Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
April 30, 2001
Western Pioneer to be beatified
Bishop Budka was first Ukrainian bishop in Canada
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
WITH CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
Bishop Nykyta Budka, a major figure in Western Canadian Catholic history, will likely be beatified during Pope John Paul's June 23-27 visit to Ukraine.
Budka was the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop in Canada, serving for 15 years before returning to Ukraine and eventually dying in a Soviet prison camp in 1949.
On April 24, Pope John Paul cleared the way for the beatification of Budka and 26 other 20th-century Ukrainian martyrs.
The clearance came just seven weeks after the local study of the martyrs ended. Officials involved in the cause of the 27 martyrs said completion of the Vatican process within weeks rather than years of the material being forwarded to Rome is a sign of the pope's personal desire to beatify the martyrs during his June trip.
Budka came to Canada in 1912 to establish a Ukrainian Catholic Church to minister to the huge numbers of Ukrainian immigrants who had come to the West.
While a few Ukrainian priests were serving the huge territory, many immigrants were confused by the wide array of Christian clergy holding church services in languages unfamiliar to the newcomers.
A young priest born of humble peasant stock, Budka was chosen to firmly establish the Church and help the immigrants preserve their Ukrainian Catholic faith.
Once settled as bishop in Winnipeg, Budka found his Church to be under vigorous attack in the press from Protestant, Orthodox and secular forces. As well, tens of thousands of Ukrainians were interned during the First World War.
The attacks soon came to focus on him personally. Although he repeatedly urged Ukrainian Canadians to come to the aid of Canada during the war, he was frequently accused of being an Austrian sympathizer.
In 1919 a group of war veterans accused the bishop of sedition and asked for his deportation. A subsequent judicial inquiry turned up, in the words of the judge, "not a tittle of evidence" to support the charge.
Despite this and other harassment, Budka worked tirelessly to build the Church in Canada, establishing schools, importing priests and visiting parishes from Victoria to Sydney, N.S.
His flock viewed him as a man of great humility and deep devotion to the Virgin Mary. In Winnipeg, he was often seen praying the rosary while riding the streetcar.
In 1927, his health broken, Budka resigned as bishop and returned to Ukraine. His health improved and he took on several projects for the Church. After the communist takeover, he and all the other Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy were arrested on Good Friday 1946 and sent to Soviet labour camps.
Budka died Oct. 6, 1949, the day before his 72nd birthday, and his body was left in the Siberian forest for wild animals to eat.
Father Andriy Chirovsky, head of the Sheptytsky Institute in Ottawa, said "When the first bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada is beatified — and we hope that's a step towards his eventual canonization — that makes the entire Church here feel blessed in a special way."
"He went through very rough times," Chirovsky said. "He suffered with those people who were interned and he tried to defend those people."
"I think he probably prayed, 'Lord, why don't you take me rather than them?'"
"He returned to Ukraine and suffered a fate worse than that of the people he couldn't save in Canada."
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