WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
When Taras Kraychuk read St. Paul's list of who will not enter God's kingdom – drunkards, fornicators, adulterers – he knew he was in trouble.
After years of a life of hedon-ism and drug addiction, he returned to the faith and for about a dozen years now he has been serving as a hieromonk (pastor-monk) in the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Father Taras (Terry) Kraychuk, who currently lives the monastic life in the Derwent area, gave a partial testimony of his life at the Catholic Family Life Conference at Lac Ste. Anne July 1.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Kraychuk was the child of a devout Ukrainian Catholic family that prayed together and attended Mass together. "I grew up in the faith but I drifted away from those roots," he told about 2,000 people attending the June 29-July 2 conference. "When I was about 15 or 16 I was into the drug scene."
As Kraychuk put it, he rejected the land of the Church and took off to find another land. He began seeking that which would satisfy him. "I wanted to experience all the excitement, all the drugs, all the partying, all that belongs with that kind of life."
When he was kicked out of high school he left the Church and his family and then, whole-heartedly embracing his passion to find meaning and happiness in life, became a biker and travelled throughout much of the United States and Canada.
He never stopped believing that God existed but essentially abandoned himself to fate. Any time he would get in trouble because of his lifestyle he would call on God. He constantly read his Gideon Bible believing that if he read it often, God would protect him from the police.
He followed his heart and ended up in southern California, feeling freer than ever. He had everything he had ever wanted. "I was living in a place where all my needs where met, selling drugs and making money."
But one rainy day as he looked through the window he came to himself. He felt empty and thoughts of suicide visited his mind.
"I really thought there was nothing to live for," he said. "I wanted to blow myself away because there was no reason; this is all absurd. This is all meaningless."
In that moment he heard a voice commanding him to take the Bible and read it. He opened it up to St. Paul's letter to the Galatians, where St. Paul lists those who will not make it to the kingdom of God: drunkards, fornicators, adulterers. He checked every item in the list.
Then he read that he could find salvation by repenting and following Christ. However, even at this point, Kraychuk didn't want anything to do with God or religion. "I don't want to become a Jesus freak," he thought.
But from that day, for a year and two months, the spirit stayed with him. "It's like the Lord sent an angel, a spirit that would speak to me." Every time Kraychuk was going to make a drug deal, the spirit would come to remind him his actions were against the law of God.
He ran away and went to Florida and then to Eastern Canada trying to shake what he thought was depression. When he returned to his buddies in California he become more involved in drugs and alcohol, to the point he would shake because of the chemicals he was taking into his body.
"My old buddies said, 'You've got to go or you are going to kill yourself.'"
He took their advice and returned to Winnipeg. On the second day on the bus between Utah and Idaho, two biker types came onto the bus and went to the back of the bus where Kraychuk was sitting. They started to talk, sharing their latest adventures with drugs and parties. But then they started to talk about the Lord and the Scriptures.
He realized that the same things that had happened to him had happened to one of the guys. "It was like looking in a mirror."
After the conversation had died down Kraychuk turned around in his seat and as he was sitting down he experienced the beginning of change in his life.
"It was Christ himself. And he said to me, 'Terry, there are two roads before you. You know where your road is going; you know where it leads. Now I'm offering you my road. You must choose."
Kraychuk knew then that he had to choose the Lord and so he said to him "I'll try to follow you."
As soon as he said that he went to the back of the bus and threw the drugs he was carrying into the toilet. He went back to his seat and started thinking about his drinking. He promised to try not to get drunk again. He immediately experienced an indescribable joy and realized Christ loved him in his total decadence.
The bus was filled with light and, as he looked outside, he saw God's creation with new eyes. He turned to the guy behind him and realized something had happened to him at the same time. They started to talk really loud. People came from the front of the bus to the back and sat down and listen to the pair. "That was the moment my life turned around."
After living in native missions in Northern Canada for some time, Kraychuk discerned the call to the priesthood and monastic life in the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
He studied at the Benedictine Seminary Christ the King in Mission, B.C., at the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in northern California and at Holy Spirit Ukrainian Greek Catholic Seminary in Ottawa before being ordained a priest in 2000.
Among other posts, Kraychuk served as superior of the Monastery of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary in Orangeville, Ont., before coming to Alberta.