Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 26, 2006
Good steward given the pontifical cross
Sopchyshyn, 89, receives honour from Archbishop
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Archbishop Thomas Collins congratulates Helen Sopchyshyn standing with her son Clint, on her Pontifical Cross award.
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Helen Sopchyshyn was all smiles June 20 as the archbishop of Edmonton presented her with an award from Pope Benedict XVI.
Archbishop Thomas Collins, on behalf of the pope, awarded the Pontifical Cross to Sopchyshyn in recognition of her long years of service to God and neighbour.
The archbishop made the presentation during a special morning Mass at the chapel of the Catholic Pastoral Centre. About 60 people, including Sopchyshyn's son Clint and his wife Geneva, attended the Mass.
"This is the greatest honour of my life," Sopchyshyn, 89, told Collins immediately following the presentation. "Thank you, your grace. God bless you."
Instituted in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII, the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice cross (For the Church and the Pontiff) is awarded on special occasions to good stewards in recognition of their service. This is the first pontifical cross awarded in Edmonton in 34 years.
"This is a recognition of the light of Christ shining forth in a life of devotion and service," Collins said in his homily. "This is an action of the holy father, which is intended not only to be an honour for Helen but also to be an example and an inspiration for all of us, to encourage each one of us in a life of devotion and service."
An active member of St. Anthony's Parish, Sopchyshyn has contributed greatly to both her Church community and the public over the years. She taught with Edmonton Catholic Schools for 20 years and still volunteers with the Alberta Teachers' Association.
In 1998, Sopchyshyn and her late husband Wilfred donated $3 million to help Newman Theological College and St. Joseph Seminary build a new residence and a bigger library.
"Helen is a very humble woman. She is just happy to do good work.
"She is not looking for any kind of recognition," said Joyce Tutt, executive director of the Foundation of Newman and St. Joseph's Seminary.
"She just really gets joy out of serving other people. For a woman who is 89 years old to have her still involved in work in the community and helping others is really a strong statement of who she is."
Sopchyshyn is a member of the Dinner Optimist Club of Edmonton, a service club that raises funds for the Stollery Children's Hospital and the Kids and Cancer Campaign, as well as a volunteer with St. Joseph's Auxiliary Hospital and the multicultural integration activities for students who are new Canadians at St. Catherine School.
She volunteered for the 2005 Alberta 55+Winter Games and continues to be a strong voice on social justice issues and societal values based on Christ's teaching.
"Helen is a very wonderful person, very kind and dedicated," Collins said at a reception in Sopchyshyn's honour after the Mass. "She is very well deserving of this award."
Sopchyshyn is only the seventh person from the Edmonton Archdiocese to receive the pontifical cross, the last one being Irene Pawlykowska in 1972.
"I think she definitely deserves this (papal) recognition," said her son Clint, a Catholic teacher. "She feels that there are other people more worthy of it. But I think she minimizes the great contributions that she's made over her lifetime."