Emilian Kowcz was born August 20, 1884, in the Galician region of the Ukraine. His family belonged to the Greek Catholic Church. Son of Father Gregory Kowcz, a local Greek Catholic Church pastor, other married priests in his family include his father-in-law, three brothers-in-law, two of his three sons and a grandson now living in Canada. The tradition of a married priesthood has deep roots in the Ukrainian community.
After completing his early studies in Lviv, Emilian studied theology at the Collegium Ruthenum in Rome from 1905-11. In 1910 he married Maria Anna Dobranska. Maria bore him six children, and together they cared for many orphans during a very turbulent. The following year he was ordained a Catholic priest. As an assistant priest, he did pastoral work in Przemyślany, a small town 30 miles from Lviv until 1919. Between 1919-1921 he served as chaplain of the Halych Army, fighting for Ukraine's independence. He promoted the peaceful coexistence of Poles, Ukrainians and Jews. As a military chaplain, Emilian ministered to dying men in the heat of battle. He once wrote: “I know that the soldier on the front line feels better when he sees both the doctor and the priest there.”
On June 27, 2001, Emilian Kowcz was declared Blessed by Pope John Paul II, along with other martyrs of the Greek Catholic Church. The ceremony was held at the Hippodrome in Lviv. Emilian had previously been declared a “righteous Ukrainian” by the Jewish Council of the Ukraine.