YAVORIV, Ukraine – The founding members of the Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great, Jesus, Lover of Humanity Province, came to Philadelphia in the early 20th century from a Basilian Monastery in Yavoriv, Ukraine. The Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great celebrated that monastery’s 400th anniversary October 14-17.
The historical context of the Sisters’ presence and legacy in Europe is essential to understanding the significance of this milestone. The origins of the Order of St. Basil the Great extend back to the 4th century family of Basil the Elder and his wife Emmelia and their nine children.
It would be difficult to overstate the impact this family has had on Christendom. The two eldest, Macrina and Basil, founded a monastic movement that spread far beyond their home of Asia Minor. It reached the area now known as Ukraine shortly after Volodymyr the Great introduced Christianity in 988. In fact, the first Basilian Monastery in Kievan Rus’ was established in the 11th century.
Basilan monasteries proliferated throughout the Byzantine East over many, many years, much like their Benedictine counterparts in the Latin West. Degrees of autonomy and relevance varied greatly between these institutions during the medieval and early modern periods. A small group of monks living in a remote settlement might be unknown beyond nearby villages; while an important, well-established monastery could be a major player in the affairs of a large city. Vocations from high-ranking families, fertile land and money certainly led to temporal influence. Yet such worldly things have no bearing on spiritual realities. In this sense the Basilian house in Yavoriv was much closer to a mustard seed than an acorn.
Today the small town of Yavoriv (population fewer than 15,000) is the administrative center of the Yavoriv region, located within the larger Lviv Oblast. It is situated quite close to the Polish border and has passed between multiple governments over the centuries. At the time of the monastery’s founding in 1621, Yavoriv belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The town falls within the historic region of Halychyna, also known as Galicia, part of Ukraine’s Greek-Catholic heartland. Why is the Basilian institution there so treasured?
The Yavoriv Monastery is exceptional for birthing new monasteries all over the world: Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, the United States, and the list goes on. What’s more, the groups of Sisters in each of these countries created new ministries of their own and reached new souls. Thus, the legacy of Yavoriv is one of exponential growth and compounding efforts in service of the kingdom. The Sisters of St. Basil the Great have raised orphans, taught at every educational level, served in chanceries, ministered to the sick and generally cared for anyone in need whom they encountered all over the world, all thanks to this one humble place. The Yavoriv Monastery evolved over generations into the spiritual home for tens of thousands!
All of this was on display during the festivities of October 14-17, which marked 400 years since the Basilian Monastery in Yavoriv was founded. Sister Joann Sosler, provincial superior, and Sister Dorothy Ann Busowski, assistant provincial of Jesus, Lover of Humanity Province, traveled to Ukraine for the occasion.
Sister Dorothy Ann also gave a moving speech about the Jesus, Lover of Humanity Province. Many Sisters, clergy and laity were in attendance for the various events, which included Divine Liturgy, music and dance, and academic programs. The celebration also served as one of the few opportunities since the pandemic for members of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great to convene in person.
The Yavoriv Monastery did not yield fruit across continents due to wealth or importance in any worldly sense. Rather, it was the faith, hope and love of the Sisters there who dedicated their lives to Christ, and He in turn blessed their wonderful work across many years and miles.