Charnetskyi was born to a large and pious peasant
family on the 14th of December 1884 in the Western
Ukrainian village of Semakivka. Mykolay was the
eldest of nine children. He received his primary
education in the village of Tovmach and then entered
St. Nicolas gymnasium (grammar school) in Stanislaviv
Charnetskyi discovered his vocation to the priesthood
at a young age and soon declared his intention
of becoming a priest. In 1903 bishop Hryhoriy
Khomyshyn sent him to Rome for studies. During
Charnetskyi's short visit to Ukraine, bishop Hryhoriy
Khomyshyn ordained him a priest on the 2nd of
October 1909. Fr. Mykolay then returned to Rome
to continue his studies and received the degree
of Doctor of theology.
From the autumn of 1910 Fr. Charnetskyi was professor
of Philosophy and Dogmatic theology at the Stanislaviv
seminary. He was also the Spiritual Director in
the same seminary. Deep in his heart, however,
Fr. Mykolay longed for the monastic life. Hence,
in October 1919 he joined the Redemptorist novitiate
in Zboiska near Lviv, and one year later, on the
16th of October 1920, he professed his vows as
Filled with eagerness to work for the reconciliation
of Christians and to convert the spiritually abandoned
people, in 1926 the Redemptorists of the Lviv
Province founded a missionary center at Kovel
in the Volhyn region. Fr. Charnetskyi, being an
ardent missionary, was sent there. Very soon he
gained the utmost respect of the local people
and even that of the Orthodox clergy. Having opened
a monastery and a church in Kovel, Fr. Mykolay
did his best to preserve the purity of the Eastern
Liturgical rite. In 1931, taking into account
Fr. Charnetskyi's devoted work, Pope Pius XI appointed
him titular bishop of Lebed and an Apostolic Visitor
for the Ukrainian Catholics in the Volhyn and
Pidliashsha regions. These regions became the
field of Charnetskyi's activity - first as a missionary,
then as a bishop - for almost 14 years.
As the first Ukrainian Redemptorist bishop he
experienced persecution from the very outset of
his activity. During the Soviet occupation of
Western Ukraine in 1939 the Redemptorists were
forced to leave the Volhyn region, and bishop
Charnetskyi moved to Lviv, to a Redemptorist monastery
in Zyblykevycha (now Ivana Franka) street.
After the revival of the Lviv Theological Academy
in 1941, Bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi joined the
faculty of the Academy as a professor of Philosophy,
Psychology, and Moral Theology. His calmness,
based on a strong and unshakable faith, his spirit
of obedience and prayer gave his students good
reason to consider their professor a saint. Bishop
Mykolay Charnetskyi was for them an exemplary
figure of both a monk and a virtuous person.
In 1944 the Soviet troops entered Galicia for
the second time. This marked the beginning of
bishop Charnetskyi's via dolorosa. He was arrested
on 11 April 1945. He was held in the prison of
the Soviet secret police in Lonskoho street. There,
the bishop suffered many afflictions: interrogations
in the middle of the night, cruel beating and
torture. Later Bishop Charnetskyi was transferred
to Kiev, where he spent another year of suffering
- until his case was taken to court. Bishop Mykolay
Charnetskyi was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment
for the crime of being a "Vatican agent". He served
this term together with the Metropolitan Yosyf
Slipyi first in the town of Mariinsk in the Kemeroc
region (Siberia), then later at a number of other
prison sites as well.
According to credible sources, during the period
of his imprisonment (from his arrest in Lviv in
April 1945 until his release in 1956), Bishop
Charnetskyi spent altogether 600 hours under torture
and interrogations, and at different times was
imprisoned in 30 prisons and prison camps. Despite
all these sufferings, the bishop always managed
to find a word of consolation for his fellow prisoners.
He supported them morally and he knew all of them
by name. It is no wonder that bishop Charnetskyi
was very popular among the prisoners, as he was
the only source of consolation for them.
Bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi spent the last years
of his imprisonment in a prison hospital in Mordovia.
In 1956 his health declined to the extent that
the doctors did not have any hope as regards his
survival. A special robe, in which the prisoners
were buried, had already been sewn for bishop
Charnetskyi. Taking into account the hopeless
condition of the bishop and that the Soviet regime
could avoid the blame of causing the bishop's
death, the prison administration decided to release
him and send him to Lviv. After his return to
Lviv in 1956 and due to his contracting hepatitis
and a number of other diseases, Bishop Mykolay
Charnetskyi was immediately hospitalised. Everybody
was sure that Bishop Charnetskyi would soon die.
But, the Lord had a different plan: He decided
to prolong the life of a man whose faith and work
was so valued and needed by the Ukrainian Church.
Soon the bishop recovered and moved to an apartment
in number 7 Vechirnia Street together with Br.
Klymentiy, C.Ss.R. There, Bishop Charnetskyi continued
his apostolate of endurance and prayer. He spent
most of his time praying and reading. Those who
visited the bishop in that period witnessed to
have often found him in a state of ecstasy. During
his stay in Lviv, Bishop Charnetskyi remained
faithful to his mission of a Good Shepherd: he
supported his confreres spiritually, prepared
candidates for the priesthood and ordained more
than ten priests.
Unfortunately, bishop Charnetskyi's "miraculous"
recovery did not last long. On the 2nd of April
1959 the bishop died in a state of holiness. His
last words were a cry calling on the aid of Our
Mother of Perpetual Help. The funeral of Bishop
Mykolay Charnetskyi took place on the 4th of April
1959. The description of the funeral kept in the
archive of Yorkton Province of CSsR (Canada) ends
with the following words: "We all think that the
day of his canonization will come - for he was
indeed a saintly bishop".
Everybody who knew bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi
gave an unanimous testimony of his sainthood.
It was no surprise then that immediately after
his death many people started addressing their
prayers to Bishop Charnetskyi. One finds this
impression of sainthood and of a powerful intercession
before God during prayers at the bishop's tomb
in the Lychakiv cemetery. Numerous people visit
the place of Bishop Charnetskyi's burial to obtain
his intercession when praying to God for various
favours. One woman, whose arm was about to be
amputated, applied soil from the bishop's grave
to her arm, which resulted in a complete healing.
Since then, people have been taking soil from
his grave to remedy various diseases.
Taking into account the testimonies of bishop
Mykolay Charnetskyi's virtuous life, and particularly
his endurance, courage and faithfulness to the
Christ's Church during the period of persecution,
the beatification process was started in 1960.
On 2 March 2001 the process was completed on the
level of eparchy, and the case was handed over
to the Apostolic See. On 6 April 2001 the theological
committee recognized the fact of bishop Charnetskyi's
martyrdom, on 23 April his martyrdom was verified
by the Assembly of Cardinals, and on 24 April
2001 Most Holy Father John Paul II signed a decree
of the beatification of bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi,
a blessed martyr of Christian faith.