From the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh website we learn that:
Bishop Gojdich did not seek episcopal dignity. Rather he chose a hidden life in the Basilian order as a monk. But Divine Providence placed him at the helm of the Prešov Eparchy. As a Good Shepherd he served his people with dedication and love. Fragile in body but strong in spirit, he distinguished himself by the holiness of his life. In his dedicated work he was sustained by his great love of God and his people. The atheists condemned him for his loyalty to the Catholic Church. He died in prison as a valiant confessor of the Catholic Faith.
1. Peter Gojdich OSBM was born to a priestly family on 17 July 1888, in Rus’sky Pakijany, Šariš County in Eastern Slovakia. After his graduation from the gymnasium in Prešov, he continued his philosophical and theological studies at the Central Seminary in Budapest, Hungary, and was ordained as a celibate priest on 27 August 1911, at Presov Cathedral by Bishop Jan Valih. He celebrated his first Liturgy at Cigelke. In the fall of 1912, after a short period of pastoral work, he was appointed prefect of the Alumeum, the Prešov Eparchy boarding school for boys. At the same time he became an instructor of religion in the city’s secondary schools. The young students found in him an inspiring leader and spiritual guide.
Several years later Father Gojdich was appointed to the Bishop’s Chancery, where eventually he was elevated to the rank of Chancellor. The promise of a swift career did not attract him. He yearned for a more peaceful and prayerful life, so he decided to become a Basilian monk. In 1922, Father Gojdich entered Saint Nicholas Monastery on Chernecha Hora, just outside of Mukachevo, in Ukraine.
2. As a Basilian, Father Gojdich became an exemplary monk, zealous missionary, and dedicated guide of youth. Appointed Director of the Apostleship of prayer, he became instrumental in spreading the practice of frequent confession and Holy Communion throughout the Eparchy of Mukachevo. Taking into consideration his wide activity in those days, one wonders where he found the time and the strength to accomplish so many things. The answer was simple – the Eucharistic Christ. He usually spent long hours, mostly at night, in the chapel before the tabernacle. There he refreshed his spirit, regained his strength, and found new inspiration.
After having charged his heart with love of God in prayer, he then channeled this love toward apostolic work. As in the case of Saint Paul, the love of Christ was indeed compelling him. “The love of Christ impels us who have reached the conviction that since one died for all, all died.” (2 Cor 5:14). Behind the monastic walls he found the fulfillment of his heart’s desires. But this happiness did not last long, for in the fall of 1926 he was summoned back to Prešov and named as the Apostolic Administrator.
Father Gojdich tried to decline this unexpected appointment, since he had not yet made his solemn profession as a Basilian monk. But it was to no avail. He was instructed to make his monastic profession as soon as possible, and then come to Rome for his episcopal ordination. He was ordained bishop at Saint Clement’s Basilica in Rome on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March 1927.
After his consecration Pope Pius XI presented Bishop Gojdich with a gold pectoral cross, saying: “This cross is only a symbol of all those heavy crosses that you will have to carry during your episcopal ministry. But take courage, my son, the good Lord will help you carry them with dignity and love.”
Bishop Gojdich proved himself to be indeed a Good Shepherd, wholeheartedly dedicated to his new tasks. His tireless efforts to promote the spiritual life of his faithful and to strengthen their Catholic faith can hardly be described. Much can be said about his works of charity. God only knows how many people were helped or assisted by him. His charity and kindness were prodigious. He still showed his fatherly concern for youth, orphans, religious press, parochial schools, eparchial institutions, religious communities, etc.
3. The atheists came into power in Czechoslovakia in the spring of 1948. They immediately launched a vicious attack against the Byzantine Catholic Church, and maliciously denounced Bishop Gojdich as a traitor and an enemy of the people. It was evident that the atheist authorities decided to liquidate the Eparchy of Prešov just as they liquidated the Eparchy of Mukachevo.
Bishop Gojdich, always the good shepherd, tried to prepare his faithful for the inevitable: “My dear people, we must be ready to face the most difficult times in the history of our Church. But remember the early Christians, they were ready to sacrifice everything for their faith, even their lives. They trusted our Divine Savior who said: “Blessed are you when they persecute you and insult you on account of my name. Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven!” (Matthew 5: 11-12). There, take courage and hold fast to your faith.”
On 28 April 1950 the Communist atheists forcibly liquidated the Byzantine Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia and imprisoned Bishop Gojdich for “opposing the people’s will.” Several months later he was tried for ‘treason and espionage,’ and condemned to life imprisonment. The people, however, were convinced that their Bishop was innocent of alleged crimes. They knew that he was imprisoned and condemned only for unwavering loyalty to the Catholic Church. It was obvious that the Communists fabricated their accusations against him after his imprisonment, to justify their forced liquidation of the Prešov Eparchy. Bishop Gojdich’s trial in Bratislava was indeed a ‘parody of justice,’ and the faithful rightly considered him as a Confessor of the Faith.
4. Bishop Basil Hopko, a fellow prisoner with Bishop Gojdich, remembers in his Memoirs: “After his trial, Bishop Gojdich was transferred from one prison to another, and was forced to work as an ordinary prisoner. There was no work too humble for him. He often volunteered to work a task other prisoners refused to perform. In this way he reflected the true meaning of Christian humility. He rejoiced that he was able to please the Lord in such an easy manner.
“During his prison years Bishop Gojdich did not have any problems with the local authorities. He accepted their cruelty and imposed hardships, including solitary confinement, with complete resignation to the holy will of God. His countenance constantly radiated his inner peace and happiness. He looked as innocent as a child. His presence soothed and strengthened us all.”
Bishop Gojdich was constantly moved from one prison to another because the authorities did not want anyone to know where he was detained. However, the faithful always seemed to find out his whereabouts and they came in droves to pray for their beloved Bishop. Since they were not allowed inside the prison, they usually gathered in front of the barred window of the Bishop’s cell where they prayed and sang religious hymns. These were the people whom Bishop Gojdich, according to the communist allegations, ‘hated and betrayed.’
During Bishop Gojdich ‘s rehabilitation in 1958, it was proven beyond doubt that all the accusations against him at the trial were nothing more than lies fabricated by his prosecutors in order to keep him in prison and isolated from his faithful.
Ferdo Ondrushka, who nursed Bishop Gojdich in the prison hospital before his death, writes: “Bishop Gojdich cherished an immense love for his clergy and people. He often spoke of Byzantine Catholic customs and ceremonies, and with great enthusiasm explained why his people must remain united with the Catholic Church. He told us that, during his long interrogations, they used to torture him, and tried, with all kinds of promises, to persuade him to become Orthodox. They even promised to make him a patriarch.” Ferdo concludes: “There is no doubt in my mind that Bishop Gojdich died as a martyr for his Catholic Faith.”
5. In prison Bishop Gojdich never complained about his own pains, so everyone believed that he was in good health. Suddenly he became seriously ill. He was rushed to the prison hospital, but the doctors were unable to find anything wrong with him, even though his pain persisted. He was in and out of the hospital several times. Finally, the doctors became suspicious. They sent him to a famous clinic in Brno, Moravia where he was diagnosed as having terminal cancer. He was brought back to Leopoldov prison where he died.
A few weeks before his death a top official from the Interior Ministry visited Bishop Gojdich and offered him amnesty. It somewhat disturbed the Bishop, but later he declared: “I do not think it worthwhile to exchange my martyr’s crown for two or three years of freedom. However, I leave the decision up to God. Let Him do as He pleases!” Of course, the Communist authorities never kept their word and Bishop Gojdich remained imprisoned until his death.
As his condition deteriorated, his suffering and pain increased. Finally, the course of his saintly life ended on his 72nd birthday, on 17 July 1960, in Leopoldov, Slovakia. For ten long years he carried the chains of Christ, giving a living testimony to his heroic faith and loyalty to the Catholic Church. He truly died as valiant confessor of the faith.
During his first Way of the Cross at the Colosseum on Good Friday, 1979, Pope John Paul II said: “Just as Christ has a special place in our hearts because of His Passion, so do the martyrs and confessors of our own times. It is our duty and obligation to talk about the sufferings of these modern confessors of Christ and to bear witness to them before the conscience of the entire world.”
On Sunday 4 November 2001 , Bishop Paul P. Gojdich OSBM was solemnly beatified in Rome.
Yes, the valiant Confessor, Bishop Paul P. Gojdich, OSMB has a special place in our hearts because of his great sufferings and love. It is our sacred duty and obligation to talk about his saintly life and to pray for his canonization. May it please the good Lord to grant us this favor, and grant it to us soon!
The icon of Bishop Gojdich depicts him dressed in the trademark Basilian black cassock with distinctive white collar, with the black cassock showing at the neck. He is wearing choir dress which is the mantiya, part of the angelic habit which is the dress of monks, however in this instance is given the istochniki or streams of doctrine which is the horizontal stripe around the mantiya. The mantiya is red, a sign of the saintly bishop’s martyrdom. Streams of doctrines flow across the mantiya indicating the teachings of the Bishop. He tenderly holds the Gospel book which he preached and exemplified during his life. He wears the Byzantine Panagia or medallion with an icon of the Virgin Mother, the top just visible above the Gospel book. Two crosses are on either side of the collar of the mantiya. His prominent forehead indicates the great wisdom which he possessed of the life of holiness. There are channel wells visible under his eyes which indicate the flowing of copious tears by Bishop Gojdich for the remission of sin. The intense gaze of the bishop’s eyes penetrate into the viewer allowing a glimpse into eternity and the mercy of God.