Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 17, 2002
Friends bid bitter-sweet farewell
Gentle shepherd always hears and helps his flock
By RENATO GANDIA
"He's a good man . . . a very gentle soul. He has a very soft heart. He's very good with priests."
- Father Dan Wach
Wach thinks the new bishop's Ukrainian is just fine and will suit the London Ukrainians who are either recent immigrants from Ukraine or children of first generation migrants.
These people, according to Wach, are patriotic. "And Bishop Chomnycky knows all about that."
The bishop's parents were born in Ukraine. Although he was born in Vancouver, as a young man he was involved with his heritage's patriotic youth organization.
"So he knows that kind of mentality and that kind of language. I think he will fit in quite easily. I think the good thing about him also is even though he's got a good background about the spiritual, social and political realities of the Ukrainians here and abroad, it is not the most important thing for him."
Some, when they are patriotic, are more patriotic than religious. This new bishop is much more religious than patriotic.
Nestor and Betty Zacharko of Sherwood Park have known the new bishop for 10 years.
Deepening their spirituality and understanding of the Gospel message but two of the most memorable things their pastor gave them.
"He walks his talk. He lives what he preaches. And that is very important for us to see because he is such a good example," Betty told the WCR.
"He can talk to you about carrying the cross, but when you watch him carry his own cross, he shows such an example that will nourish your own spirituality."
Betty noticed Chomnycky was unhappy when he was called to be a bishop. "But he said this is a mission that he is called to do. This is his cross, his calling, and he's got to go where he's been called to go."
For Betty, the new bishop's ways confirm God works through people. As Chomnycky showed compassion to others, he helped them do the same to others.
"To me he is a big, lovable teddy bear. He really is."
The Zacharkos consider him a close friend. In spite of such friendship, Chomnycky knows how to put a balance between spreading the Word of God and maintaining relationships.
"He knows and respects the boundaries. I think our parish has been blessed to know him. We've always known that there is something special about him."
Time and again, Chomnycky is described as compassionate, humble, has a warm personality, yet is down to earth and very spiritual.
When the Zacharkos invite him for meals, he chooses simple things.
"He always has a kind word or a joke to tell you."
- Nestor Zacharkos
"I never dreamed that I would be serving a priest just lasagna for dinner. He said 'I love lasagna - that's the best you could ever do.' And that's him - very simple."
Nestor said, "The new bishop is very approachable and he always has a kind word or a joke to tell you. He catches your attention just by his presence."
When he heard the news of Chomnycky's selection, Nestor was sad because they would be losing a good priest.
"He is such an important instrument of leadership. Sometimes it is not what a person does. It's just what they represent through their actions."
Nestor considers the new bishop a good friend. "If you really need a good friend to talk with, that would be him. You wouldn't think twice phoning him or sending him an e-mail and you certainly would get a prompt response."
The Zacharkos plan to visit him in two years.
Another parishioner, Clarence Kitura from Lamont, "can't say enough good things about (the new bishop).
"Not only was he an excellent pastor to everyone, but he was also a very good friend to everyone. He is a very personable man, very approachable," said Kitura, who has known Chomnycky for 12 years.
Whenever he is called to serve the people, it doesn't matter what time of the day or night or whoever it is that he is called for, said Kitura.
"He would help you in any way possible. He would go beyond the call of duty to assist you."
Parishioner Margaret Lewicky echoed Kitura and said, "He got along very well with everybody. He took the effort to meet personally all of the parishioners, despite the fact (St. Basil) is a big parish."
And even with the many funerals Chomnycky presided at, people commented how wonderful he was with the families during their period of grief, said Lewicky. "We're very sad he will be leaving, but very proud that he was chosen a bishop."
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