Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 marked the 60th anniversary of the death of Fr. Andrzej Cikoto, MIC, which occurred in a prison camp near the town of Tayshet, in Siberia. The next day in Molodechno, the local communities of Roman and Greek Catholics held a solemn remembrance of the Servant of God’s martyr death. The site for this remembrance was chosen because of the fact that young Fr. Andrzej worked there pastorally in 1917-1918.
The faithful of both Catholic Rites participated in the solemn Eucharist in Roman Rite celebrated in the local church and presided over by the pastor, Msgr. Edmund Dowgiłowicz-Nowicki. The parish host emphasized that turning back in memory to these tragic events from the past teaches us, the Catholics of today, to courageously proclaim Christ to the modern world.
The homily was delivered by the Apostolic Visitator for the Greek-Catholic Church in Belarus, the Archimandrite Sergius Gajek, MIC. He recalled the words of another Marian who shared with Fr. Andrzej Cikoto the adversity of imprisonment in Soviet labor camps: he called the Servant of God a sacrifice for the faith and homeland.
Father Andrzej Cikoto (1891-1952) was originally a Vilnius diocesan priest. After joining the Congregation of Marian Fathers in 1920, he organized a Marian monastery and novitiate in Druya on the River Dvina. The place has become the cradle of the Belarusian branch of the Marians. He also worked in Druya as the pastor, and served as the director and educator of the local gymnasium, which he also founded.
Father Andrzej also made a substantial contribution to the administration of the Congregation of Sisters – Handmaids of Jesus in the Eucharist, which was founded in this borderland town by Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz. In 1933-1939, Fr. Cikoto performed the duties of the General Superior of the Congregation of Marian Fathers. In 1939, Pope Pius XII named Fr. Andrzej the Apostolic Administrator of the Catholic Church of Byzantine-Slavonic Rite in Harbin, Manchuria. For 10 years there was in this town a Marians’ run Eastern-rite mission directed by the Archimandrite Fabian Abrantowicz, MIC. Political and geographical changes brought about serious problems in running of the Harbin mission.
On Dec. 22, 1948, the Chinese police arrested all the religious and delivered them into the hands of the NKVD. Following a lengthy investigation that aimed at breaking the religious’ down mentally and physically, the Marians were sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in the Siberian camps. Father Cikoto, who did not agree to pass over into the Orthodox Church and to accept the associated with its rank, found himself in a camp near Tayshet. He continued to provide clandestine pastoral service to his fellow prisoners there. He died Feb. 11, 1952, exhausted by illness.
On Feb. 8, 2012, an International Seminar in memory of the Archimandrite Andrzej Cikoto was inaugurated at the Marians’ General House in Rome. The first, several-day long seminar series took place in Rome, Sint-Niklaas (Belgium), Prague, and Minsk. It was concluded on Feb. 13th. The second series is planned for Warsaw, Vilnius, Irkutsk, and Chita (Russia).