Monday, 23 August 2021

Eyewitness to Ukrainian Independence

Chrystyna Lapychak/The Ukrainian Weekly

Historians are not the witnesses or the sources of history. They makes historical judgments upon the witnesses’ accounts. On the 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence, I have to remove my historian’s cap in order to offer a very personal memory of the events that took place in Kyiv in the summer of 1991.

Like most people, I was not privy to any of the political deliberations taking place behind-the-scenes. Nevertheless, I was on site and witnessed the reactions of natives and foreigners, sharing in their joys and anxieties in that moment and for the future.


Sometime in the early part of 1991, my religious superiors in Rome gave me the opportunity to take part in an international Ukrainian seminar, which had been organized the previous year by a group of Soviet Ukrainian cultural activists with the aid and participation of intellectuals and educators of the Ukrainian diaspora. Such a course could only take place in the context of Mikhail Gorbachëv’s glasnost/perestroika program, which aimed to modernize and democratize the Soviet Communist State. 


Inevitably, the constituent republics of the Soviet Union used the opportunity to call for ever-greater forms of national autonomy. In the summer of 1990, parliament had declared that the Ukrainian SSR was a sovereign state within the USSR, but this was insufficient for many dissidents and supporters of complete independence.


It was thrilling for a young man of 21, full of ideals and religious zeal, to obtain a visa from the Soviet Embassy and enter the hitherto forbidden Soviet Union wearing religious garb and speaking Ukrainian. More than discourtesies and prejudices, I remember the kindness and sincerity of the people. The train that took us from Vienna to Lviv, had to stop at the Soviet border to lift the carries onto the Soviet-gauge wheels. The conductor brought tea in Poirot-like glasses in metal holders and, in Russian, asked to teach him the prayer Our Father in Ukrainian. On another train between Lviv and Kyiv, I met a wise old Russian Orthodox monk from Pochaiv, who was amazed at my photographs with Pope John Paul II. He said that he would never be allowed to get so close to his own patriarch. In another carriage, Uzbeks invited me to play cards with them and share their food. They had never seen a minister of religion before.


Our seminar was held in Kyiv (Kiev then). It was called “Міжнародна Школа Українистики” (International School of Ukrainian Language and Culture) and was headed by the future ambassador to Canada and Lebanon, Professor Ihor Ostash and his wife Dr Maryna Hrynych. Classes and lodgings were located at the former Communist Party school on Melnykova Street. Among those who spoke or lectured were Lina Kostenko (honorary patron of the school), Orest Subtelny, Myroslav Labunka. Subtelny’s lecturing style was the best I have ever witnessed.


I also remember with fondness our teachers Tetiana, Solomia, Mykhailo, who was our protector of sorts, and Nina, a komandantka-like Russian-speaker with a heart of gold, who appeared to run the building. I once sat down with her for a shot of hooch to get the hot water turned back on. Then there was the poor woman at the front desk of the great hall, who had to endure the faces and comments (such as "empty head") when we passed by the Jupiter-sized head of the ex-demigod, Vladimir Ilich Lenin.


Students came from Ukraine, Poland, USA, Canada, Italy, Argentina, and Australia, and not everyone had a Ukrainian background. The organizers kindly provided a room suitable for us seminarians to pray the divine services, an a local UGCC priest came from time to time to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. The organizers made sure we were provided with every opportunity to get to know Kyiv, not only its historical monuments but also its contemporary aspects. These included well know cafes, a jazz club (where a student was told off for wearing vyshyvanka until it was discovered he was Canadian), and singing songs from San Remo Festival with two indomitable Italian girls, who had fallen for Ukraine. And there was an Argentinian girl Margarita, whose American-Ukrainian husband would help draft the Ukrainian constitution, in 1992.

I remember the banners hung along the main Khreschatyk Street, in preparation for the visit of President George Bush and his wife Barbara. During that visit, Bush made his famous "Chicken Kiev speech," in an attempt to dissuade Ukraine from leaving the Soviet Union (erroneously comparing the nation to a state in the USA). The remarks were much discussed by staff and students on Melnykova Street.


A curious portent occurred during one of our Ukrainian language lessons. Our class teacher suggested we sing some Ukrainians songs. We suggested “Ще не вмерла Україна” (Ukraine had not perished and neither have its glory and freedom) the national anthem of free Ukraine, written by UGCC priest Mykhailo Verbytsky in the 1860s and adopted by the short-lived Ukrainian National Republic in 1918. Our teacher did not know the words and so she asked her diaspora students to write them on the chalkboard.  I knew it by heart from UNF Ridna Shkola, back home.


One morning, we woke to the news that a coup had taken place in Moscow and that Gorbachëv was under house arrest at his Crimean dacha. Daily news was closely followed, especially from the television placed in a central hall, where everyone could have access. Some of us, myself included, were too young and lacked experience of war or authoritarian regimes to understand the real dangers involved. 

Worried expressions were visible on the faces of the organizers, who were protagonists in the revival of Ukrainian civic and political life. Daily, Greek-Catholics prayed for Ukraine’s fate during Divine Liturgies held at Askold’s Tomb or in the Botanical Gardens, not far from the Vydubytsky Monastery. I remember hearing that the coup leaders had ordered tanks to be sent to Kyiv, presumably to quash the criticism coming from the Soviet Ukrainian Government.


24 August 1991 was a Saturday. In the early afternoon (I think), I set out for the Monastery of the Kyivan Caves (Pecherska Lavra) to purchase a wooden hand cross which I had seen the previous day. As Parliament was in emergency session, public transport was blocked or delayed and it was necessary to take a taxi cab. Mission accomplished, I returned to the school. Upon entering the hall, everyone was gathered in front of the television. In a few minutes, voting numbers were announced followed by cheers and embraces among my fellow students and teachers. I had no idea what the commotion was about. Upon questioning, one of them responded: “Ukraine is free. Parliament voted for independence.”


The school had provided tickets for an already scheduled concert at the “Kiev Palace of Culture,” for that evening. The performance was by Viryovka Choir and Dance Ensemble, directed by Maestro Anatoly Avdiyevsky. Before attending, I made a quick journey back to October Revolution Square (now Independence Square or Maidán) to purchase a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag (which was blessed at the Divine Liturgy the following day). 


In the 1980s, Avdiyevsky had formed a connection with Walter Klymkiw, director of the Oleksander Koshetz Choir of Winnipeg. As a choir member in 1987-1988, I had had the privilege of learning under Avdiyevsky's baton. Among the pieces that he taught us were Mariyan Kuzan’s setting of Shevchenko’s "Psalms of David," and Kyryl Stetsenko’s well known liturgical piece, "Bless the Lord, O my Soul." Klymkiw’s musical diplomacy with Soviet Ukraine was anathema to some political exiles of the diaspora musical establishment. Yet native Ukrainians revealed that the performances, at which sacred and religious music held pride of place, comforted and emboldened them in their strivings toward freedom and the revival of their repressed culture and language. 


With the news of parliament’s declaration, those of us going the performance were full of thoughts and emotions. On the way, our conversations were taken up with predictions about Ukraine’s fate and that of the Soviet Union. At the conclusion of the concert, Avdiyevsky asked us to rise and began to direct his ensemble in an historical performance of the Ukrainian national anthem, Ще не вмерла Україна. As the choir began, a wave of electrifying emotion passed through the onlookers. The Maestro immediately turned and beckoned us to join them in proclaiming-in-song that Ukraine’s glory and liberty were alive and well. Tears flowed and blue and yellow free-Ukrainian appeared in the audience. The ticket from the concert, printed on cheap chemical-smelling yellow-grey Soviet paper, I have kept for thirty years, carefully preserved in a book for posterity.


In the first days after independence, one by one, blue and yellow flags began to replace to Soviet flags that had stood atop the public buildings of the ancient capital for decades. Signs on government ministries also changed their colours and language. But the key events happening behind the scenes were not visible to the ordinary observer in the street. Years later, Serhii Plokhy was able to reveal them one of his many flawlessly-researched and delightful reads, “The Last Empire: the final Days of the Soviet Union.”


At the end of my reminiscence, I am tempted to offer a short, inexpert reflection. No doubt such will be found among those who have already begun to examine Ukraine’s contemporary history. Putting to rest its Soviet past has taken decades and the process is still on-going. Ukraine became independent without a coup in 1991, so perhaps it was necessary for it to have to grow into nationhood. The 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2014 Maidan were growing pains from childlike dependency toward a consciousness of national adulthood. Whether Ukraine will be healthy or a weakling depends not on the forces of history but on the virtues of its sons and daughters today.

Monday, 19 July 2021

The Union of Brest at 425

The UNION of Brest (1595–1596) aimed to heal the lack of canonical unity between the Churches. In the spirit of the 1439 Florentine Union, the Orthodox Church of Kievan Metropolia (today's Ukraine and Belarus) sought to rekindle ecclesial union with the Roman Apostolic See. Prominent Roman theologians and curialists made theological, canonical, disciplinary, and liturgical arguments why they should be forced to conform to the prevailing Roman Rite. Instead, Clement VIII achieved an authentic, enduring unity by confirming their ancient customs and particularities. 

Even after the Union, the bishops-delegates were interrogated by curial cardinals as to why they were not wearing the 'proper' vestments. Unity was achieved in diversity, although not all accepted union and "Uniates" were often treated a second-class Catholics.

When Eastern Catholic migrants came to the Americas and western Europe, similar arguments were made, that multiple Rites an Disciplines within the same territory would harm the unity of the Church. Local Roman bishops cited the newcomers' aversion to the majority Rite as proof of the inauthenticity of their Catholicism. They were accused of disobedience, divisiveness, and having schismatic proclivities. One curial cardinal even cited the Fourth Lateran Council.

On closer examination, those fears were more to do with controversies within the local Churches (such as conflicts with Protestants) than going to the peripheries and casting their nets into the deep waters.

Pope Leo XIII (in the 1890s) and Pope Pius XII (after the Second World War) intervened for the marginalised, when the local Churches were too beholden to their own interests to foster unity in diversity. Thus, their names are written in golden letters in the history of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

After 130 years, the Congregation for the Eastern Churches issued a document admitting that earlier curial policies had not properly provided for the early émigré minorities. Significantly, it also admitted that, as a result of those mistakes, 100,000 faithful abandoned the Catholic Communion.

The means used to achieve unity at Brest were far from perfect. Nevertheless, despite every hindrance from tyrants, churchmen, fastidious theologians, and positivist canonists alike, today the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is a Church in its own right (ecclesia sui iuris), with an international hierarchy and more than 6 million faithful on 5 continents. 

Ut unum sint!

Monday, 12 July 2021

Danylo Skoropadsky on His Father’s Death


 I first learned of Danylo Skoropadsky on a visit to the old Basilian Fathers Museum in Mundare, Alberta; a building which had been erected in 1938 to house the Basilian Press. When the Press moved to a larger premises in Toronto, and Fathers Orest Kupranets Josaphat Jean moved the Basilian Museum in to it. On 28 July 1957, the new Basilian Fathers Museum (which at an earlier state had been christened, by Jean, as the Archbishop Ladyka Museum) was solemnly inaugurated in its new premises. For the occasion, a telegram, which I recently discovered in the Vatican Apostolic Archive, was solicited and received from the Apostolic See.

            On the second floor of the old museum, there was a photograph of Danylo Skoropadsky visiting the Mundare Monastery, in 1938. It was part of his tour across Canada and the United States to promote the Hetmanite movement. The conservative political movement was headed by his father, Pavlo Skoropadsky, who had ruled as Hetman of Ukraine for a few months, in 1918. Pavlo had taken the old Cossack title Hetman and, as the movement promoted an hereditary monarchy, Danylo was accorded the filial title of Hetmanych. For a time, the Sich-Hetmanite Movement gained a certain popularity among diaspora Ukrainians, notably among Greek-Catholics. 

            Hetman Pavlo remained in Berlin while Danylo was given a cosmopolitan education of university as well as learning a trade. Such preparation would help him, as future leader of the international Hetmanite movement, to identify with him supporters and they with him. As a result, Danylo became a very popular among Ukrainians of various political and religious views. With the Second World War about the break out, in August 1939, Danylo was dispatched to London to gain British support, where he teamed up with his father’s emissary, Vladimir de Korostovets.

            The Vatican Archive holds the Archive of the Apostolic Delegation in Great Britain. One of its fascicles is entitled “Ukrainians” and contains correspondence with various Ukrainian clerical and lay representatives, including Skoropadsky and especially Korostovets. Beginning in 1940, they established friendly contacts with the papal representative (apostolic delegate), Archbishop William Godfrey, to whom they gave a “crash-course” on Ukrainians. Although both Orthodox Christians, Skoropadsky and Korostovets admired Catholicism, given its support for their movement and the Church’s anti-communist stance. Having gained his sympathy, Godfrey interceded for them and other Ukrainians before British church and state authorities. 

             De Korostovets introduced Skoropadsky to Godfrey perhaps as early as August 1940 and certainly in August 1941. By the end of the war, the Hetmanych had established confidential relations with the papal envoy. On 7 July 1945, he went to see the Apostolic Delegate with Father Mykhailo Horoshko, a Greek-Catholic chaplain with the Canadian Forces, who was stationed in London at the time. Danylo had received tragic news from Germany and was seeking advice and assistance from the papal diplomat. Godfrey, responded with “sympathy and understanding” and advised Skoropadsky to write to head of the Papal Secretariat of State’s Diplomatic Section, Monsignor Domenico Tardini. Five days later, on 12 July, Danylo had composed 2 letters, transcriptions of which I reproduce here:


 Your Excellency,

            I hope you will forgive me for troubling you with this letter. Only the deepest anxiety about the fate of my family, or, to be more exact -of its remaining members- is my excuse. His Grace Archbishop W. Godfrey advised me to write to you and I am venturing to do so.

            Several days ago news reached me that my father, Paul Skoropadsky, former Hetman of the Ukraine in 1918, has died in Metten, Deggendorf (near Prattling), Bavaria as a result of wounds. I do not know how he was wounded, I have, however, reason to believe from other sources that it happened during a air-raid on Prattling on or about the 14th of April.

            With him was my second sister, Elisabeth, as well as our old nurse. The latter two, according to the above short message, were also wounded and are still in the hospital in Metten. My sister was apparently so weak that she could not write the letter herself which was therefore written by an unknown Ukrainian to me and forwarded through Belgium probably by a Belgian prisoner of war returning home.

            There is no possibility of getting an exact picture of what has actually happened and in what circumstances my sister Elisabeth is at this moment. I very much fear that she and our old nurse (both of them wounded) are absolutely alone, with no moral support, and probably without any means.

            I only know that my father with Elisabeth and the nurse were on the way from Berlin, through Weimar, to join the rest of my family in Oberstdorf, Bavaria. The latter, comprising my mother, the eldest sister Mary and my brother Peter, an invalid from birth, were staying with Russian friends, the Mordvinoff’s, at “Het-Haus”, 40 Loretto-Strasse, Oberstdorf-Allgäu, Ober-Bayern, Germany. However about them too I have no exact news and I fear that they also are facing great difficulties. I only know that until the end of June when I received indirect news that the members of my family in Oberstdorf were alive, my mother knew nothing of the whereabouts of my father, my sister Elisabeth and our old nurse.

            I would be immeasurably grateful, Your Excellency, if you find it possible that something  should be done for them all through the channels of the Catholic Church to help them in their present position, in the first case my wounded sister and our nurse. I am certain that Elisabeth is anxious to join the rest of the family in Oberstdorf. For both of the  realisation that someone is trying to help them would be of great oral support. The same applies to my mother (she is 66 years old), who has now to face, after having lost my father, all the present hardships alone and without my being able, from this country, to be helpful to her. The moment there is any possibility of establishing direct contact from here by mail and also the possibility of sending money, I will do so, however, for the time being, this is impossible.

            I enclose herewith: A) A letter to my mother and I would be very grateful if it could be conveyed to her. She is without any direct news from me since the beginning of the war. B) A letter to M-me A. de Korostovetz, who is presumably staying also in Oberstdorf, if not, her whereabouts should be known by my mother. […]

            I am very much worried about the present discussion on the status of people like my family who are stateless. Their future seems very doubtful. Any transfer to the East would mean for them death or deportation. I would be immeasurably grateful for anything Your Excellency would find it possible to do to allay their anxieties.


Dated the same day, 12 July 1945, Danylo enclosed the following letter, written in English, to his mother Alexandra:


            Darling Mother,

            I am writing you these lines still under the impression of the first shock on receiving the news about father a couple of days ago. How terrible all this is, especially as it was only a few days before the cessation of hostilities! I don’t know whether you have managed to establish contact with Lily and Anna, who both were, according to the message from Dmytro Hryschtchynskyj, on the 12.6.45 in hospital in Metten, near Deggendorf, Bavaria. I hope that our Catholic friends who are forwarding this letter to you will be able to help her and Anna and all of you and to bring you all together in Oberstdorf.

            Personally I have no doubts that the message from Hryschtchynskyj (it was forwarded to me through Belgium) is true. However, I must admit I have never heard his name before. On the other hand his news (that Father died on the 26thof April in Metten as results of wounds) is corroborated by similar rumours, which reached Ara [Aleksandra de Korostovets] from Switzerland and then Vladimir here. News about Father appeared first in the “Swoboda” 38 Jersey City, N.J., USA. However, there was only a short note saying that Father has died on the 26 of March which was hardly possible. In the meantime I received, as I said, the message from Hryschtchynskyj, which was written on the instruction of Lily. He did not give any further details except that Lily and Anna were still in the hospital in Metten (on June 12th), furthermore he gave me your address in Obserstdorf, which I knew.

            I have at once initiated steps through Capt. Mattlaw with the British and American Authorities to have, if possible, an official confirmation and also to help Lily and Anna to join you all in Oberstdorf. But this, as always, takes long time.

            To you all I want to say this: we must face it and take it, as so many other people have done in this war. I should have been at my Father’s side to hear his last words and to tell him that I will always continue his work. However God has decided otherwise ad we are helpless to change it.

            Now we must look ahead and make, if possible, plans for the future. I don’t know at all in what circumstances you are. Have you managed to save something or are you without any means? What is the position of Aunt Olga and her family in general? At the first opportunity I could forward you a little money and I know that our people in Canada and U.S.A., with whom I am in contact will not let us down.

            I think the right thing is first that Elisabeth and Anna should join you in Oberstdorf, then to establish contact with me and let me exactly know what is your position as far as money and other means are concerned, and then to decide, whether you should stay for the time being in Oberstdorf (where life is probably cheaper) or should try to go to Iritirzor[?] (I have made all the necessary applications for obtaining of visas along time ago. There were difficulties, but I hope it will be possible to overcome them. In any case P. Kovaliv in Geneva, wrote me You could stay for several months with him, until things in general settle down.

            I hope it will be possible for you to send me a message using the sae channels as I have sending you this letter.

            I have also notified Pavlo Rodzienko about your position. He is with the Forces in Italy. In particular I wrote him about the urgence [sic] of help for Lily. It is not possible to write about everything in this letter as space is short and it must be forwarded in the morning. Only a couple of words about Vladimir and myself. We both are alright and are working hard to help you all. Also we don’t forget our friends, fellow countrymen elsewhere.

            I am working in my factory and am preparing quite well. Michael Hethman is as helpful as always. Everybody in the New World is very anxious about all of you.

            Personally I am not married yet, but am in love with the same woman of whom I wrote to you and Father a long time ago. She has helped me to go through many difficult times during the last years. The question of marriage is still open, and will depend, dear Mother, on your word an advice and also on what were the ideas of Father on this matter. I will write you about all this at some later date, as now the question of having you all together, in safety and warmth, is more urgent.

            God bless you all! Kisses to all of you! My love to Aunt Olga and all her family and do not get downhearted, as we all think of you and are working for you.

            Yours Danylo

            P.S. Vladimir is sending his love to Ara and to all of you. D.

            P.S. I have received a letter yesterday from Olenka’s father in law and we are going to try to find him in Würzburg or elsewhere. Also her husband until last night I did not know his name. D.

 The handwritten letters to Tardini and his mother remain in the Archive of the Apostolic Delegation. Further research is required to determine the reason they were never forwarded to Rome. Likely, Godfrey sent a summary to his superior, who perhaps indicated that the communications could not be forwarded. Godfrey was extremely zealous in another matter: the rescue of Gertrud of Habsburg-Lothringen and her children Maximillian and Claudia. They arrived safely in Paris, Dublin, and London, accompanied by Vladimir de Korostovets’s wife Aleksandra (Ara).


Ara de Korostovetz
            Danylo Skoropadsky continued to have close relations with Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Britain until his untimely death, eleven years later. Below are a list of some events which I have come upon in my research:

            On 15 January 1946, Skoropadsky introduced Father Vasyl Kushnir to the Apostolic Delegation. As President of the Canadian Ukrainian Committee, he had “come to Europe to study the position of the Ukrainian Displaced Persons on the Continent.” Kushnir was instrumental in repatriating Ukrainian refugees from DP camps in Germany to Canada and USA.

            On 27 April 1947, together with Ara and Vladimir de Korostovetz, he attended a Divine Liturgy at the 218 Sussex Gardens celebrated by Canadian Greek-Catholic missionary, Father Josaphat Jean. After the Liturgy, Jean held the inaugural meeting of Saint Theodore of Canterbury Greek-Catholic Parish. These Orthodox notables took part and pledged their support to help acquire a building for the fledgling congregation.  

On 17 January 1948, Father Jean sent Skoropadsky and de Korostovets to lobby the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Griffin, for a church building in London. Following that meeting, Griffin became more energetic in helping to look for a suitable structure. The Orthodox leaders continued to actively liaise until a church was found.

            Skoropadsky became one of the founders of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) in January 1946.  After a rift occurred in the organization, in 1949, he accepted the titular headship of AUGB and sought to bridge all divisions in the Ukrainian community. Rather than acting as a partisan politician, Skoropadsky was content to be a figure of unity among various parties, in imitation of the role of the British Monarchy.

            Vladimir and Ara Korostovets participated in a pilgrimage to Rome for the papal Holy Year of 1950. Ara was an iconographer and donated an icon of the Madonna of Hoshiv (a western Ukrainian shrine) to Pope Pius XII, for which she received a telegram from the papal Secretariat of State. In 1953, Ara completed the iconostasis of the Belarusian Catholic Mission begun by another iconographer.

In August 1953, Hetmanych Danylo thanked Archbishop Ivan Buchko for his work on behalf of all Ukrainians, during an AUGB reception for the Archbishop, at 49 Linden Gardens. In February 1954, Skoropadsky made sure to have the head of the Greek-Catholic Church in Britain, Monsignor Aleksander Malynovsky, next to him at the head table, during a banquet held for Danylo’s fiftieth birthday.

In 1956, Skoropadsky organized an 11,000 strong Polish-Ukrainian protest to Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to Britain. Some have speculated that, in revenge, Khrushchev ordered his assassination the following year; the first of a series of poisonings of Ukrainian émigré leaders which, in 1961, were shown to have been ordered by the dictator. Monsignor Malynovsky had the unenviable task of representing the UGCC at Skoropadsky funeral, at the end of February 1957.

Only three months later, in May 1957, Archbishop Godfrey accepted the nomination as the first Apostolic Exarch for Greek-Catholics in Britain. He had been offered the post because he had succeeded Cardinal Griffin, who had already accepted the appointment in 1955, but died before the exarchate could be established. The succession was fortuitous for Ukrainians, since Griffin had been rather lukewarm to their cause whereas, thanks in large measure to his friendship with Skoropadsky and Korostovets, Godfrey was extremely well prepared to assume spiritual leadership over Ukrainian Catholics, whose national and religious causes he sympathized with. 

As yet in a pre-ecumenical period, Skoropadsky and the de Korostovets’s forged solidarity among Ukrainians of different denominations and factions, working to breakdown down prejudices and establish close cooperation, for the prosperity of the local hromada and the benefit of the Ukrainian nation spread across five continents.

Friday, 2 July 2021

Ukrainian, Canadian, British Sources in Vatican Archives 1939-1958

In 2020, for the first time time in 22 years, I was unable to access the Vatican Apostolic Archive due to COVID lockdowns and restrictions. I was consoled by the fact that the Archives of the Congregation of the Eastern Churches and the Secretariat of State (Second Section) found a place for me. At the beginning of 2021, I visited ARSI, the Jesuit General Archives, and received bookings for the Vatican Apostolic Archive through to its summer closure, at the end of June. 

            During this period, I have gained great satisfaction in discoveries from several archival fonds for the period of 1939 to 1958. Among these “sub-archives” are: Secretariat of State (Internal Affairs); Nunciature (Apostolic Delegation) in Great Britain; Pontifical Household (Papal audiences); Nunciature (Apostolic Delegation) in Canada.

            What follows is a selection of some of the most interesting finds, some of which have or will be turned into individual articles, or have been included in ongoing projects:


1917: After the disestablishment of the Russian Orthodox Church and its well-funded international missions, several priests petitioned Bishop Nykyta Budka to become Greek-Catholics. Panteleimon Bozyk, author of the famous polemical history, Churches of the Ukrainians in Canada, was received in 1924. Father Stefan Oliynyk’s father, who had been the Orthodox priest in Smoky Lake, Alberta, was received in 1946. Their sons, Vladimir Bozyk and Gregory Oliynyk, became priests of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg. Upon his passing, Monsignor Vladimir Bozyk bequeathed a substantial grant for the use of Ukrainian Catholic education. 


1917 August: Metropolitan Sheptytsky wrote to General Superior, Father Włodzimierz Ledóchowski, proposing that the Jesuits set-up a Byzantine-Rite branch. This was implemented a few years later. During the Second World War, missionaries Jerzy Moskwa, Viktor Novikov, Walter Ciszek, Pietro Leoni and others sent reports to the Jesuit Generalate. By 1957, a conflict arose between veteran missionaries and the younger professors in Rome, over how “native” the Russicum had gone in its attitude towards Russian Orthodoxy. This gave rise to a conflict between dicasteries of the Roman Curia.


1918 July 16: From Hafford, Saskatchewan, Bishop Budka telegraffed the Apostolic Delegation in Ottawa on the day he was released from false arrest. Apostolic Delegate Pietro Di Maria asked Archbishop Alfred Sinnott of Winnipeg to help defend the bishop.


1922 March: Bishop Budka interceded for the Yorkton Redemptorists in a conflict with the Brothers of Christian Schools, who were administering St Joseph’s College in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. The conflict threatened to shut down the entire Eastern-Rite Redemptorist apostolate in Canada, which Budka said would be a disaster for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. 


1942: Bishop Ivan Buchko brought Father Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky to Rome from Switzerland, for specialized biblical studies. The published index of the Nunciature in Italy lists him as "of Polish nationality," without further qualification.

1940–1950: In London, England, Vladimir de Korostovets and Danylo Skoropadsky informed the Aposotlic Delegate on Ukrainian issues. The result was that Archbishop William Godfrey was informed and well disposed to Ukrainian DPs and helped establish the UGCC in Britain. Godfrey also intervened vigorously with the Home Office to stop them being deported. A decade later, he was well prepared to accept the mantle of Apostolic Exarch for Greek-Catholics.


1943 December: Apostolic Delegate Antoniutti gave a dispensation to Martin Thomas Demetrius Greschuk to become an eparchial seminarian, since he had been a novice with the Brothers of Christian Schools. Greschuk went on to become auxiliary bishop and later eparch of Edmonton, Canada. 


1945 July 12: Danylo Skoropadsky wrote to his mother on learning of his father Pavlo’s death. The letter was entrusted to Apostolic Delegate Godfrey in London, but does not seem to have been sent.


1945 August 3: Pius XII received Bishop Buchko with Canon Yustyn Hirnyak and journalist Roman Holiyan, who were assisting Ukrainian refugees in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Hirnyak later served in Britain and USA.


1947–1950: Vladimir de Korostovets intervened with the Apostolic Delegate in London, and the Nuncios in Ireland and Vienna, until he was able to secure the repatriation of Gertrud von Habsburg and her children Claudia and Maximillian. They were accompanied by de Korostovets’s wife Alexandra (Ara) to safety in England and Ireland. They had been living in fear after the kidnapping and deportation of Wilhelm von Habsburg (Vasyl Vyshyvany) in August 1947.


1948 January: Rumours that HM Government was considering Catholic bishops to be members of the House of Lords. Cardinal Griffin and Archbishop Godfrey thought it might lay the hierarchy open to political partisanship. Pius XII and the Secretariat of State maintained an open attitude, awaiting a concrete proposal which never materialized.


1948   Retirement of W.L. Mackenzie-King and succession of Louis St Laurent as PM of Canada. Constitutional evolution was taking place with the Canadianization of the monarchy, and projects for a Canadian flag and anthem. Diplomatic relations between Canada and the Holy See were not initiated by the Catholic PM, who feared it would further divide the country, due to ongoing Protestant prejudice.


1949 April: After Newfoundland joined Canada, the Apostolic Delegate suggested reducing the number of Anglophone ecclesiastical provinces, placing the Archdiocese of Winnipeg under the historic Metropolitan See of St. Boniface. The previous year, the single Ukrainian Exarchate had been reorganized and divided in three. It became a metropolitan ecclesiastical province of its own in 1956.


1949: MP Jean Lesage made a speech in Parliament on the proposed UN declaration of Human Rights. He repeated MP Pinard’s statement that all rights and liberties come from God, which is based on the healthy philosophy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. “This remains the Christian foundation of the principles of our democracy.”  


1950: Archbishop Ladyka’s health began to deteriorate and he spent many months at Mundare Hospital in 1942, 1945, 1950. He received auxiliary bishops in 1943 and 1948. In 1950, his Mundare advisors convinced him to petition for Bishop Savaryn to be appointed administrator. Instead, Father Hermaniuk was named auxiliary bishop, vicar general, and later apostolic administrator and eventually his successor.


1951 June: the episcopal consecration of Maxim Hermaniuk took place during a Congress in Winnipeg which had been posponed the previous year due to the Winnipeg Flood. The packed weekend included the opening of the new Cathedral of Saints Volodymyr and Olha. The event were attended by over 7,000.


1951 November: Princess Elizabeth left Canada for USA as “Princess of Canada.” In Washington D.C., She received the US President not at the British but at the Canadian Embassy. At Her accession the following year, Elizabeth was the first sovereign to be proclaimed “Queen of Canada.” Other former dominions (realms) followed suit.


1953: The OSBM General Chapter agreed to found a minor seminary for the 4 Canadian exarchates in Edmonton for 100 students, grades 7-12. The project was cancelled due to a conflict with Bishop Savaryn. The Ukrainian Redemptorists established the minor seminary in Roblin, Manitoba, and the Basilians opened a high school in Toronto.


1954 October 6: Cardinal Griffin declared that “the Wembley pageant and crowning [Marian Year] was one of the greatest functions held in this country since the reformation.”


1954-1958 Letters and telegrams of homage to Pius XII were sent by Orthodox and Catholic Ukrainians including: Father Mykola Matychak on behalf of Scottish Ukrainians, Professor Ilarion Holubovych on behalf of Ukrainians in the Potteries and the Ukrainian Press Association, General Pavlo Shandruk, the Ukrainian Women’s Exposition Committte of New York, “Obnova” Ukrainian University Students of Canada. John Kozoriz of the Ukrainian Catholic Council and Mary Wawrykow, Nell Kozoriz, Pauline Konofall, Marge Orobko of the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada.

1955 March: Cardinal Griffin considered issuing a statement when the UK had decided to manufacture the hydrogen bomb. This was in line with Pius XII's discourse to the Eighth Assembly of the World Medical Association. He also hoped to enlist the Scottish, Irish, and Australian Catholic Hierarchies. During the war, he had attempted to issue a joint statement with the American bishops against indiscriminate bombing, but Cardinal Spellman replied: "For views on bombing, see my book, Action this Day." On Sunday, 13 March, British bishops delivered sermons in their cathedrals on the Basis of Peace, cautioning against nuclear weapons.

1956 May: Ronald Knox had once been proposed as a titular bishop by Cardinal Griffin. In 1952, an enthusiastic layman proposed he be named cardinal. In May 1956, Apostolic Delegate O’Hara suggested Knox again but Griffin said he could not take the responsibilities of an auxiliary bishop, as he preferred a private life of scholarship. Instead, the Cardinal asked for Monsignor Derek Worlock, but the process was never completed due to Griffin’s untimely death, in August of the same year.


1958 September 15: Pius XII consented to have the Ukrainian Bandurist Capella, on tour in western Europe, perform before him at Castel Gandolfo. The majority of its members were Orthodox Christians who had been forced to flee Stalin’s utopia. In the meantime, the Pontiff died. 

Saturday, 8 May 2021

General Pavlo Shandruk to Pope Pius XII

Shandruk in Polish uniform

 Your Holiness! 

            On the solemn day, for the whole world of 80th Birthday Jubilee of Your Holiness,

On behalf of 20,000 soldiers of the 1st Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army and tens of thousands of their relations, I bend my knee in reverence with deepest gratitude before Your Holiness for having saved those soldiers from certain death.

Those soldiers, and thousands of others of that Division who perished at [the Battle of] Brody were the finest sons of the Ukrainian Nation.

They joined the 1st Ukrainian Division to arm themselves in the hope that, at the opportune moment, they would drive out the old enemy of our beautiful yet somehow unfortunate Ukrainian homeland. And 90% were the flower of the Ukrainian intelligentsia.

 Red Moscow [The Communist Kremlin] demanded their repatriation and the Western Allies, ignorant of the Ukrainian people’s struggle for freedom and independence, were on the verge of handing them over.

At that moment, the one and only hope for us all was the profound faith that only the intervention of Your Holiness could rescue all of those brave patriots. It was with this hope that I, along with delegations from those very soldiers, approached our beloved Prince of the Church, Archbishop Ivan [Buchko], to plead with Your Holiness for help and deliverance.

Your Holiness,

as the Great Patron and Protector of all who are sorrowful and oppressed, You did not refuse His Excellency Archbishop Ivan. We were all saved by the Apostolic See of Your Holiness. And I, their commander, prostrate in filial humility before the Greatest, Worthiest, and Holiest Figure of Your Holiness, we have the greatest honour and good fortune on the day of the 80th jubilee of Your Holiness, to beg the Merciful Saviour and His Most Holy Mother, to bestow endless gifts upon Your Holiness, long life and excellent health for the good of all humanity. All of us without exception will always offer our humble prayers for Your Holiness. We beseech Your Holiness for Your Apostolic Care and intercession before the Throne of the Most High on behalf of our poor humiliated Nation. 

            Prostrate in profoundest respect and endless gratitude          

                        Pavlo Shandruk


Ex-commander of the Ukrainian National Army

May 1956 Anno Domini


Documentation from the reign of Pius XII (1939–1958) was opened to scholars in March 2020. Shortly after this, I discovered an Italian translation of the above letter, made by Archbishop Ivan Buchko, in the Archive of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches. The original letter, written in Ukrainian, was only discovered last month in the Vatican Apostolic Archive.

            Finally, scholars will be able to clarify the role played by the Apostolic/Holy See, through its various officials and representatives, in rescuing the Ukrainian Division from being repatriated to the Soviet Union, as demanded by Joseph Stalin. Several books and many articles have been written on the Division but the role of the Pope and his Curia have hitherto been shadowed in mystery and innuendo, since the relative source documents were not accessible. My friend, Professor Myroslav Shkandrij, will touch on this question in his upcoming book on this controversial topic. 

Buhcko visits the Division 1946

          Bishop Buchko brought the desiderata of Ukrainians refugees to the Pope directly and via his Roman Curia, especially through the Congregation which was then called Pro Ecclesia Orientali (today it is Congregation of the Eastern Churches), headed by the indomitable Cardinal Eugène Tisserant. The refugees included both Catholic and Orthodox Christians, and the Apostolic See assisted all of them without discrimination. Among these was the future Metropolitan Ilarion Ohienko, who requested help with research in Switzerland. Buchko asked Tisserant to intervene and the latter obtained access for Ohienko to the University of Fribourg. In arranging this, Tisserant wrote to the Nuncio in Switzerland, in June 1946: “It is the wish of Holy Father that the Oriental Congregation also takes an interest in the material and moral wellbeing of the Orthodox Bishops, in seeking to help them and to assist them with all their just requests.”

In the Spring of 1945, Bishop Buchko wrote to the Pope, to Cardinal Tisserant, and to Monsignors Montini and Tardini of the Papal Secretariat of State. As a Frenchman in Italy who had made his sympathies clear during the War, Tisserant was highly respected by the victors. He lobbied his Allied political and military contacts and the Papal Secretariat of State, which in turn lobbied Allied authorities all over Europe not to forcibly repatriate Ukrainians to the Soviet Union. The Division was only one among several groups in danger of repatriation. Tisserant also brought the Ukrainians’ appeals to the Pope in an audience of 14 and 28 July 1945 and on subsequent occasions.

On 30 September 1955, a general letter of homage was sent to the Pope by the Association of ex-members of the Division. On 15 June 1956, Buchko entrusted Shandruk’s private letter to Cardinal Tisserant, who sent it to the Pope via the Secretariat of State. At the time, the ex-general was residing in Trenton, Ohio, as indicated on Buchko’s Italian translation of the letter (where he substituted “Trenton” for  “травень” (May) 1956. Buchko also airbrushed himself out and substituted the passages referring to himself with thanks to the Oriental Congregation. Although Shandruk had not made that reference in his original letter, Buchko was aware that, without Cardinal Tisserant’s dogged perseverance (as evidenced by internal notes between Tisserant and his own officials), the papal Secretariat of State would not have intervened so vigorously for the Ukrainian prisoners and refugees. In response, the Pope ordered his underlings to thank the old General and to assure him of the Pope’s enduring concern for the “severely tried” Ukrainian people.

Shandruk in UNR uniform
General Shandruk was an Orthodox Christian from Volyn. In the First World War he served as a officer in the Russian Army and later in the army of the Ukrainian National Republic. After the war he continued his association with the UNR in Exile. In 1936, he joined the Polish Army and fought to defend the Second Republic against the German Invasion of September 1939 (for which he was posthumously decorated by the Polish Government-in-Exile, in 1965.) In February 1945, he was appointed commander of  a Ukrainian National Army and was dispatched to Austria to organize the former Galicia Division, for that purpose. On 8 May 1945, he surrendered the Ukrainian Army to the British and American Allies. There has been talk of the intervention of Polish General Anders, but it is clear that Shandruk attributed the salvation of his men, at the most critical moment, to the intervention of the Pope.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

The Jesuit Refoundation of Saint Paul’s in Winnipeg

Saint Paul's at Ellice & Vaughan
An Alma Mater nourishes both the intellectual and the spiritual sides of man. Two of the educational institutions I attended were run by the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits. One of the archives which I had always intended to consult was their central archive in Rome, Archivium Romanum Societatis Iesu (ARSI), and last month I had the privilege of doing so. ARSI is well organized and administered and each researcher is assigned an assistant. The organization of the files reveal the top-down military structure of the Jesuit chain-of-command. For instance, the files of the “Vice-Province of Upper Canada” contain scheduled annual reports by superiors, advisory counsellors, rectors, pastors. All of these were sent directly to the General Superior, who made all of the final decisions. 

The building which houses ARSI is also home to a number of outdoor cats, which I photographed through the glass corridors leading from the entrance on Borgo Santo Spirito, about 250 stairs up a hill overlooking the Vatican. Cats and historians are curious creatures. I had gone there to look for documents pertaining to Jesuit missions in eastern Europe. Nevertheless, I also found a letter from the first Archbishop of Winnipeg regarding Saint Paul’s College-High School. My curiosity led me to trace the correspondence to its source. What I discovered was a compelling story of how the Jesuits transformed Saint Paul’s from a failure into a success.

Saint Paul’s College

The Archdiocese of Saint Boniface already had its own institution of higher learning run by the French-speaking Jesuits. Discussions for establishing a college for English speakers began in 1911. In 1915, Saint Boniface was divided in two, with the western portion becoming the Archdiocese of Winnipeg.  In 1926, the first Archbishop, Alfred Arthur Sinnott, founded Saint Paul’s College for his own archdiocese. 

To assume the direction of the College, Sinnott turned to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) only after the English-speaking Jesuits declined to take up his offer. As a result of their refusal, he became cold toward the Jesuits, and there was even talk of their leaving Winnipeg altogether. Father Erle G. Bartlett, stationed at Saint Ignatius Parish, helped to heal that rift. Bartlett befriended the Archbishop and encouraged him in his plans to improve the College. 

After five years, the Oblates left and Sinnott entrusted the direction of Saint Paul’s to his diocesan clergy. He also moved it from a modest Selkirk Avenue building to the corner of Ellice Avenue and Vaughan Street, a centrally located campus with large playing fields. The magnificent Manitoba College building had been built by wealthy Presbyterians as a training centre for their ministers. When Presbyterians and Methodists joined to form the United Church of Canada, they pooled their resources at the nearby Wesley College, making Manitoba College redundant. 

William Hingston, SJ
After two years of administration by the secular clergy, the college was on the verge of collapse. The Society of Jesus was famous for its pedagogical skills and organizational methods, which had produced many of the finest universities and schools across the globe. With this in mind, Sinnott wrote to the Provincial Superior of the English-speaking Jesuits (Province of Upper Canada), Father William Hingston (son of the famous physician, senator, and Montreal mayor, Sir William Hales Hingston.) In his letter of April 1933, Sinnott asked Hingston for the Jesuits to assume the direction of Saint Paul’s. He did not hide the fact that the institution was burdened with a large debt ($178,000) but promised that the diocese would help. 

Wealthy hotelier and brewer Patrick Shea had already contributed toward an modern annex to the building, named in memory of his son Paul Ignatius, who had been a student at the Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York. Shea was terminally ill and further benefactions were expected in his will. Sinnott kept pressuring Father Hingston who, looking toward his order’s future, was adverse to refuse a second time and possibly lose their Winnipeg base, “the key to the west and capital of prairie provinces.”


from SPHS Archive
Father General advised the Provincial to proceed with caution but the Archbishop, anxious to have the Jesuits assume the administration for the 1933–1934 school year, gave Hingston to understand that they could expect $10,000 annually from the Shea estate. In response to an urgent telegram asking for permission to accept the Archbishop’s offer, on 14 August 1933, Ledóchowski cabled Hingston from Zurich: “affirmative, consultoribus consentientibus (affirmative, with the consent of your council of consulters.” On 26 August, Hingston signed a contract to transfer the administration and property of the College from the Archdiocese to the Jesuit Province of Upper Canada.

Father Holland’s Team

Archbishop Sinnott had wanted Father Bartlett to lead the College but the Jesuit superiors made a careful selection of four priests, each intended to compliment the others. More intellectually gifted, Bartlett was named Dean of Studies. John Samuel Holland, rector of Campion College in Regina, was chosen to be rector of Saint Paul’s. This office also included the responsibility of acting as superior over his four confreres. Joseph McDonald became Prefect of Discipline, and Christopher Keating professor of Philosophy and spiritual director.

While Bartlett and others wrote to the Father General in Latin, Holland addressed his superior in his native English. Holland’s letters to Ledóchowski were atypical among the Jesuits’ reports to Rome. Rather than focusing on the internal aspects of their mission, Holland focused foremostly on people, making them the subject rather than the object. His reports from Regina began by describing the material condition of his flock, expressing concern for farmers’ failed crops and that 75% of the people were living on relief. Yet, even in such dire straits, Holland, a consummate optimist, saw “much to be thankful for.” 

On 12 January 1934, four months after assuming the rectorship of Saint Paul’s, Father Holland penned his first letter to the General Superior:

from SPHS Archive
“I dreaded coming here as rector knowing the conditions that prevailed here during the past two years. The finances were in bad shape as little attention was paid to economy; the studies were greatly neglected though lack of firmness of the part of those in charge and lack of interest on the part of the teachers; and discipline was an unknown quantity. Besides there existed little or no union among the members of the faculty.  Thank God conditions have improved and we are getting along much better than I had anticipated. We have been able to meet our current expenses so far… There is a marked improvement also in the studies but it will take time before the results will be satisfactory…”

At the end of February 1934, the Provincial Superior made his first canonical visitation (inspection) of the College to observe the progress of his confrères first-hand. He had the occasion, in his letter to the Father General of 12 March, not to regret his choice of Holland, whom he described (in Latin) as 

“extremely patient and supremely kind to Ours [Jesuits], to the students and their parents and to the other priest and lay teachers. Because of him, they submitted to the new regime and freely accepted greater burdens than previously. He is sufficiently firm but never excessively nor does he anger easily. The qualities which perhaps he lacks are found in the other Fathers. The Archbishop, who wanted Father Bartlett, now sees the wisdom of the Society in appointing Father Holland as rector.”

The other members of the Jesuit team were also playing essential roles. McDonald “successfully introduced discipline which hitherto had never existed.” A new spirit had begun: “everyone is teaching better, the students are working harder, and this was accomplished by only four Fathers who have already given the College a Jesuit aspect.” This “aspect” included the setting up of a Marian Sodality, the Apostleship of Prayer, and the practice of frequent Communion.

College Debt

In their first year, Jesuits were successful in improving the morale at Saint Paul’s, but financial problems were more difficult to resolve. And Father Hingston would live to regret his words of two years previously:  “Financially the prospect is not exorbitantly rosy… perhaps I should have driven a harder bargain with the Archbishop.” Although the Jesuits managed to reduce expenses and cover expenditures, by frugality and efficiency, the college debt continued to grow. 

Now that the Jesuits had a second mission in Winnipeg, Hingston wanted to give up Saint Ignatius Parish. Holland and his locals confrères opposed this. They warned the Father General that it would be a grave error, since the College needed local friends and benefactors and could not exist as a stands-alone affair. Holland believed that, if the parishioners of Saint Ignatius would take up the cause of the College, their attitude would spread to the other parishes of the Winnipeg Archdiocese.

In the spring of 1935, a loophole was discovered which served as a bargaining tool: Although Sinnott had transferred to college according to civil law, he had failed to secure the necessary approval from Rome, required by Canon Law. Sinnott had sent the request to the Papal Embassy (Apostolic Delegation) in Ottawa which forgot to send it on to Rome. On 4 April, the Father General wrote Cardinal Bilsetti (in charge of the Vatican education department) explaining that Hingston had been remiss about this and other matters, so he sent a priest directly from England to replace him.

In May 1935, the new Provincial Superior, Father Henry Keane, confessed to the Archbishop that the Jesuits would have to withdraw, as they were unable to continue at the College under the current circumstances. Sinnott responded furiously, on 10 June, that he wanted them to fulfil their contractual obligations:

 “I shall be very sorry to see the Jesuit Fathers leave St. Paul’s College, for they have done excellent work and I am much pleased with them. But with regard to the financial situation I have been grievously disappointed.” 

The College’s creditors had forced the Archbishop to pay the interest on one of the loans, and Sinnott demanded a decision from the Jesuits within three weeks.

Keane advised Ledóchowski to obtain Vatican permission to leave the College unless Sinnott helped with the debt. The Provincial did not think the Archbishop would let them go because, as he wrote to the General, “under our direction the College has flourished, the number of students has increased, it recovered its fame, it has achieved successful exam results once more.” 


On 4 July, the General responded to the Provincial that one could manage such a debt under the conditions of the Great Depression and told him to remind Sinnott of his promises of $10,000 annual support. The Jesuits were prepared to remain but not to shoulder the whole debt. Ledóchowski even expressed doubts about civil legalities because, under English Common Law, a contract was invalid if one of the conditions (i.e. annual support) was not met. When questioned, however, Father Hingston was vague about exactly what Sinnott had “guaranteed” in the way of financial support. 

Keane increased the number of priests at Saint Paul's from 4 to 7.   In the meantime, the conflict over the College soured relations between the Archdiocese and the Winnipeg Jesuits. After a year of studies in Montreal, Winnipeg seminarian John Hanley had entered the Society of Jesus. Sinnott subsequently dispatched the bill for Hanley’s studies to Keane, which he was advised to pay without protest by Ledóchowski, so as not to make relations even worse.

On 26 September 1935, the College Rector sent his annual report to the General in which he touched the misunderstanding between the Provincial and the Archbishop. John Holland explained that Sinnott was poor and his cathedral was in heavy debt. The Archbishop was under a false assumption that the Upper Canada Jesuits were wealthy and would take care of the debt. And Father Hingston had been led to believe that the Patrick Shea had made a large bequest to the College. 

Holland identified the root of the problem in the expectations placed upon the Sheas' on-going generosity. He felt that the Archbishop had been too forceful with the Sheas before the Jesuits assumed the college mantle. It was Margaret Byrne Shea, rather than her late husband, who given to charitable works and who had taken an interest in Saint Paul’s. Although she had cooled toward Sinnott, she continued to be close to the Jesuits and promised $25,000 for the College, provided that none of it went to the Archbishop.

A Mistake to Give it up

With the debt looming, the Jesuits had to carefully consider their permanence at the College. In the autumn of 1935, several Canadian Jesuits sent their views to the General Superior. On 26 September, John Holland wrote: 

“The Fathers who are here are all convinced that there is a splendid future for St. Paul’s College and that it would be a mistake to give it up. They are willing to make every sacrifice, as they have been doing, to retain it. … The enrolment has increased considerably this year…The College is becoming increasingly known and especially its reputation for order and discipline being spread. … The Archbishop is very anxious that the Jesuits keep the College. He has been quite pleased with the progress that has been made and  has shown himself ready to help us all he can.”

On 17 November, Father James Carlin, Prefect of Studies, told of Holland’s extraordinary skills: 

“The Reverend Rector shows great wisdom and discretion in all his dealing and due to his untiring efforts, the College is being spoken of most highly by the people of Winnipeg and especially by His Grace [Sinnott].” 

Carlin had a great vision for the College’s future, which included a training centre for Jesuit recruits: 

“To my mind this is the very best opening we have in Canada. We are making every possible effort and sacrifice to finance and we can do so, if given time. … Our affiliation with the University permits a theological faculty with degrees of Divinity. If we established this course we would become the Innsbruck of Western Canada. A Canisianum would prove most popular to the western bishops who are trying hard to conduct small seminaries of their own. The West is our field, if we establish immediately.”

Father Adélard Dugré, the “Assistant” (regional delegate) advised that the Jesuits accept the College but ask for a new contract, freeing them of some of the debt. And, finally, the Apostolic Delegate (papal representative), Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, said that the only way to guarantee a prosperous future for the College would be for the Jesuits to stay with it.

Refinancing and Reconciliation

At the beginning of 1936, the clouds that had been hovering over Saint Paul’s began to clear. In January, the Provincial wrote to the General that Margaret Shea had donated $6,000 to pay off one of the banks. And the Jesuits had succeeded in refinancing a loan, at a lower rate of interest.

In May, Father Keane came from Toronto to make an official visitation. In his report to Rome, he noted that, in spite of many difficulties, the College had increased enrolment and had been successful with exam results and with human formation. In addition, “religious formation and solid teaching of Christian doctrine were constantly required “neque negligatur ad veram et christianam urbanitatem institutio (so that formation of true Christian manners be not neglected) –Letters of Saint Ignatius Loyola, 386.” He believed that “the experiment [of running Saint Paul’s] promises to be a solid success in every way.”

In his 22 May letter to Father Ledóchowski, Father Keane recounted an event incident that had occurred a few days previously. The Jesuits had invited Archbishop Sinnott to lunch and, the following day, Sinnott returned the compliment, after which he had a long conversation with the Jesuit Provincial. The Archbishop behaved very amicably, never waning in his praise for the College and the Jesuits. “Above all, he praised Fathers Holland, Kelly, and McDonald, who had “transformed the students for the better,” which had result in an increase of financial support from their families. These positive results bode well for the College’s future.

Keane was given the opportunity to explain the financial situation, which greatly surprised Sinnott. While the Jesuits were not in a position to pay the debts, the Provincial Superior argued that, given time and with a new loan, they would be able to do so. The Archbishop “begged and pleaded” for the Jesuits not to leave the College, which he characterized as “the greatest misfortune.” As to Vatican permission for the canonical transfer of the institution, Sinnott laughed and said that the matter had been bungled by the Apostolic Delegate. The Jesuits did not need to be concerned because “they cannot refuse to grant it.”

In September 1936, Father Holland sent his annual report to the Father Ledóchowski. Father Carlin’s death had dealt “a great blow to the College,” Holland described his late confrère as “a splendid religious, a capable Prefect of Studies and a tremendous worker.” From his deathbed, Carlin expressed but one regret: that he would not be able to help the College by carrying out his beloved duties. On a positive note, friendly relations with Archbishop Sinnott had been completely restored, as the Rector noted: 

“He has done a great deal for us and he is certainly interested in the welfare of the college. I think that the interview that Reverend Father Provincial had with him during the visitation helped to clear away certain misunderstandings which had existed up to that time.”

Material and Spiritual

Charles Kelly, SJ
The Jesuits had completed their fourth year at Saint Paul’s in 1937. The College had weathered the storm and had begun to really flourish. During the summer vacation, the Rector, the Provincial Superior, Fathers Charles J. Kelly and James.G. McGarry, submitted their reports to Father General Ledóchowski. These touched on three topics: finances, the Archbishop, and the religious community. 

According to these reports, the financial standing was improving and, for the first time, the interest on the loans was paid in full. Over half of the 271 students were receiving discounts, bursaries, or scholarships. Relations with Archbishop Sinnott were very good, according to McGarry, largely “due to the prudence of Father Rector.” Sinnott took an interest in the College and helped in various ways, including a Diocesan collection on Pentecost Sunday, to pay the College taxes. Father Kelly wrote that Sinnott “is more of a help to us than any other Archbishop or Bishop is to any of the other Jesuit Colleges in Canada.” But he was very conscious of his position and dignity: “he wishes all and sundry to realize that he is the Archbishop of Winnipeg.” Sinnott could be impatient but also magnanimous and expected others to show him gratitude.

The internal spirit of the Jesuit community was of primary importance to the order. Indeed, engendering a positive, united, and religious attitude was Holland’s recipe for a successful endeavour. Both he and Keane wrote that the “spirit of observance of the rule, laboriousness, charity, and cooperation abide.” Kelly could not “commend too highly the spirit of charity and piety that marks the life of the Community. … The spirit and mutual trust among the Community at St. Paul’s is noted in this Vice-Province and we wish to keep it that way.” And finally, in his 31 December report, McGarry noted: “Gubernatio hujus domus suavis est, sed non ut in laxitatem labatur. (This community is governed lightly but not in a way that falls into laxity.) Indeed, Holland monitored religious discipline daily so that that Jesuit community life remained a concrete reality. 

Sinnott blesses Shea Hall cornerstone, 1932

Sinnott’s Vision

As its founder, Alfred Sinnott considered Saint Paul’s as his own and the Jesuits his administrative agents. By the end of the decade, the buildings at Ellice and Vaughan had become too small for the needs of a college and high school with resident staff and student borders. In the spring of 1939, Sinnott commissioned an architectural plan for a major expansion which would add additional classrooms and a new dormitory to Paul Shea Hall. Without consulting the Jesuit superiors, he began a fundraising campaign and published a drawing in the Winnipeg Free Press

Father Keane’s successor as Provincial Superior, Father Thomas Mullaly, informed the General Superior that he and his counsellors were opposed to the expansion unless $100,000 could be found to cover the costs. Meanwhile, the Archbishop went to Rome to perform his ad limina visit and to present his plans to the new Pope, Pius XII, and the Roman Curia. First, he met with Monsignor Ruffini of the Vatican education department, then with the Jesuit General, who approved the matter in principle. On 11 June 1939, Sinnott addressed two letters letter to the Pope. In the first letter, he sought the Pontiff’s blessing for the expansion of the College upon which he lavished high praise:

“This College is my joy and my pride. It is now under the care and direction of the Jesuit Fathers and I am thoroughly satisfied with their work. I am wholeheartedly behind them and I will not be content until every Catholic boy under my jurisdiction receives his higher education in this institution.”

The Archbishop asked for the Jesuits be allowed to borrow $100,000 to finance the venture, and the Pope entrusted the matter to his Secretariat of State. On 8 July, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (the future Pope Paul VI) asked the Jesuit General to accede to Sinnott’s desire, provided that he thought it “wise and opportune.”

Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Jesuits came up with a counter-offer. Instead of a large and costly extension, they proposed adding six classrooms which would require only $45,000. Sinnott agreed to the more modest extension and gave his solemn assurance that he would help with fundraising. On 6 June 1939, Father Ledóchowski approved the revised plan after obtaining permission from the Vatican department for religious orders. On 15 July, he informed the Secretariat of State that the matter was arranged, and Montini gave Sinnott the good news on 21 July.

Alfred Sinnott’s second letter to the Pope, presented on 11 June 1939, was also connected with his plans for Saint Paul’s. He was looking for a mark of success and a visible sign that the institution (and its founder) enjoyed papal approval. The Archbishop wrote:

“I crave a mark of benevolence and paternal encouragement that will never be forgotten in the years to come. I ask that Your Holiness will make a gift to the College of an oil painting of the great apostle St. Paul. I do not desire an original, but rather a copy of an existing picture which will be inspiring to the young men who frequent the institution.”

Della Porta's original
A few days after receiving this letter, Monsignor Montini contacted the Director of the Vatican Museums, Professor Bartolomeo Nogara. The latter commissioned a copy by an artist named De Simone, of a painting by Renaissance master, Fra Bartolommeo della Porta. On 1 August, Montini wrote to inform Sinnott that Pius XII had acceded to his request:

“It was with particular pleasure that the August Pontiff learned of the growth of the College and it is His confident hope that this gift which He deigns to bestow at this time,  […] may, indeed, be a source of real inspiration to the students of the College.”

The additional classrooms were completed by the end of 1939. In December, Sinnott sent effusive thanks to the Pope “for the magnificent painting,” together with a notably large “Peter’s Pence” offering for that year. He also agreed to a new contract with Jesuits, which came into effect in April of 1940, in time for his episcopal silver jubilee. 


Even with the additional classrooms, with almost 400 students, Saint Paul’s was outgrowing its downtown campus on more than one level. Father Francis Smith’s report, from the summer of 1938, noted that Holland, who had been marvelous in dealing with the problems of the early years, was lacking a vision for the future. Holland, Kelly, and McDonald were not intellectuals and placed a great deal of emphasis on sporting activities. Also, the students of the High School were excelling at greater rate than those of the College, perhaps because the Rector himself taught the former and subconsciously gave them preference. It was time for a change if the College was to progress. Accordingly, in 1941, Holland was replaced as rector, though he continued to teach in the high school. 

St. Paul's with extended Paul Shea Hall

Abiding Spirit

John Holland had proven to be a second founder of Saint Paul’s. Despite several changes in leadership and personnel, the good spirit which he painstakingly cultivated continued to characterize the College and High School. The reports of visitations from the late 1950s testify to this fact. In 1955, Provincial Superior George E. Nunan, wrote to General Superior Jean-Baptiste Janssens, that: 

“The fidelity of the members of the Community to spiritual duties and their generosity in doing the work assigned them is gratifying. For these divine blessings and that of mutual union, the Community should be thankful to God.” 

And in 1957 Nunan said: “the charity and zeal of the members of this community is remarkable.”

Father St. Clair Monaghan, the principal of the High School, observed that “the spirit of union and religious charity existing in the community is worthy of praise and commendation.” Clemens J. Crusoe noted that “ the community’s spirit of good will and basic contentment is reflected in their work.” In 1958, future librarian Father Harold J. Drake said, “Our community here is considered to be one of the luckiest and happiest ones in the Province.”

In their reports from 1956 to 1958, Fathers Nunan, Crusoe, and Sheridan praised the High School Principal, Father Monaghan, and his assistant, Father Barry Connelly, for their “firmness in direction of studies and discipline.” Father Clarence Lynch, assisted by Jesuit Scholastic (seminarian) John English, had obtained good results with religious sodalities. And Crusoe defined Father Hanley’s course in speech as “outstanding.” Sheridan observed that the boys, who were observing a stricter dress code of jackets and ties, manifested “a more serious approach to studies and a wider interest in things spiritual.” 

Old Wine in New Wineskins

Archbishop Sinnott did not live to see his vision for Saint Paul’s become a reality. In 1954, the year of his death, the University of Manitoba extended an invitation to relocate to its Fort Garry campus, offering cost free land on a renewable 99 year lease. The College would have to find the money to construct a building. After much discussion, in the spring of 1956, the Jesuits accepted the offer.

In order to ensure the future of the College, on 18 May 1956, several Jesuits, led by College Rector Cecil C. Ryan, asked the General Superior for permission to establish a lay advisory board. This was to bring prestige to the institution by the association of prominent citizens, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, from Winnipeg business and professional sectors.  In addition to funds received from private donors, the Province of Manitoba provided $100,000 toward the construction of the new Saint Paul’s.

Cecil Ryan, SJ
In December of 1957, Nunan quoted Sinnott’s successor, Archbishop Philip Pocock, as saying that “the transfer of the College to the university campus is the greatest thing that has happened to the Archdiocese since his arrival.” Construction was on schedule, thanks to the efficient handling of the project by Father Ryan. Father Drake quoted the Archbishop’s words of praise at a clergy dinner, held in January 1958 at the old buildings: “Father Ryan has done a magnificent job of public relations for the College during his term of office, and he wished there was some loophole that would allow an even further extension of that term.” 

In fact, Ryan’s term had already been extended a year to oversee the completion of the new College. The new Provincial Superior, Father George F. Gordon, obtained further permission to delay the announcement of the new rector until after the opening ceremony, because Pocock wanted Ryan remain in office until that event took place. In a report to the General, Gordon described the October 1958 inauguration as “a very notable event in the history of Catholic education in Canada.”

In 1964, the High School relocated to its a new building of its own, taking with it the painting which Pius XII gave Archbishop Sinnott for Saint Paul’s. Originally displayed in the main foyer, it has since been moved to the entrance of the new chapel. Bartolommeo della Porta’s renaissance original was hidden away in the bowels of the Vatican Museums, and has never been seen since. Documents pertaining to the Winnipeg copy were discovered in the Vatican Apostolic (formerly know as the “Secret”) Archive, only weeks after the papers on Saint Paul’s were unearthed in ARSI.

Father Holland’s Corner

Father Drake wrote that “the story of Saint Paul’s is a good one, and has to be told.” The same goes for the story of its refounder and his Jesuit team. The decision to appoint Holland to lead Saint Paul’s was fortuitous. He began his mission by accompanying young men in a search for wisdom to its Source. And in retirement, he continued to accompany alumni and friends and share news, making use of his prodigious memory. His care for the Saint Paul’s family, past and present, was epitomized in his column, “Father Holland’s Corner.” 

John Samuel Holland ended his earthly mission in November 1987, at his beloved Saint Paul’s. Both High School and College communities prayed over his bones, invoking the Divine Mercy in thanksgiving for his care. Now it is time for us alumni to care for his memory and that of the schools he helped transfigure.


To presume to eulogise one man is to pipe up for a whole generation.
– The Poet Laureate, The Patriarchs, 17 April 2021