Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 20, 2006
Huculak was a fabulous pastor
Outgoing bishop left issues on 'back burner,' but he inspired his flock.
By GLEN ARGAN
- photo supplied
Margaret Batty (right) says Archbishop Lawrence Huculak is an inspirational speaker.
"He respects the youth. He doesn't talk down to us."
Father Stephen Wojcichowsky agrees that Huculak has been a good pastor. "His manner of dealing with people is wonderful."
"He appreciates the gifts people have been given. He takes them seriously and listens. He seeks out advice and doesn't act on his own."
Wojcichowsky, director of religious education for Edmonton Catholic Schools, says the bishop was a keen supporter of the system's Ukrainian bilingual program. Curriculum for the program is now under review and Huculak took it upon himself to go through the new materials.
As bishop of Edmonton, he helped the eparchy run smoothly and surrounded himself with good people, said Wojcichowsky. "He gives a sense that we're very much part of a team with him."
As well, Huculak reached outside the eparchy by giving talks, being involved in ecumenism and teaching at Newman Theological College, he said. "He's been a wonderful ambassador for the Ukrainian Catholic Church."
Joe Synyshyn, president of the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood, described Huculak as a visionary who was able to look down the road 30 to 40 years. As well, he was able to draw people to work together.
"He has that personality, that charisma and also that vision," said Synyshyn.
Huculak also took the unpopular stand of closing some rural churches where "only two, three, four people were trying to cling onto a church," he said.
Synyshyn said he personally had a difficult time with the closing of rural churches, but says the bishop handled the situation well.
Sister Martha Zulyniak holds Huculak in high esteem. "Whatever he did, he did well."
Zulyniak helped Huculak prepare the funerals of sisters who lived at the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate convent in Mundare. "He's very well organized and likes everything to be in order."
Helen Sirman, president of the Ukrainian Catholic Women's League, described Huculak as "a kindly leader" who loved both children and the elderly.
- Photo by Steffie Chmilar
Bishop Lawrence Huculak loved attending events at rural parishes, such as the 100th anniversary of the Plain Lake Parish in May 2004.
The bishop regularly spoke at the UCWL conventions, Sirman said. "He's a gifted speaker so it's always very interesting to listen to him."
Father Michael Kowalchyk, dean of priests for the eparchy, said Huculak learned a lot during his nine years as bishop and will be able to make prudent decisions as metropolitan.
"He was trying to find new ways of bringing the kingdom of God," said Kowalchyk.
"The Edmonton Eparchy has one of the youngest clergy in North America," he said, estimating that two-thirds of the priests are under 45.
Huculak began ordaining married men, he said, but not without first ensuring that they had a good theological background. Altogether, 11 priests were ordained during Huculak's years, Kowalchyk said.
"We're rejuvenated in our eparchy!"
Huculak went everywhere in the eparchy which includes all of Alberta, Kowalchyk said. "He visited all of the parishes and mission stations. He did not neglect, but looked after them."
Huculak himself said visiting those far-flung parishes was his greatest joy as bishop. "It was good to go out to these places and let the people know they are not forgotten."
He also joined in many parish celebrations of their 100th anniversaries - a sign that the Ukrainian Catholic Church has long been a part of Alberta life.
A new parish in Sherwood Park - the first new parish in many years - was launched during his term. Consideration is also being given to starting a third parish in Calgary and one in Fort McMurray, he said.
"There was the historical roots I was keeping contact with, but also the future direction."
The bishop was also pleased with "the work done with youth and children" in the eparchy, especially with youth chorale groups. "It is interesting to see in the young people that they find their identity in the cultural tradition that is also a faith tradition."
Youth are part of the mainstream culture but also have an attachment to their Ukrainian Catholic culture. "It's not the world of 100 years ago. It's not the farm sod houses out on the prairie. It's the world of computer technology."
Huculak also began ordaining married men to the priesthood, an ancient Eastern Catholic tradition that has only recently become acceptable in Canada. Until the last 10 years, married men who sought ordination as Ukrainian Catholic priests had to travel to Ukraine to be ordained.
But the 1990 Code of Canon Law for Eastern Churches changed that.
Huculak, himself celibate as are all bishops, said celibacy is still valued in the Church. "And married priesthood isn't the answer to all the problems. It has lots of difficulties of its own - for the priest, for the priest's wife, for the children. They have to be dealt with properly and fairly."
Nevertheless, the new Code says clearly that Eastern churches have both celibate and married clergy, he noted. "The tradition has always been there, so it's not a novelty."
Alberta's Ukrainian Catholics are sad to see their bishop leave.
"We're going to miss him very much," said Sirman.
But, said Zulyniak, "I'm happy to see he's going to be metropolitan for all of Canada. He's an excellent leader, a good choice for the leader of our Church."
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