveling to different villages to bring the Mass and the sacraments to a people who were starving for them.
Ciszek was eventually released and lived the rest of his days in the United States, thankful for everything he endured. He remarked to a friend, "I should have died 20 different times in the Soviet Union, but God had something for me to do."
Father Jerzy Popiełuszko was a Polish priest murdered by Communist authorities in Poland in 1984. He was beaten to death by three Soviet officers. His body was badly mangled and showed evidence of torture. An autopsy revealed he was beaten so badly some of his internal organs were crushed and ruptured.
Popiełuszko was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.