VATICAN CITY — On Monday, Pope Francis advanced nine causes for sainthood, including a Capuchin priest who ministered underground across the Soviet Union for nearly 40 years.
Father Serafin Kaszuba was born June 17, 1910, in Zamarstynów, near Lviv, in what was then part of Austria-Hungary. Pope Francis recognized his heroic virtues Oct. 9, meaning the priest can now be referred to as “Venerable.”
Born Alojzy Kazimierz, Father Serafin entered the Capuchin novitiate in Poland at the age of 18. He made perpetual vows in 1932 and was ordained a priest the following year. He studied at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.
In 1940, he began ministering in Lviv and Volhynia, which was occupied by the Soviet Union. The region was later occupied by Nazi Germany, until Soviet forces returned in 1944.
During the ethnic cleansing of Poles in Volhynia by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army during World War II, he refused to leave his parishioners, moving from one village to another as the settlements were razed. He escaped attacks on his rectory.
Under the Soviet government, he was able to legally register in 1945 as a priest in Rivne, in what is now Ukraine. He centered his ministry in Volhynia, while also traveling to the Latvian and Lithuanian territories of the Soviet Union.
In 1958, Soviet authorities stripped him of the right to publicly perform priestly functions, and he began ministering secretly in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Estonia. In 1963, he went to Kazakhstan, where the Soviets had deported tens of thousands of Poles. He continued to minister in secret, while publicly working at a bookbinders.
He was arrested in 1966 and sentenced to prison, but he escaped the following year and continued working as a priest in Kazakhstan.
Suffering from tuberculosis and progressing deafness, Father Serafin was able to return to Poland, then a Soviet satellite state, for hospital treatment in 1968. He had lung surgery in Wroclaw and returned to Kazakhstan in June 1970.
The priest then ministered primarily in Kazakhstan and Ukraine until his Sept. 20, 1977, death, while reciting the breviary, in Lviv.
Although his cause for sainthood is in still at an early phase, Father Serafin is honored by the families of those he served in Ukraine and in Kazakhstan, many of whom have preserved the private altars where the priest would celebrated Mass in their homes.
Pope Francis gave the green light for Father Serafin’s cause to move forward during an Oct. 9 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Other causes the Pope advanced include the martyrdom cause for Franciscan priest Father Tullio Maruzzo and Third Order Franciscan layman Luis Obdulio Navarro, who were killed in hatred of the faith July 1, 1981, near Los Amates, Guatemala.
Formerly Servants of God, the approval of Maruzzo and Navarro’s martyrdom has opened the door for their beatification, which would allow them to be called “Blessed.”
In addition, Pope Francis recognized the heroic virtue of six other causes: those of layman Francesco Paolo Gravina, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent (Italy); diocesan priest Father Donizetti Tavares de Lima (Brazil); Sister Magín Morera y Feixas of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Spain); María Lorenza Requenses de Longo, founder of the Hospital of the Incurables in Naples and of the Capuchin Nuns (Italy); Françoise du Saint Esprit, founder of the Third Order of St. Francis in Montpellier (France); and Elżbieta Róża Czacka, founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross (Poland).