Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 11, 2006
Ukrainian Catholics beam with pride over Stelmach's win
New Tory Leader will be Alberta's first Catholic premier
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"He is a fervent defender of the interests of the (Alberta) government. I hope he is as fervent in the defence of Church teachings."
- Fr. Ignatius Holowaychuk
"It's a source of pride for the Ukrainian community that one of our own was able to obtain this kind of position in Canada," Holowaychuk said. "He is a fervent defender of the interests of the (Alberta) government. I hope he is as fervent in the defence of Church teachings."
Father William Hupalo, administrator of the Edmonton Ukrainian Eparchy, has met Stelmach briefly a few times, the last at the end of June during the celebration of Sts. Peter and Paul feast in Mundare.
At that time Stelmach had already started campaigning, although unofficially, and he made it known to parishioners that he was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party, the priest noted.
"This is certainly good for Ukrainian and Roman Catholics as well," Hupalo said of Stelmach's election. "He is a regular churchgoer so hopefully he'll stick with the moral issues and the teachings of the Church and hopefully the Church now will have a little bit more input and clout with him being the premier. I wish him the best."
Huculak said Stelmach took part in some of the important events in his life.
"When I became the superior of the Mundare monastery he became the reeve of the county (of Lamont) and then when I became the bishop he became a minister in the provincial government. And then he noted that now I had been promoted to archbishop of Winnipeg (and metropolitan) and he wondered what would happen to himself."
Stelmach, 55, was born in Lamont and has been married to his wife Marie for 33 years. They met as teenagers at a neighbour's wedding and have four grown children: Les, 31, Terry, 29, Nathan, 26 and Lynette, 21.
Before becoming the premier who replaced Ralph Klein, Stelmach, an Andrew-area farmer, served at both local and provincial level. He served on the Lamont County council from 1986 to 1993, including five years as county reeve.
He was first elected MLA for Vegreville-Viking in 1993 and was then elected in the riding of Fort-Saskatchewan-Vegreville in 2004 after an electoral boundary change. Since 1997 he has held four cabinet posts including agriculture, infrastructure, transportation and international and intergovernmental affairs.
In addition to being a nice guy, the new premier is also "a man of good character," Huculak said.
"Unfortunately so often in the world of politics you get a lot of the mudslinging that goes on between politicians but Ed has always tried to keep away from that.
"He focuses on the issues and at the same time on good moral character and he even (gives) consideration for the family. I understood how on Sunday he said that's not a day for politics and certainly that we would all agree that he's got a very good, profound Christian character."
The metropolitan said having a Ukrainian Catholic premier doesn't mean that the Church would have a specific role "but rather that the values that Ukrainian Catholics hold together with Roman Catholics and many other Christians will be reflected in the world of politics and in the decisions that are made in legislature. I think that this is what we hope and wish for him."
Added Huculak: "The political world is a difficult world and yet a very important one and it seems so often that Christian principles are put in second place. I am hoping certainly that Ed will be a leader of the community where the Christian principles that are common to so many Albertans will become important in the political decisions that are going to be made."
Huculak said he hopes to meet Stelmach again soon. "I wish him all the best and God blessings on this new aspect of his life."
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