Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 14, 2008
Redemptorists' work restored Slavic faith
By adopting their familiar language and rite, devoted priests kept immigrants Catholic
By RAMON GONZALEZ
In their homeland the lives of these immigrants revolved around the parish church. But in North America they felt deprived of spiritual care, as they had no priests who spoke their language or churches of their own.
The Roman Catholic bishops of Western Canada appealed to the Belgian Redemptorists, who had missions in Eastern Canada, to care for the various Slavic peoples immigrating to Canada.
The order appointed the energetic Father Achille Delaere, who had been ordained in 1896, to the task of caring for the Slavs in Western Canada.
After months of study of the Slavic languages, Delaere and Father Joseph Coppin, also a Redemptorist, left for Canada. By October 1899, Delaere had arrived in Brandon, Man. He established a Redemptorist house there and without delay he put himself to work in his new field.
In 1904 he established St. Gerard's Monastery in Yorkton to care for the large Polish and Ukrainian population on the prairies of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
It soon became obvious to him how much the Ukrainians around the Brandon area were in need of religious attention. But the job presented some difficulties, one being the fact Delaere belonged to the Latin rite. The Ukrainians were very suspicious of him and many refused his services.
"In the Yorkton area, despite Delaere's brave words, 500 Ukrainian families had refused to accept him," writes Laverdure. "The fact was Delaere spoke Polish and was correctly believed to be trying to have the Ukrainian Catholics join with the Roman Catholics."
In 1906, convinced that Greek Catholics, Ruthenians and later Ukrainian Catholics required services in their own language and rite, he persuaded his superiors to allow him to adopt the Byzantine rite, to preach in Ukrainian and to use Old Slavonic instead of Latin as the liturgical language.
Having spent several months in preparatory study, Delaere celebrated Mass in the Byzantine Rite for the first time on Sept. 26, 1906.
"I think that the Redemptorists suffered, Delaere suffered, for several years before he proposed adopting the rite," Laverdure said in an interview.
"But he knew first hand that it would be much easier for a few priests to serve the immigrants in their own language and their own rite rather than demanding that a whole group of immigrants learn English or learn French and attend the Roman Catholic Church."
Over the years, the reputation of the Eastern-rite Redemptorists has grown large within the Church, to the point that their province "has been decimated by appointments to the episcopacy around the world, testifying to the confidence it commands in Roman circles," Laverdure writes.
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