Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 20, 2006
Huculak yearned to be a Basilian
-WCR file photo
Fr. Lawrence Huculak served as superior of the Basilian monastery in Mundare before becoming bishop of Edmonton.
By WCR Staff
Raised in Vernon, B.C., a city with no Ukrainian Catholic parish, Lawrence Huculak has grown up to become the head of Canada's nearly 130,000 Ukrainian Catholics.
From a very young age, he was interested in religious life and knew what he wanted - to become a member of the ancient Order of St. Basil.
Born Jan. 25, 1951, one of five children of Andrew, a mechanic, and Katherine Huculak, Lawrence took part in the life of the local Roman Catholic parish. But when Ukrainian Catholic priests came to town, they were Basilians.
His parents strongly supported the clergy and Lawrence met no family opposition to his desire to enter religious life. For Grade 12, he went to St. Vladimir's College in Roblin, Man., a school run by Ukrainian Redemptorists.
But it was still the Basilians he had his eye on. When he finished his bachelor of arts in philosophy at the University of Ottawa in 1973, he headed to the Basilian novitiate in Glen Cove, N.Y.
A promising student, he was soon sent to Rome to study at the Ukrainian Basilian house there. It was his first immersion in the Ukrainian language and it was in Rome that Lawrence really began to blossom.
For the next 12 years, he pored over aging manuscripts, directed Ukrainian choirs and earned his doctorate in Oriental liturgy.
But it was a rocky start. "The first year I took a course in the Hebrew language taught by an Italian. At first, I didn't know which was Hebrew and which was Italian," he said in a 1997 interview.
After two years, he asked to return to Canada. His Basilian superior, suspecting a bright future for the young priest, said "no."
Eventually, he began to thrive. Blessed with a magnificent singing voice, he directed a choir leading a monthly Divine Liturgy on Vatican Radio. The broadcast was transmitted to Ukraine and, for many people, was their only access to the Divine Liturgy in the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
After 12 years in one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, he came back to Canada to serve as pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Mundare, population 600.
Huculak loved it. He became close to the people, developed great rapport with the children and went caroling with parishioners at Christmastime. The future bishop also became director of the Basilian Fathers Museum and became immersed in the history of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada.
"I know all the people at Mundare really loved him for all the years he was pastor there," Father Josaphat Tyrkalo said in a 1997 interview.
Huculak served as pastor and museum director until 1996 when he became superior and master of novices at Sts. Peter and Paul Monastery, still in Mundare. It was one job that did not last long. Seven months later he was installed as eparch of Edmonton.