When the communist dictatorship prevailed in Czechoslovakia (1948-1990), the persecution and destruction of religion and, in particular, the dominant religious group – the Roman Catholic Church – was one of the most important tasks of the government. To the clergy who did not obey the “anti-ecclesiastical” plan (the term refers to the clergy abandoning their ministry and becoming a citizen) had three perspectives for the future: to be arrested, shot, or to continue serving the church underground. This is what the Roman Catholic Bishop Felix Maria Davidek did (he himself was ordained a bishop in the church in 1967 by Monsignor Jan Blaha). For him being a bishop was not a privilege, but a risk of death, but the desire to provide paternal service for the believers dispelled his fears and gave him the courage to carry out God’s plan by all means.
Despite his heroic sacrifice, today he is interesting to us from a different angle – He performed the ordination of 68 priests, 5 of whom were women. Moreover, he appointed Ludmila Yavorova, a female priest ordained by him, as his Vicar General.
Lyudmila Iavorova felt a desire to become a nun, although this was impossible under the communist regime. Bishop Felix Maria Davidek befriended Iavorova’s family, and in Ludmila he saw a strong personality with strong faith, unquenchable enthusiasm, and leadership talent. Because of this he decided to ordain her as a priest in the underground family churches, which he performed on December 28, 1970. This mysterious event was witnessed by monsieur Davidek’s brother – Leo.
Mother Lyudmila Iavorova recalls her feelings as follows: “It was extremely unexpected. I did not think that I would be ordained a priest. I received this as a gift from God. God gives gifts without any merit, so I will never find the answer to the question – Why me?”
The nun – sister Miriam Theresa Winter – wrote a book dedicated to the biography and tireless ministry of the first Roman Catholic priest – Mother Lyudmila Iavorova, in which she writes: “Ludmila performed her first liturgy – simply in silence, with Felix and Leo Davidek, Mary the mother of Jesus, all the angels of God, and all the saints.”
In 1990, the communist regime in Czechoslovakia collapsed. The church that rose from the ground amazed Rome because there were not only female priests but also married male priests
(The Roman Catholic Church still forbids the ordination of women, and according to the Latin Rule, the marriage of priests is forbidden). Married male priests were allowed to continue their work in Byzantine parishes, while female priests were strictly banned from performing their priestly duties in 1996. They were also banned from talking about these bans. Archbishop John Bukowski called the ordinations – valid (valid, in force), but illegal because it contradicts the laws and catechism of the Roman Catholic Church.
I am sure this case will help the churches to realize how great a blessing it can be for women to be serving and to be ordained in the church.
Mother Lyudmila Iavorova is 90 years old today. She is still actively involved in church life and serves as the Speaker of the Liturgy Commission of the Roman Catholic Church.
Mother Lyudmila Iavorova, with a portrait of monsieur Davidek
Author: Thoma Lipartian