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The Byzantine Sisters of the Theotokos of Fátima

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Above: Згромадження сестер Пресвятої Богородиці Фатімської УГКЦ (Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Theotokos of Fatima UGCC). Source.

Servant of God Rev. Roman Bakhtalovsky, C.Ss.R. and the Order

May 13, 2024 marks 107 years since the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Most Holy Theotokos, first visited the Cova da Iria, near Fátima, to Saints Jacinta and Francisco Marto and Venerable Sister Maria Lúcia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart, O.C.D.

In honour of this auspicious celebration, I would like to offer a short sojourn into the legacy of one heroic Byzantine Catholic priest-monk and the Congregation of Sisters he founded to fulfill the call of Our Lady of Fátima on the traditional lands of Kievan-Rus’.

Before we consider the man and his mission, a brief overview of the Order that helped form him, and his devotion for the Theotokos would be helpful.

The history of the Redemptorist Fathers of the Oriental Rite (a.k.a. Yorkton Redemptorist Province of the Byzantine Rite or the Ukrainian Redemptorists, now the Yorkton Region, Province of Canada) is truly a neglected history of Catholicism in North America. This heroic Founded in Yorkton, Canada at the initiative of Rev. Achille Delaere, C.Ss.R. to serve the Galician/Ruthenian (modern Ukrainian) immigrant Catholics of Western Canada in their native rite.[1]

From its origins in Western Canada, the Congregation was soon transplanted to the Ukrainian homeland and sought vocations from the native Ukrainians, in addition to the Western European core who maintained the mission among the Canadian Galician diaspora.

This Byzantine Redemptorists have produced some of the most heroic missionaries and martyrs of the last century including Blesseds Mykola Charnetskyy, Vasil Velychkovskyy, Ivan Ziatyk, Zynoviy Kovalyk and Dominick Metodij Trčka.[2]

One sadly forgotten member of these ranks is the hegumen of the Stanislaviv (Ivano-Frankivsk) monastery: Rev. Roman Bakhtalovsky, C.Ss.R., of blessed memory. The son of a priest, Rev. Roman would enter the seminary in 1917, the same year the Virgin Theotokos appeared to the three shepherd children in far off Fátima, Portugal. In 1919, Rev. Roman would enter the newly established Redemptorist order, imported from Canada. The younger brother of the Redemptorist biographer and Canadian hegumen, Rev. Stepan Bakhtalovsky, C.Ss.R., Rev. Roman would go on himself to be a leader of the order in their native Ukraine.[3]

The least known element of his memory is that on September 13, 1945, with the blessing of Blessed Hryhoriy Khomyshyn, bishop of Stanyslaviv, Rev. Roman established the Congregation of Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, now known as the Sisters of the Most Holy Theotokos of Fátima.[4]

Servant of God Rev. Roman Bakhtalovsky, C.Ss.R.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to your word.” New Coat of Arms (circa 2015) of the Congregation of Sisters of the Most Holy Theotokos of Fátima.

Rev. Roman gave this new community of sisters the charism of fulfilling the wishes of the Theotokos at Fátima, namely, to pray and offer sacrifices for the conversion of Russia.[5]

Additionally, being a community founded upon the rule of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, these sisters also took up the mantle of the Redemptorist charism of missionary activity to the neediest. In the case of these good sisters in particular, the education and catechesis of young girls.

On March 25, 2024, the Sisters at the convent in Kohavino, Ukraine, celebrated 30 years since the foundation of their house. The sisters are pictured with Most Rev. Taras Senkiv, Eparch of Stryj and Redemptorist Fathers of the L’viv Province. Photo source: Facebook.

Rev. Roman’s spreading of the Fátima message is part of the rich tapestry of Byzantine and Eastern devotion to this important and urgent apparition of the Theotokos.  He is well-known for his deep devotion to the Theotokos, especially through his writings, for which he was later arrested by Soviet authorities.[6]  Rev. Roman’s cause for canonization is currently being considered by the Dicastery for the Causes of the Saints under the postulation of the Redemptorists.[7]

Today, the Church in Ukraine is in urgent need of our prayers as they continue to face their old aggressor.  The toll of this almost 3-year long invasion is taking its toll on the Church leaders and faithful alike.  On Julian Calendar Easter, May 5, 2024, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) and Patriarch of Kyiv, celebrated his 54thbirthday.  It is tragic to see how much he has aged in these three short years, but inspiring to see how much energy and dedication he continues to bring to his role.  Despite the political danger, His Beatitude’s spoke out about the Moscow Patriarchate’s seizure of the UGCC St. Michael’s Church in the village of Oleksandrivka in the occupied Kherson region of Ukraine.[8]  Let us continue to pray also for the confined confreres and spiritual sons of Rev. Roman, the Revs. Ivan Levytsky, C.Ss.R., and Bohdan Geleta, C.Ss.R.

Servant of God, Hieromonk Roman, ora pro nobis!

Most Holy Theotokos of Fátima, save us!

Authors note: this article was revised and updated from an article I self-published on a now defunct Substack back in 2022. 

[1] See the most complete English biography of Delaere by Rev. Josef de Vocht, C.Ss.R.: Eternal Memory! Father Achiel Delaere (1868-1939): The First Eastern Rite Redemptorist and Canada’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, translated by Christian Roy (Yorkton, SK: Gravelbooks, 2005).

[2] “Redemptorist Saints,” Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church,

[3] “Слуга Божий о. Роман Бахталовський,” Редемптoристи Львівської Провінції.

[4] “Згромадження сестер Пресвятої Богородиці Фатімської,” Редемптoристи Львівської Провінції.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Oliynyk, Andriy, “Liturgical and Pastoral Activity as a Crime in Soviet Ukraine: The Case of Greek Catholic Priest, Roman Bakhtalovskyy, CSsR (1897–1985),” Religions 12 (3), 174, February 92021, pp. 12-13.

[7] Labinska, Kateryna, “Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Working on New Beatification Processes,” Religious Information Service of Ukraine, August 7, 2013.

[8] “His Beatitude Sviatoslav on the seizure of a UGCC church in the occupied Kherson region: Sacrilege,” Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, May 3, 2024.

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