Monday, 16 March 2020

Mitred Archpriest Mykola Matychak

Seminary photo 1950
An Officer and a Gentleman
(1922 –2000)

On the 20th anniversary 
of his repose in the Lord.

Born 13 December 1922. in Stibno district of Peremyshl (Przemyśl) eparchy to peasant farmers Panteleimon Matychak [Matyczak] and Anna née Yakubovska. He attended the local elementary school from 1928, the Przemyśl gymnasium from 1936 and the commercial school. He was hired by the town office in 1941. He enrolled in eighth grade in Drohobych and took the matura exam on 17 November 1942, after which he worked at a milk plant. He joined in the Galicia Division in 1943 and took the officers course at Graz, Austria, in 1944, subsequently serving as lieutenant of the battalion. Following the surrender to the British, on 10 May 1945, he was interned at Bellaria, Italy, and subsequently at nearby Rimini.

Until this day I still do not know how our release came about. Was it due to Vatican intervention? ...  Are there some documents about it somewhere? ... Perhaps, in future, a researcher will find them in some archive.  – Father Ivan Muzychka, From Rimini to Rome

Bishop Buchko visits POWs
Vatican files opened for the first time, only two weeks ago, reveal the following: In June 1945 Bishop Ivan Buchko, himself a "displaced person," began lobbying the Apostolic See to assist Ukrainian refugees and POWs in Italy. He secured permission to dispatch two Ukrainian priests (Ivan Bilanych and Mykhailo Vavryk) to furnish the five Division chaplains (4 Catholic and one Orthodox) with liturgical supplies. On 28 July, Pope Pius XII received Cardinal Eugène Tisserant in audience. Tisserant presented the plight of Ukrainians as highly urgent and, upon his recommendation, the pontiff appointed Bishop Buchko as apostolic visitor to Ukrainian refugees and POWs. He also promised Tisserant that the diplomatic arm of the Holy See would plead with the British and American ambassadors to save the Division from the Soviets. With the Pope's approval, Tisserant wrote to Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini (who later became Pope Paul VI), to obtain permission for some soldiers to enter the seminary. At the same time, Bishop Buchko was given clearance to visit Bellaria and gathered the names of former seminarians as well as new recruits. On 10 November, the list of seminarians was presented to the Holy See, which forwarded it to British authorities.

Of 30 volunteers only 26 presented themselves on the morning of 21 November 1945. After travelling all day, they arrived first at Saint Peter’s Square and reached Pontifical Saint Josaphat’s College by evening. Dressed in full uniform, Matychak, the only officer among the group, rendered formal thanks to the chaplain who handed them over to the College superiors. On 28 November he signed a curriculum vitae composed for him, in Italian, by Father Ivan Khomenko (Don Iván), a biblical scholar residing at the college.

The undergraduate seminarians studied at Pontifical Urban University (Urbaniana). Matychak was chosen as vice-prefect of the college. He excelled in sociology, pedagogy, biblical exegesis, pastoral theology and missionary studies. He received a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy 1947, a Bachelor in Sacred Theology 1950, and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology 1951. His rector, Father Yosyf Zaiachkivskyi, described him as “disciplined and exemplary, diligent, conscientious, laborious, sociable, charitable, active, strong and manly.” He was  ordained to the minor orders by Bishop Buchko in the College chapel, 4 March 1951, and to the priesthood on 3 May of the same year. 

Founding Marian Brotherhood 1954
It took several months of formalities with the International Refugee Office and British consular authorities for Matychak to be allowed to relocate to Great Britain. He arrived in December 1951 and his first assignment was curate of the Coventry pastoral zone, serving Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Somersetshire, Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Devonshire, and Cornwall (December 1951–1953); from March 1953 his base was changed to Wolverhampton; his next assignment was parish priest of the Edinburgh pastorate serving all of Scotland, especially Glasgow, Galashields, Dundee, Grangemouth, Halmuir Hostel at Lockerbie, Annan, and Perth (December 1953–1971); from 1955 he also served Cumberland, Northumberland, Westmorland, and County Durham (with a pause from 1960–1962); he was transferred to the parish of Saint Olha, Peterborough (1971–1974), but was recalled to Edinburgh for a final year (1974–1975).

With Archbishop Gray of Edinburgh
Matychak's Edinburgh congregation worshipped in a chapel at a Ukrainian community centre on Mansion House Road, at Saint Columba Roman Catholic Church, Upper Grey Street, and sometimes Saint Patrick's. In 1964, they finally acquired a church in Dalmeney Street, Leith (Edinburgh), rechristened the following year as Our Lady of Pochaïv and St. Andrew. During his years of service, through sympathetic and active engagement and with his pedagogical-pastoral skills, he was very successful in organizing and keeping harmony within the Ukrainian hromada (community) and between the community and the church. 

First pilgrimage to Carfin Grotto
He founded chapters of Marian Brotherhood and Sisterhood, organized religious and social events and outings, pilgrimages, and established Ukrainian Saturday schools. He also published a multi-page bulletin for the Edinburgh pastorate. In many of his initiatives he involved the local Roman-Catholic clergy, missionary preachers, and hierarchy and received their support, often celebrating in the Latin cathedrals. He did not neglect Orthodox Christians, lending the use of his church in a pioneer ecumenical gesture, in the late 1960s, and helping them to form their own congregation. For his tireless pastoral missions, the Roman Catholic clergy referred to him as “Saint Paul of Scotland.” A few months after his visit to Scotland, on 29 November 1970, Cardinal Yosyf Slipyi made him honorary canon of the Lviv Metropolitan Chapter.

Matychak in 1990s
In 1975 Matychak was invited by Slipyi to serve as a professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome. He subsequently returned to England and served as a missionary to ‘patriarchal’ communities: Holy Protectress, Halifax (1977–1987); and Sacred Heart, Wolverhampton from 1987, where he finished the construction of a new church dedicated to Saints Volodymyr and Olha. Patriarch Yosyf (Slipyi) elevated him to the rank of mitred archpriest in June 1981. In 1989, he welcomed the new apostolic exarch for Britain, Bishop Michael Kuchmiak, CSsR, in a solemn pastoral visitation to the new church. 

Mykola Matychak died on 17 March 2000 in Wolverhampton. Funeral Parastas was sung on 30 March at the church he had completed. On the following day, his former comrade-in-arms, Bishop Kuchmiak presided over the Funeral Divine Liturgy. According to his family’s wishes, he was buried in Zymna Voda, Ukraine.

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