Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 27, 2008
Sr. Petronella: A life devoted to children
In 40 years at St. Basil's, she helped bring faith to 2,000 youngsters
- photo supplied
A Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate for 60 years, Sr. Petronella Dybka has helped more than 2,000 children at St. Basil's Parish learn their Ukrainian Catholic faith.
By LENA SLOBODA
Special to the WCR
On Sunday, Sept. 28, St. Basil Ukrainian Catholic Parish was proud to give Sister Petronella Dybka recognition for her impressive achievements with the children in her 40 years in the parish.
This year also marks sister’s 60th anniversary of religious life as a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate.
St. Basil Parish is fortunate to have Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. The Sister Ambrose House in south Edmonton, where Sister Petronella was the superior from 1982-2000, has housed many Sister Servants who made valuable contributions in the religious-educational and humanitarian fields in the Ukrainian Catholic community, especially at St. Basil Parish.
Sister Petronella’s apostolic work was focused on service among the children, “the little ones” and this did much to assist the pastors in the development and growth of the parish.
She had an opportunity to spiritually and culturally enrich more than 2,000 children at St. Basil Parish. What a tremendous responsibility -- the formation of the “little ones”: of bringing so many of them to Jesus. When sister was asked about her winning ways with the children, her response was: “Listen and wait for them to speak.”
Sister began her service to the children at St. Basil’s Parish in January 1968, when she became the first teacher of the new Ukrainian Sadochok (kindergarten).
Every spring for 30 years, Sister Petronella assumed the responsibility of preparing children for their First Solemn Communion.
Children of Mary
In 1984, Sister was approached to assume the responsibility to teach and guide yet another group: the Children of Mary, a Marian organization whose program is for young girls of Grades 1 to 6. This program is still ongoing today.
During the summer months, Sister served as a catechist at St. Basil’s summer camp at Pigeon Lake and for 20 years, she prepared the children for their First Solemn Communion at two rural parishes: Calmar and Thorsby.
To activate the parish children in their faith and love of the Church, sister had the children lead the sung responses in the Divine Liturgy every first Sunday of the month.
Sister Petronella demonstrates her love of children in many ways. The love of God in sister’s heart overflows into the hearts of the children whom she loves so much.
In all her children’s groups, sister tells them about Jesus and the Holy Mother of God. She teaches them to pray and to love their Ukrainian heritage and teaches the Ukrainian language through prayers and songs. Sister prays with the children in church, and directs their song and dance on the stage.
In summer, she plays with them at the picnics, and joins them for the winter sleigh rides. The annual Mother’s Day concert by the Sadochok children brings tears of joy and happy memories to parents, grandparents and guests. The Christmas concerts with the Holy Nativity scene with a baby in a straw crib portraying baby Jesus has been the highlight of the pre-Christmas season of St. Basil Parish.
The special celebration honouring Sister Petronella began with a thanksgiving Divine Liturgy, celebrated by Basilian Father Metodio Techy and concelebrated by Basilian Father Daniel Wach, former pastor of St. Basil’s and a special guest for the celebration.
A smiling Sister Petronella walked to her pew in a candlelight procession with her Children of Mary and Sodality, dressed in their blue capes and singing the hymn Immaculate Mary. A banquet followed the liturgy at the parish cultural centre.
Sister Petronella entered the novitiate of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Ancaster, Ont., in 1948, at the age of 16. She made her final profession in 1957.
Her first mission was to work with the helpless children, the refugee orphans at Mount Mary Orphanage in Ancaster. For 10 years, she taught in U.S. parochial schools in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan.
In 1963, sister began her mission with the children in Alberta. She worked at the children’s orphanage in Mundare, and then with children in the Marydale Home in Edmonton and finally at St. Basil Parish.