Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 9, 2004
God called -- and called again
A grandmother's example led this man to his calling
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Gregory Faryna always knew God was calling him to the priesthood, but he kept on postponing the inevitable. Once he even abandoned his studies.
But in 1998 Faryna decided to give the priesthood a third and final try. It worked. Bishop Lawrence Huculak ordained him a priest for the Edmonton Ukrainian Eparchy last October. Now Faryna, 39, is the assistant pastor at St. Josaphat Cathedral in Edmonton.
"I take this appointment as a compliment the bishop gives me for my abilities, I guess," he says.
Apart from saying Mass or assisting at services, Faryna does hospital and school visits, counselling, home blessings and sacramental preparation. "Right now we are preparing for the first communicants coming up as well as (doing) marriage preparation courses." He also attends lots of meetings.
He would like to have his own parish one day and to work immersed in the community. "I must admit that I hear a calling to rural parishes."
Wants to evangelize
But his main goal is to evangelize people of his own generation. "I guess the main thing is to let people of my generation know that God is still there for them. I really get the feeling that within my generation there are so many that are searching for something but they don't really know what."
Born in Viking in 1965, Faryna is the third of four children. His family moved to Edmonton when he was a year-and-a-half old. Even before graduating from high school in 1982, Faryna started working at Canadian Tire, where he spent 13 years working as an automotive parts man and other positions.
As a child, the priesthood didn't figure in his plans. "When I was growing up I never really had aspirations of becoming a priest," he said in a recent interview.
By the end of the 1980s, Faryna noticed that he was attending Church more often. He even cut down on Sunday work to make time to go to Church. "So I ended up going to Church more often than my parents were," he recalled. "I was there almost every Sunday."
He credits his grandmother Anna, now 92, with helping him return to Church. Despite her advanced age, Anna would never miss Sunday Mass. "She would hop on a bus regardless of the weather conditions," recalled Faryna. "And that may mean a couple of transfers to get there because we are not that close to St. Basil's."
Around 1990, Faryna remembers hearing a sermon on vocations that impacted him. The pastor at St. Basil's, his home parish, pleaded with parishioners not to stand in the way of their children's vocation. "For half a moment, as I was sitting there, I thought maybe I am supposed to become a priest," he recalled. "Then about two seconds later I told myself to put that thought out of my mind altogether because it's a silly idea; nobody becomes a priest nowadays. It is not a cool thing to do."
Rather than deal with the thought, Faryna became restless and began improving himself and, unconsciously, he started to get closer and closer to God. While he continued to work as a parts man, he also got his pilot licence, upgraded his high school, took business courses at NAIT, a couple of theology courses at St. Joseph's College and became a lector at St. Basil.
"This (interest in the priesthood) kept on going deeper and deeper," he recalled. "It came to the point where I just didn't feel complete unless I was going to church."
He finally approached the pastor, Basilian Father Christopher Zajac, in the spring of 1994.
The priest advised Faryna to enroll in the Basilian House of Studies in Mundare and check it out. "I spent one Lenten period there and I decided that this life was not for me," Faryna said. "When I left (Mundare) I went back to my old job as automotive parts salesman. And I also enlisted in the army reserve."
But the thought kept coming back and three years later, in 1997, when he was ready to go rejoin the Basilians, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and started chemotherapy. "I thought that it was a bad time to make that move while she was in the midst of what she was going through."
The final call
His mother died that year and it took some serious soul-searching for Faryna to determine his next move. He decided to pursue the priesthood again. When he told his boss at Warehouse Services Inc. that he was planning to go back to school, "he was really kind of hoping that I could stay on."
But when he told him what he was coming back to school for, the shocked man simply replied, "Good luck; I can't compete with that one."
So in 1998, a few months after his mother's death, Faryna was back at the Basilian House of Studies, determined to become a priest.
After a few months, Faryna realized he didn't enjoy communal life. But rather than quitting or putting up with it, he approached Bishop Lawrence Huculak, whom he knew from the time he was still "Father Larry" in Mundare. The bishop advised him to finish his philosophical studies at St. Joseph's College in Edmonton before moving on.
A year later, Huculak accepted Faryna as a diocesan candidate and whisked him off to Holy Spirit Seminary in Ottawa. He also completed a bachelor in theology at St. Paul's University.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church allows married priests but they must get married before ordination. Faryna made his decision to remain celibate during the first year of seminary studies. Huculak ordained him to the diaconate in July 2003 at St. Josaphat Cathedral and then to the priesthood Oct. 11 at St. Basil's Church.
"This is a very exciting time for me," Faryna says. "And I think it's more so because you don't really know what the next day is going to bring."