Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
February 12, 2001
Priest happy to be married
Newly-ordained Serbian immigrant settles into small town life
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
REDWATER — Father Janko Herbut puts on a puzzled look and checks to see if his daughter Josephine, two, is alright after she sneezes for the third time. The toddler smiles and goes back to eating her breakfast.
It's moments like these with his daughter which makes the priesthood more fulfilling for the 35-year-old immigrant from Serbia who was ordained for the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton only three months ago.
"I always wanted to be a priest and I wanted to have a family. I didn't have to wonder about being a priest and not being married."
Like many of the young men who entered the seminary with him, Herbut knew he had the choice of whether to be a married priest.
Marriage is an issue Father Don Bodnar, vocations director for the eparchy, is often faced with when he speaks to youth about religious life.
"When I go talking to the youth, they say, 'But what if I want to get married?'" Bodnar said. "That's the advantage we have, we do have married priests."
The number of seminarians studying for the eparchy is not overwhelming, but for an eparchy with nine churches in Edmonton and another two dozen throughout Alberta, having five seminarians is quite a feat.
"We go through spurts," said Bodnar of the number of seminarians. "We have a good number now."
Herbut added, "I don't see any problems (in the number of priests). Right now, we have the eparchy covered, no problems."
The eparchy has three seminarians studying in Ottawa, two on internship and a couple of men who are expressing interest. Seminarians for the eparchy study at St. Paul's University in Ottawa. The university also houses the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Studies.
Bodnar said the eparchy is also looking into implementing a permanent diaconate.
Arriving in Canada five years ago, Herbut expressed immediate interest in the priesthood. Raised a Ukrainian Catholic in mostly Orthodox Serbia, he had already completed his theology studies in Croatia. Although it was customary to have married priests in his homeland, he knew it was not a tradition to ordain married men here. But that didn't worry Herbut, who married his wife Ana after they arrived in Edmonton.
Herbut wasn't worried about his prospects of being ordained. He was simply anxious because he had completed his studies. He was told to wait, learn the language and familiarize himself with the Canadian culture.
"I was waiting . . . and my friends said 'Why don't you just give up and do something else,'" Herbut said. "I didn't give up. I knew it (ordination) was going to happen."
Herbut was also comforted by the words of Bishop Lawrence Huculak, who said he was willing to ordain married men.
"I think he broke the ice when he ordained me," said Herbut. "I was the first married (man) ordained by Bishop Huculak."
Herbut spent his internship year working with Bodnar at Exaltation of the Holy Cross Parish in Edmonton. He was ordained a deacon in March 2000. In August he was assigned to Sts. Boris and Hlilb in Redwater when Father Bill Hupalo transferred to Calgary.
After his ordination in November, he remained in Redwater and travels to missions as far east as Smoky Lake almost everyday.
"I like this kind of farm town," said Herbut when asked whether he preferred the rural or urban communities.
Redwater is much like the small farming community in Croatia where Herbut grew up. His family, brother, two sisters and their family still live there. It was a country where Herbut might be living in today if it were not for the cultural tensions that arose because he is of Serbian descent and his wife Bosnian.
As a youngster, Herbut was always connected to the Church, as a parishioner, then an altar boy. He studied the teachings and always had the priesthood in mind.
But living in a communist country, the ambition to study theology and become a priest was rarely respected. Herbut had his ups and downs when it came to his calling, but as he continued his studies, his doubts were put to rest.
Growing up in parishes with married priests, Herbut knew of no other type of clergymen. He recognizes there is some opposition within the Ukrainian Catholic community to married priests, but he has yet to see it in Redwater.
Previous pastors in Redwater and the surrounding area have been married, so the people are accustomed to it, Herbut said. However, the topic of marriage is a concern for him, not so much his own, but that of others.
"Mixed marriages," he said when asked about what he saw as a challenge in his work. "It concerns me a little bit because people don't take it so seriously. Working with people who are not serious about (marriage). People get married and divorced so quickly."
Challenge or no challenge, Herbut looks forward to celebrating his first marriage ceremony this summer.
"People are very cooperative here," he said. "We're all very happy.
"Being with the people, being around the people, that's the best part of (priesthood)."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.