by Rev. Dr. Oleh Krawchenko


I. Beginnings

Our Ukrainian settlers began immigrating to Canada at the end of the 19th century. At that time, most of them came from the province of Halychyna (Galicia) and, consequently, most of them were Greek-Catholics. A significantly smaller group immigrated from the province of Bukovyna, and these settlers were Orthodox.

The politics of the local Roman Catholic hierarchy during this time were focused on the assimilation of the newly-arrived Greek-Catholic population. The Orthodox Bukovynians, on the other hand, were being tended by the so-called "Russian Mission" which had arrived on Canadian soil via Alaska. (The Russian Church also was not very well disposed towards things Ukrainian.).

To deal with this predicament, the more enlightened leadership of the Ukrainian settlers—both Halychanian and Bukovynian—made a decision to seek a positive solution; they concluded that it was time to organize their own Church, one that would reflect both the character and the spiritual needs and realities of the Ukrainian people.

And so it happened—during the summer of 1918, in the heart of the Canadian prairies in the city of Saskatoon, a Narodny Z'izd (National Convention) was convened, at which the decision was made to form the "Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada." An interesting occurrence here was the recognition by convention participants that there can be no Church without a Bishop. They came to this realization despite the fact there were no theologians present at this gathering. Therefore, as a first step, the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Brotherhood of Canada was organized, and entrusted with the mandate to find an Orthodox Bishop for the newly-formed Church.

In this case, it was Archbishop Alexander (Nemelovsky) who, at the time, headed the Russian Orthodox Mission. Archbishop Alexander, a Ukrainian by origin, agreed to canonically lead this newly-formed body—the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada. However, a short time later he changed his mind under the pressure of his superiors in St. Petersburg, Russia—likely due to purely political motives.

Therefore, the Brotherhood, was left to search for another Bishop to lead their Church. They found him in the person of Antiochian Metropolitan Germanos (Shahedi). So it was that, at her inception, the Ukrainian Greek- Orthodox Church of Canada found herself under the canonical omophorion of the Antiochian Patriarchate.

The situation would change during the mid-1920's when Archbishop Ioan (Teodorovych) arrived in America from Ukraine. Learning of the presence in the U.S.A. of a bishop-compatriot, the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada appealed to Archbishop Ioan to head their fledgling Church. He agreed and, subsequently, Metropolitan Germanos agreed to relinquish this position. Due to the fact that the Archbishop continued to reside in the United States, the leadership of Archbishop Ioan was more "symbolic," than actual.

In practical terms, the new Church was administered by the Consistory, composed of both clergy and laity, and headed by Fr. Semen Sawchuk, who held the position of Administrator or Vicar General. In other words, he was the one in charge in absence of a bishop. And so, in the absence of Archbishop Ioan, a peculiar method of administration took shape in the Canadian Church, in which the laity—considering their numerical majority, became de facto the decision-makers in the Church. In other words, for all intents and purposes, they actually ran the Church themselves. Eventually, this led to a series of conflicts between the "Presiding Bishop" and the "Presiding Consistory" (heavily influenced by laity). Due to these sorts of conflicts, Vladyka Ioan subsequently decided to leave the Canadian Church.

With the end of the Second World War came another—third—wave, of immigration into Canada. The Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada began anew a process to secure her own Bishop. Bishop Mstyslav (Skrypnyk) agreed to move to Canada to take on this responsibility. He became the first Bishop to carry the title "Archbishop of Winnipeg and all Canada."

Unfortunately, due to a same types of conflict between the Consistory and the Bishop he did not remain in Canada long. After just three years, Vladyka Mstyslav left the Canadian Church and moved to the United States. However brief his stay, he nevertheless infused a renewed spiritual atmosphere into the life of our Canadian Church and was a catalyst for the subsequent hierarchical re-organization of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. Archbishop Mstyslav's uncompromising stand on the proper interpretation of conciliarity and the role of hierarchy in the Church set the foundation for his successor: Metropolitan Ilarion (Ohienko).


II. Formation of a Metropolia

A new era in the history of the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada began with the arrival of Metropolitan Ilarion (1951). Our Church became a Metropolia, composed of three dioceses: the Central Diocese, with headquarters in Winnipeg and presided by the Metropolitan Ilarion himself; the Eastern Diocese, headquartered in Toronto and headed by Archbishop Michael (Khoroshy); and, eventually, the Western Diocese, headquartered in Edmonton, and led by Bishop Andrew (Metiuk).

The second half of the 1950's and the first half of the 1960's were the apex of growth and development of the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada. During this time, the Church was enriched with the addition of two more bishops: Andrew (Metiuk -1959), mentioned above, who later became Metropolitan, and Boris (Yakovkevych-1963), who was first the Bishop of Saskatoon, Vicar of the Central Diocese and, in the 1970's, Bishop of Edmonton.

It is fitting to expand upon the times and work of Metropolitan Ilarion because, in truth, he was an exceptional person within the context of the history and development of our Ukrainian Canadian Church. God sent him to our Church at exactly the right time—when it was crucial to continue and build upon the work initiated by Archbishop Mstyslav.

After agreeing to become "Metropolitan of Winnipeg and All Canada", Vladyka Ilarion painstakingly and methodically visited each and every corner of this vast country. In every location lectures were given, sermons were preached, lessons were taught. His (as he, himself, referred to them) "Canonical Visitations" were always well thought-out and carefully prepared. Each visit had its own purpose and goal. Thus, in a relatively short time, he became acquainted with every priest, every parish and their individual needs and potential.

Metropolitan Ilarion, as an archpastor, dedicated special attention to canonical order and liturgical practices. He wrote, spoke, preached and taught about these matters constantly. As an educator of "the old cloth," his hallmark was his universal interest and encyclopedic knowledge. Witness to this are his works covering linguistics, history, religion, and culture. As the Dean of the Theological Academy (as he referred to the Faculty of Theology of St. Andrew's College) and as one of its professors, Vladyka Ilarion trained a whole generation of dedicated pastors—worthy successors to the pioneer priests.

Metropolitan Ilarion,—an internationally recognized academic, talented teacher, untiring publisher and caring archpastor—truly was a pillar of Orthodoxy in Canada. For Canadians, he was a contemporary Petro Mohyla. His authority, knowledge, archpastoral care, canonical discipline and liturgical order raised our Church to a higher level of esteem and recognition. This was, indeed, the "golden age" of the history of the UGOCC.

After two decades of dedicated archpastoral work, Metropolitan Ilarion, of Blessed Memory, fell asleep in the Lord on 26 March 1972. His passing resulted in deep feelings of great loss. For a short period of time, the primacy of our Church was passed on to Archbishop-Metropolitan Michael (Koroshy) of Toronto. At the Sobor (All Canadian Church Council) of 1975, Archbishop Andrew (Metiuk) was elected to the position of Primate. A student and close co-worker of Metropolitan Ilarion, Metropolitan Andrew was Primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada for ten years (1975-1985). He put the Church back on her foundations after the loss of Vladyka Ilarion, whose death had left a large void and caused some decline. On a personal level, Metropolitan Andrew was kind, agreeable and pastorally inclined. During his service as Metropolitan, three new bishops were consecrated. In 1975 Nicholas (Debryn), was consecrated and in time replaced Metropolitan Michael of Toronto (after his repose in 1977). Unfortunately, Bishop Nicholas was with us for just a brief time himself (he fell asleep in the Lord in 1981). In 1978 Wasyly (Fedak), and in 1983 John (Stinka) were consecrated.

After the death of Metropolitan Andrew in 1985, Vladyka Wasyly was elected Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. Following the passing of Archbishop Boris in 1984, Bishop John was assigned to the Western Diocese. To add to our Synod of Bishops, in 1989 Metropolitan Wasyly consecrated, Yurij (Kalistchuk), who—after a short period of serving as Auxiliary Bishop in Saskatoon—became Bishop of Toronto. Thus, once again, the Church had a complete Synod or Council of Bishops.


III. A New Era

The privilege of leading our Church's joyous celebrations of the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus'-Ukraine (988-1988) into the Holy Orthodox Faith fell to Metropolitan WASYLY. Related to these celebrations were numerous projects commemorating this event in a variety of ways. The greatest of these, however, undoubtedly was the normalization of relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada * with World Orthodoxy. [* The name of our Church—without the word "Greek"— was officially changed in 1985 and ratified by an amendment to our Charter in 1990].

Canonical recognition of our Church by the World's Orthodox Family of Churches had been a dream of each of our Primates—beginning with IOAN (Teodorovych) up until, and including, ANDREW (Metiuk). This issue was an especially significant concern for Metropolitan ILARION (Ohienko). Through his lectures about the History of the Ukrainian Church, Pastoral Theology and Canon Law, Vladyka ILARION prepared us for this moment. His constant challenge to us, as future pastors, was: "My sons! Develop within yourselves a priestly conscience and a canonical mindset."

"In the Church,"—he emphasized— "issues must be resolved in a churchly fashion—without partisan interference or political meddling—and on the basis of Holy Canons and long-standing Sacred Tradition."

Thus, we were all educated in this spirit, but the task of resolving the issue fell—by God's Providence—on the shoulders of Metropolitan WASYLY.

Though the process of canonical maturing of the UOCC was, as mentioned above, lengthy and gradual, the celebrations of the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine formed a much anticipated catalyst to complete the work of our fathers. After almost three years of intense consideration and work, and, concurrently, an extensive discussion of this question at two Sobors (the Extraordinary Sobor of 1989 and the XVIII Sobor in 1990) the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada entered into the fold of her historical Mother Church—the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople—and through it joined the ranks of canonical World Orthodoxy.

Thus, as in 1929 when, through an Act of Parliament and the Federal Charter our Church became a recognized Canadian institution, so in 1990, through the Patriarchal Decree, our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada became a recognized, canonical Church. Truly, the dreams of generations of our Faithful were fulfilled.

The Patriarchal Decree confirmed that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada—having been accepted under the spiritual care of the "Holy Apostolic and Ecumenical Patriarchal Throne…" continues to retain its internal and organizational structure without any change." In other words, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada remains a self-governing Metropolia, composed of three eparchies (or dioceses), with our own, specific administration (Statute and By-Laws) and internal independence, "as a distinct Church body in a distinct and sovereign nation" (Decision of the XVIII Sobor, 1990), as accorded in its Charter, which is an Act of the Canadian Parliament.

Each of our bishops shall continue to carry "the title of the city and the diocese [eparchy] in which he lives and administers," i.e., "Archbishop of Winnipeg and the Central Eparchy…the Bishop of Toronto and the Eastern Eparchy… the Bishop of Edmonton and the Western Eparchy…" In the Decree there is also a provision for three additional, auxiliary bishops: in Saskatoon—Vicar of the Central Diocese; in Montreal—Vicar of the Eastern Diocese; in Vancouver— Vicar of the Western Diocese.

The "Archbishop of Winnipeg and the Central Eparchy [Diocese]" is, at the same time, the "Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada", i.e., the Metropolitan of All Canada. All bishops, priests and deacons commemorate the Metropolitan; the Metropolitan, as Primate of the Church, commemorates the Patriarch.

The Metropolitan communicates directly with the Ecumenical Patriarch, in other words, he is not required to do it through the local Exarch. He consults the Patriarch on important matters of canonical or dogmatical nature only. All other issues are dealt with locally, according to our own Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada Statute and By-Laws.

The Decree also refers to the procedure for electing a new Bishop or Metropolitan. First, this is discussed at a meeting of our Synod of Bishops. Then —via the Consistory—it is presented to an All-Canadian Sobor (as had been done in the past). Following the deliberations of the Sobor, the name (or names) of the candidate (or candidates) is sent to Constantinople for a blessing from the Patriarchal See. The Patriarch has the privilege, as well, of blessing the calling of a Sobor of our Church and confirming its decisions.

The current canonical status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada reminds us of ancient times—the first 700 years of the existence of the Church in Rus'-Ukraine—when the Kyivan Metropolia was under the protection or "omophorion" of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, i.e., before the time of its annexation by Moscow.


IV. Entering the 21st Century

What about the future? Unfortunately, no one knows the future. Our future is in God's hands—"Thy will be done." Nevertheless, much is dependent on us as well—on our synergy, our cooperation with the will of God. As we stand on the threshold of the New Millennium, we realize that: "The harvest, is truly plentiful, but the labourers are few…" [Matt. 9:37]. There lie many tasks before us which we—with God's help—must undertake; many challenges and issues for which we must find solutions. In the creative and enlightened solutions to our present-day challenges lies our future as a viable Church in Canada.

As we contemplate our future, let us remember that life does not stand still: events continue to unfold, circumstances change beyond our control. To avoid the fate of dinosaurs, it is imperative that we remain open to change and renewal. It is also important to remember that each generation approaches and solves its problems in its own fashion. Our task, therefore, as leaders and spiritual parents, is not so much to make decisions for them regarding their future, as it is to prepare our future generation to make those decisions competently, knowledgeably and responsibly. Our task is to prepare the way so that they themselves—our youth, our future—will be equipped to find solutions to the problems that will arise before them intelligently and with good judgment.

For the present time, there is still a great deal to be done, much of which requires our immediate attention. Our future depends on how well we deal with the many challenges that are before us. One of these is the urgent need for better religious education and for the spiritual formation of our membership. Too many of our Faithful lack the basic knowledge about Orthodoxy, about our Church and her doctrine, i.e., her teachings. This is especially evident in the misunderstandings which occur from time to time within our congregations, and in the ensuing polemics and criticisms that result from this. Polemics and criticism are of value only if the person who indulges in them knows what he (or she) is talking about. In order to criticize or polemicize, one must have proper, factual knowledge of our Church—its History, Theology, Canon Law, and so on.

As we begin this new century, we should start with the proper and necessary foundation of a spiritually formed membership. We must give high priority to Christian Education and spiritual formation—for adults, as well as for our children and youth. An appropriate Orthodox Christian catechisation of our membership—on all levels—is "sine qua non"— priority number one. Without it there can be no growth of our Church.

Second, we must focus our attention on our local Community or Congregation. We must all work together to develop a closer relationship with it. This is an especially important task because any further development of our Church depends upon a strong base of spiritually vital, active and viable parishes. This aspect of our religious community—which also includes the systematic establishment and development of new congregations—has not been dealt with seriously. As we enter the 21st Century, we must focus our efforts and energies on the parish—the local "hromada"—its needs, its everyday life and its dynamics. It is, after all, the most important basic component of the Body of Christ we call the Church. If we do not take care of this basic component, how can we expect the rest of the body to function? Our Church can be only as strong as her parishes.

We need to renew and update older congregations and establish new communities of Faithful. We should not fear new methods of ministering, organizing, teaching and evangelizing to aid in fostering and developing the membership of our "hromadas". Informed and participating parish life is the key to our future. In order to accomplish this, however, we need a broader vision, a more serious and focused approach to the issues of our times, and planning for our future.

We cannot simply repeat the past. Yes—we should always respect, give credit to, and learn from life's lessons of the past. However, now we must expand our mission beyond our present and immediate membership and look to the community at large. Our Church's future survival requires that we focus on meeting the spiritual needs of the larger community, not just on ministering to our current, declining Church membership. We must bring back into our Church family those who have left it, as well as opening our doors to those who are seeking the Truth, who want to join our Church. In other words, we must recapture, as our primary focus, the spiritual mission of the Church. It is with this approach that we can count on the renewal and strengthening of our existing congregations and the formation of new ones—the next, crucial step in the development and growth of our Church.

Third, we must facilitate the proper preparation and training of our Church leadership. Our present leadership is aging and for obvious reasons there is a crucial need to find and cultivate their successors. In all of life's activities there is always a need for fresh ideas and re-charged energies. As we enter the New Millennium, our Church must seriously dedicate herself to replenishing her leadership ranks.

We need vibrant, well-educated, thoroughly theologically prepared bishops, priests and laity (Orthodox in practice and in spirit, and aware of our underlying Ukrainian tradition—which is such an important component of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church).

As time passes, this aspect will become increasingly more acute. Already, each of our parishes is requesting a Canadian-educated, bilingual, young, pastor. Where do we find him? In order to prepare qualified cadres of priests, we need qualified candidates. Whose job is it to find, encourage and support these individuals? Is it not the responsibility of each and every one of us, of each and every congregation and of each individual member? Why, then, do we view this as the sole responsibility of the Consistory or of St. Andrew's College? This needs to be a joint effort—it relates to us all!

Until each one of us realizes that this is the personal and communal responsibility of every member, every one of us, our Church will not be free of this crisis. We must stop "passing the buck", and accept our responsibility.

To have candidates, of course, we must have appropriate conditions for their service. Bishops, priests and laity must understand their proper roles and function. We must find a workable balance between "hierarchy" and "conciliarity", because the Orthodox Church is both hierarchical and conciliar. This demands openness and participation. Do these conditions exist in your community and in our Church as a whole?

The fourth challenge facing us is the need for an honest assessment of our membership and the social realities of the Canadian scene. This means a reassessment of our basic assumptions about our identity, and about our role and place within Canadian society. As a people, we have a 100-year history in this God-protected country, our new homeland. We are now in our fifth generation of Canadian citizens. In other words, we are not temporary residents; we are not someone's "diaspora", but we are Canadians first and foremost.

It is not surprising, that our current emotional ties with the "old country" are not as deep as in previous generations. There is nothing strange or abnormal about this. However, this does not mean, that we do not love that which is "ours", nor that we no longer respect our elderly, nor that the fate of our ancestral homeland no longer concerns us, or even that we do not want to assist Ukraine in some way. These concerns for the homeland of our forefathers and our desire to maintain and treasure our heritage should be cultivated. However, for the fourth or fifth generation of Ukrainian Canadians, Ukraine is no longer their "homeland" as it was for their grandparents.

Furthermore, Ukraine is no longer that "fairy tale land" about which we heard from our grandparents and dreamed about… Today's Ukraine is not a fairy tale dream, but often a bitter reality. It is a modern nation with modern economic, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, social, religious, moral and other problems. These problems, however, cannot be solved by anyone other than the citizens of Ukraine themselves, just as our Canadian problems cannot be resolved by anyone else but by us, Canadians, in our Canadian manner, according to our own needs and our own means. Our heritage in Canada—and that also means our identity—is closely related to our Church, our Ukrainian-Canadian customs and traditions. It can be preserved only within the framework of a larger commitment to Orthodoxy, i.e., to the Orthodox Christian Faith and Church.

And finally, the last challenge—but certainly not the least—is our relationship with Ukraine. Though we are Canadians, we are, nevertheless, Canadians of Ukrainian heritage. We must find a helpful and constructive way to interact with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, with whom we are united by blood, culture and Faith. We must do so without interfering in their internal politics and, at the same time, we must always be mindful of proper ecclesiastical protocol. Our present canonical status is a great asset and it could be of great service, providing that, of course, we remain true to our objectives as a Church and do not start watering down the principles for which we stand.

In other words, we must not allow our "canonicity" to deteriorate into "Phariseism." Our Church is an autonomous and distinct entity within the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We are directly under the "omophorion"—the protection or umbrella—of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, yet we remain self-governing internally, according to the precepts of Orthodox Canon Law. We chose to associate ourselves with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople for therein lie our spiritual roots, our past, our tradition.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada began as a "Greek-Orthodox Church". Why? Because every Ukrainian who knows his past gravitates naturally towards his Church's historical center—Constantinople. And it is on this basis that we cannot agree with the current dependence of the Kyivan Church upon Moscow, for this is both a historical anachronism (Kyiv was well-established before Moscow ever existed) and a very painful reminder of the misfortunate history of our people. Furthermore, it is an unpleasant "leftover" of the previous colonial regime. This is unacceptable to us, as it is to any Ukrainian who values his/her people and their history.

We, of course, do not wish to belittle anyone or judge anyone, for even in the so-called Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate there is a certain diversity—while there is still a lot from the past colonial times, there is also much that is Ukrainian.

The essence for us is the crucial, underlying principle that an independent Kyiv—free from the shackles of Moscow, must have its own, independent, canonical Kyivan Church—free from the same control and intrusions of Moscow. On this principle, we cannot be neutral.

Thus, we must, by every means possible, help our Brothers and Sisters cast off the last remaining vestiges of past colonialism, once and for all! We should use our status, as a canonical Church recognized on the world forum of Orthodoxy, to inform the Orthodox World of the historical facts and to promote the canonical independence of the Kyivan Church from Moscow's control.

This, then, is a brief overview of our past, present, and the possibilities for the future of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. In following the directives of the XIX Sobor, during these past four years our attention has been focused on putting our financial affairs on a positive track and putting our own "house in order." Much time and energy has been devoted to solving financial and administrative challenges problems.

Now it is time to re-focus and turn our attention to those other matters which are essential for our further growth and development in the 21st Century. First and foremost we must focus on our Church's missionary work. Remember, we are here to serve—not to be served.

And while doing so, let us remember that life does not stand still… We cannot assume a static attitude but must be dynamic and flexible. We cannot bury our heads in the sand like ostriches, while life passes by. Let us act, not just react, let us create—not destroy. Do not simply criticize—let us energize, for a positive, spiritually uplifting and renewed commitment to the future of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.