Kovalyk was born in the village of Ivachev, near Ternopil. He was a Redemptorist, having made his vows on 28 August 1926. He studied philosophy and theology in Belgium. He returned to Ukraine and was ordained a priest on 4 September 1932, serving in Volyn.
After his ordination, Fr. Kovalyk traveled with Bishop Mykolay Charnetskyi to Volhynia to work amongst the Orthodox Ukrainians. Fr. Kovalyk was a good singer and a preacher. Indeed, it is said he had a golden mouth, and his preaching drew thousands of people and led them to a greater devotion to Jesus Christ through His mother Mary.
After several years he went to Stanislaviv (today Ivano-Frankivsk) to evangelize there. Immediately before the Soviet invasion of 1939 he traveled to the Redemptorist monastery in Lviv - today L'viv - and assumed the position of bursar. As a preacher, he showed no reluctance to publicly condemn the falsehoods and atheistic customs then being introduced by the Soviets. On the Feast of the Assumption 1940 (August 15), he gave his last great sermon, which reportedly drew some ten thousand faithful.
On 20 December 1940, the secret police took Fr. Kovalyk from his monastery on account of the sermon he had preached on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 December). For the six months of his incarceration at Brygidki prison, he was subjected to interrogation and cruel torture. In prison, he continued his ministry by praying with the other prisoners, hearing confessions, giving spiritual exercises, teaching catechism classes, and comforting them with religious stories told. When German troops began their offensive in 1941, the Soviets executed 7,000 prisoners prior to retreat.
While they shot the rest of the prisoners, they decided to treat Fr. Kovalyk like his Lord by crucifying him in front of his fellow prisoners on 30 June. When German troops had conquered Lviv, many people hastened to the prison in the hope of finding their relatives. According to witnesses, the most terrible sight was that of seeing the priest nailed to the prison wall. Even worse, someone had slit his belly open and placed a dead human fetus inside of it.
- Biographies of twenty five Greek-Catholic Servants of God at the website of the Vatican
- Beatification of the Servants of God on June 27, 2001 at the website of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
- Francisco Radecki. Tumultuous Times: The Twenty General Councils of the Catholic Church and Vatican II and Its Aftermath. St. Joseph's Media, 2004.
- Blessed Zenon Kovalyk Patron Saints Index.