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July 31, 2018, the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, was marked by an important change in the organizational structure of the Jesuits in Eastern Europe.

On February 2, 2018, Father Arturo Sosa SJ, Superior General of the Society, issued a decree, under which the Jesuit District of Ukraine is separated from the Independent Russian Region and becomes as the Ukrainian Mission an integral part of the Province of South Poland, with its seat in Krakow.

How did this decision come about? The Soviet Union broke up in December 1991 and six months later the General of the Society of Jesus established the Independent Russian Region in the former Soviet republics as a separate religious structure, with the exception of the three Baltic republics, which were already Lithuanian-Latvian provinces. The Russian region began to be formed by Jesuits who had left the underground, as well as by other of their confreres from all over the world who had begun to apply to work in the vast areas of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Currently, there are forty of us here from the twelve nationalities. There are, among others, Russians, Ukrainians, Americans, Poles, Chileans, Slovenians. An interesting mosaic of cultures and mentality. Everything has one vocation in common.

At the beginning of the 1990s there was no Jesuit in Ukraine, but from its territory candidates for the Order began to apply, both of the Greek-Catholic and Latin rites. Initially, the renewal of the Order in Ukraine was entrusted to the Provincial of Cracow, but later, after 2000, the then General Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach SJ established the so-called Ukrainian District and joined it in the Independent Russian Region. This structure and situation has survived to this day. There are currently 12 Jesuits working in Ukraine, including a number of Jesuits in formation in Rome and the United States. We are present in Lviv, Kiev, Khmelnytsky and Chernivtsi.

In recent years, it has turned out that the integration of religious structures in Ukraine and South of Poland will be more fruitful. This will correspond to the situation that already exists. Almost all young Jesuits in Ukraine have completed part of their priesthood formation in Poland and speak Polish. They are supported in their apostolic work in their homeland by Polish Jesuits who speak Ukrainian. The entire Jesuit team in Ukraine is an example of living and working together in harmony, and the separation of two nationalities, two languages and two rituals does not divide but enriches their activities and community life. We can look at it as a small laboratory for developing mutual ties and cooperation between Ukraine and Poland, rising across borders, across prejudices, across divisions. Nobody needs to be convinced how important and up to date this challenge and task is.

Picture: ordination of  Mykhailo Stanchyshyn SJ in Lviv.

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