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Obituary

BISHOP MICHAEL KUCHMIAK (published on August 31, 2008)



BISHOP MICHAEL KUCHMIAK, C.Ss.R. 1923 - 2008 Peacefully and prayerfully in his room at St. Joseph's Home in Saskatoon, Bishop Michael Kuchmiak, CSsR., retired exarch for the Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain, died on Tuesday, August 26, 2008. He was 85. Funeral Prayers were held Friday, August 29 at 7:00 p.m. in Yorkton, Saskatchewan at St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Funeral Liturgy will be celebrated there on Saturday, August 30 at 11:00 a.m. The interment will take place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at St. Joseph's Ukrainian Catholic Church on Tuesday, September 2 at 9:30 a.m. with interment at Holy Family Cemetery. Michael Kuchmiak was born in Western Ukraine on February 5, 1923 to Ilias and Katherine (neƩ Traczuk) Kuchmiak, the eldest of six children. His birthplace, Obertyn, is a small town in the District of Horodenka in the province of Stanislaviv, later renamed Ivano-Frankivsk, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. He attended school in Obertyn and then Kolomyia. The Second World War was beginning just as Michael received his teaching certificate. He had planned to enter the religious life but instead taught first in an elementary school in Zhabye (in the Carpathians), then for two years served in the First Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army. In 1945 he took the opportunity to travel to Rome, where he enrolled at St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Seminary, and studied at the Pontifical University Propaganda Fide. While there, he met Rev. John Bala, a Ukrainian Redemptorist from Canada, who encouraged him to join the Redemptorist congregation. The seminarian took his advice, becoming a novice at Ciorani (near Naples) in 1947. He made his first profession of vows on October 3, 1948, at the very same altar St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist Congregation, had professed his vows some 200 years earlier. Bishop Michael cherished this privilege. Seminary studies were then continued with the Ukrainian Redemptorist; seminarians in Canada at Waterford, Ontario. He professed his perpetual vows on October 3, 1950, and completed his studies at St. Mary's Seminary in Meadowvale, Ontario. He was ordained a deacon on February 15, 1956, by Bishop Isidore Borecky of Toronto, Ontario. On May 13, 1956, again at the hands of Bishop Isidore, Father Michael Kuchmiak was ordained a priest, together with two other classmates, Frs. George Perejda and John Fetsco. The first assignment of the newly ordained Fr. Michael was to the motherhouse of the Ukrainian Redemptorists, Yorkton, Saskatchewan in 1957. He became the pastoral assistant at St. Mary's Parish in Yorkton and also for the Ukrainian Catholic Mission - the many parishes of the rural Yorkton district. From 1957 - 1965 he took pastoral charge of the Wynyard District with care and devotion. In Yorkton be devoted himself to the care of youth and young married couples, directing an active Youth Club (UCY), and working closely with the Roman Catholic pastors (also Redemptorists) at St. Gerard's Parish to organize two Catholic schools and form a separate school board in Yorkton. He also served as catechist at Sacred Heart Academy, a high school for girls conducted by the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, and at St. Joseph's College, a Christian Brothers high school for boys. Fr. Michael was appointed novice master in May, 1965. The novitiate was then in Meadowvale, Ontario. While taking good care of his charges there, he also was the extraordinary confessor to the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate and their novices at Ancaster, Ontario. In 1967, Fr. Michael again returned to Yorkton to be the superior of the Ukrainian Catholic Mission community and to be pastor of St. Mary's Parish. During his pastorate a third elementary Catholic school was built, a mortgage from adding a wing to the church in 1954-55 was liquidated, and a parish planning committee was formed to co-ordinate major parish events. The activities of the parish organizations were flourishing. Besides his pastoral duties, he served as a diocesan consultor to the bishop and was elected to the Extraordinary Provincial Council of the Ukrainian Redemptorist Province of Yorkton. With the new Redemptorist appointments in June, 1975, he was named superior and pastor of St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Newark, N.J. During his pastoral charge there, a large mortgage on the new parish church was paid off, and he expanded the buildings of the parish complex, as well as parish activities. Father took pride in being a hands-on pastor, serving as chaplain to the Catholic War Veterans, the Holy Name Society, and teaching religion in the parish school and in catechetical classes. He was also a consultor of the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a member of the Board of Directors or Ascension Manor Inc., an archeparchial senior citizens housing organization, a spiritual advisor for Providence Association, a fraternal benefit organization, and a chaplain or advisor for many Ukrainian and Catholic organizations in and around Newark, N.J. One proud moment he liked to recall was hosting President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy to St. John's. In August, 1987, Fr. Kuchmiak was named pastor of Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine in Washington, D.C. However, in March 1988, he was announced as auxiliary to Metropolitan Stephen Sulyk. He was consecrated at Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Philadelphia on April 27, 1988. After the consecration, Bishop Michael remained in pastoral charge of Holy Family in Washington, and also was appointed by Metropolitan Sulyk as Director of Spiritual Formation at St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Washington. (continued next column)


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