Monday 1 November 2021

Maxim Hermaniuk and the Formation of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolia of Canada

65 years ago, on 3 November 1956, Pope Pius XII created an ecclesiastical province (metropolia) for Ukrainian Catholics in Canada, elevating the three existing apostolic exarchates to the status of eparchies and the fourth to an archeparchy. In doing so, the Pontiff bestowed canonical recognition on an already existing reality: the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada (historically known as Ukrainian Greek-Catholic – UGCC), in its hierarchy, clergy, faithful, organizations and structures, had reached ecclesial maturity. Yet, a determining factor in implementing this change was the conviction that an ideal candidate had been found to serve as the first metropolitan-archbishop.

            The UGCC began its canonical existence as a Church in Canada in July 1912, with the creation of an apostolic “ordinariate” led by Bishop Nykyta Budka. In the first years of immigration, the faithful were sporadically served by itinerant eparchial priests. From 1902, the Roman Catholic hierarchy enlisted missionary religious orders: Basilians (OSBM), Belgian Redemptorists (CSsR), and Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (SSMI). Bishop Budka established a distinct UGCC structure and recruited priests and seminarians from Austrian Galicia (western Ukraine). Throughout his tenure, the Church retained its missionary character, while fostering Canadian-born vocations. 

            From the outset, it was obvious that the task exceeded the abilities of a single bishop. Pope Pius X said as much to Nykyta Budka, in an audience granted to the new bishop on his way to take up his charge. It is difficult for a missionary bishop to find the time and energy to attend also to administrative matters. Only a few years into his mission, Budka asked for a second bishop to share the burden, but was told by Church officials that he was too young to be granted an auxiliary. 

In December 1927, the Apostolic Delegate to Canada, Archbishop Andrea Cassulo, recommended that the Greek-Catholic Ordinariate for Canada be divided in two or three, with additional bishoprics established in Edmonton and Toronto. Bishop Budka formally petitioned for a coadjutor bishop the following year, but Pope Pius XI decided instead to replace him with two younger men. Only one of the nominees, Basilian Father Vasyliy Ladyka, was prevailed upon to accept the onerous charge.

Although Galician born, Ladyka studied theology and spent his entire priestly life in Canada. He understood that a second generation of Ukrainians required clergy better suited to local culture and conditions. In Galicia, UGCC secular clergy were heavily involved in social concerns and politics. Many of them look upon their priesthood as a profession and a means to support their families. Such a model was unsuited to the rigors of the Canadian environment, where congregations provided little financial support for their clergy and church institutions. Bishop Ladyka set about augmenting the number of missionaries from the religious orders, and training his secular clergy to conceive the priesthood as a supernatural, sacrificial mission to their flocks. The Bishop tried to ingrain in them that their first duty was to catechize their poorly instructed flocks, rather than patronizing community and nationalistic initiatives. It was easier to mould rural Canadian recruits along such lines. More challenging were attempts  at convincing European clergy, who were imbued with nationalistic ideology and political causes that dominated Ukrainian life in the homeland.

In his first years, Bishop Vasyliy set about repairing the financial chaos left behind by his dedicated but administratively weak predecessor, as well as restoring the confidence and support of the Roman Catholic bishops and associations. After four years of intense activity, having crisscrossed the country several times, Ladyka had been able to observe the real conditions of the UGCC in Canada. In December 1933, he concluded that the entire Dominion was too vast a jurisdiction to permit effective governance and supervision by a single bishop. In addition to more clergy, he asked Rome to divide his Ordinariate in three, with additional bishoprics to be set up in Edmonton and Toronto. In his report to the Oriental Congregation, dated 28 December, Ladyka also recommended that one of the bishops be granted the distinction of archbishop or metropolitan, to ensure harmony in the UGCC’s governance.


A Second Bishop

It would take another decade before the Vatican machinery was able to provide Vasyliy Ladyka with an assistant, and then only a single auxiliary bishop. In the meantime, a priest was to be deputized as vicar general for eastern Canada. The process for selecting a bishop became prolonged because the Oriental Congregation found each candidate wanting or unsuitable for Canadian conditions. An appointment that seemed imminent, in the spring of 1939, was put off to extend the list. In the meantime, Ladyka agreed to accept the displaced auxiliary of Lviv, Ivan Buchko, who had declined the appointment to Canada in 1928. That plan was never put into practice: Buchko went instead to New York City and was deported after the USA entered the Second World War. 

In 1942, Bishop Ladyka’s health became so precarious that the appointment of a helper could be put off no longer. The Congregation for the Eastern Church invited the general superiors of the religious orders to present candidates. The Basilians presented several while the Redemptorists declined, for lack of a suitable subject. Apostolic Delegate Cassulo composed a terna consisting of two Basilians and a secular priest. The Oriental Congregation recommended the Basilian superior of Mundare, Father Neil Savaryn, who was duly appointed auxiliary bishop by Pope Pius XII on 29 March 1943.


Developments in Canada and Europe

In the meantime, crucial developments were taking place in the UGCC. In Canada, the numbers of priests, religious, seminarians, and faithful, grew steadily in tandem with the number of churches and mission posts. Ukrainian Catholic Schools were established, as well as colleges and academies, hospitals and nursing homes administered by the SSMI. And a second order of sisters, the Missionary Sisters of Christian Charity, was founded in Toronto. Printing presses were set up by the Basilians and the Redemptorists at their respective motherhouses: Mundare, Alberta, and Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Organizations for the laity were formed locally and nationally, including the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood, Women’s League, and Youth. Branches of the Apostleship of Prayer and Catholic Action were set up in many parishes. One of Ladyka’s greatest achievements was restoring the trust of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and its organizations (such as the Catholic Extension Society), which began to heavily subsidize UGCC causes and cover the costs of training of seminarians.

In Europe, the UGCC was being transformed under the leadership of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who sought to revive its original Byzantine ethos and purify its worship of Latin accretions. This vision was strongly supported by orientalist scholar Eugène Tisserant, who took the helm of the Vatican department for the Eastern Churches in 1936. While the Redemptorists supported Sheptytsky’s program, his suffragan bishops and the Basilians were vehemently opposed to the removal of Latinizations. The introduction of purified liturgical books in the 1940s was heavily contested and made Tisserant distrustful of the OSBM, which were placed under temporary canonical supervision, in 1946.

Following the Second World War, with the annexation of western Ukraine, the Soviets suppressed the mother Church of the Lviv-Halych Metropolia, violently merging it into the state-controlled Russian Orthodox Church. Three million Ukrainians had been deported or fled to western Europe. Among these were UGCC faithful, priests, religious, and seminarians. Due to the lobbying by Ukrainian Canadians, including Bishop Ladyka and his representatives (such as Basilian Father Josaphat Jean), the Canadian Government accepted a large contingent of these “Displaced Persons” (DPs). The influx of clergy and faithful swelled the ranks of Church in Canada. In 1945, Bishop Ladyka’s poor health forced him to spend several months convalescing in the Mundare Hospital, making the division of the Ordinariate even more urgent.


Three Apostolic Exarchates 

Following the Second World War, Pope Pius XII undertook to restore the suppressed UGCC with a hierarchy in the lands of immigration. In the summer of 1947, Cardinal Tisserant made an inspection tour of North America, visiting Ukrainian Catholic communities from Montreal to Vancouver. Upon his return to Rome, he told Apostolic Delegate Idelbrando Antoniutti that at least three bishops were necessary for Canada. Antoniutti was instructed to consult Bishop Ladyka, so as to prepare a project for the division of the Ordinariate and a list of episcopal candidates. Edmonton was to be the seat of an apostolic exarchate (a term which replaced “ordinariate”) for western Canada; Winnipeg was to remain the seat of the central exarchate; and Toronto was to become an exarchate for eastern Canada. Bishop Savaryn was selected for Edmonton, where the member of his own Basilian Order were most numerous. Two secular priests were selected to fill the other appointments: Isidore Boretsky for Toronto and Andrew Roboretsky (already recommended in 1939) as Ladyka’s new auxiliary. Pius XII sanctioned the division of the Ordinariate into three Apostolic Exarchates on 3 March 1948. The consecrations of Boretsky and Roboretsky took place in Toronto, in June. The new Canadian hierarchy held their first conference and petitioned the Apostolic See to establish an ecclesiastical province, headed by a metropolitan. Cardinal Tisserant judged this step to be premature, conferring instead a titular archbishopric on Ladyka, as the senior hierarch.

With healthy young bishops in place, the new exarchates expanded rapidly, accepting priests from Europe, establishing new missions, building churches, setting up branches of the newly formed lay organizations, holding congresses. But the situation was not all rosy. Ladyka had lacked the willpower to establish either a major or a minor seminary, as the Vatican had repeatedly requested. The task for training the youth fell upon the religious orders, which established their own juniorates. Also, the liturgical reform were not being as implemented as energetically and uniformly as Cardinal Tisserant desired. Ladyka’s suffragan bishops quarrelled with him over the stipulated division-in-three of the former Ordinariate’s liquid assets. The Apostolic Delegate reported that, although the exarchs held regular meetings, “each acts on his own accord.”


Redemptorist Mission in Canada

In 1906, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (CSsR) began its mission to Byzantine-Rite Catholics among the Ukrainians in Canada. However, due to the demands of Bishop Budka, they also set up a community in Galicia under the supervision of Metropolitan Sheptytsky. This mission was to overtake the Canadian venture in number and importance. The Belgian CSsR struggled to convince Canadian Ukrainians of their altruistic motives. A feud with the Christian Brothers in Yorkton and other conflicts convinced the Belgian superiors to transfer Ukrainian recruits to eastern Poland, where the CSsR had been given a mission to former Greek-Catholics in Volhynia. One of their number, Nykolai Charnetsky, was selected as bishop and apostolic visitor over that mission, dubbed Neo Unia. That future Blessed-Martyr ordained Father Maxim Hermaniuk to the priesthood on 4 September 1938.

With the first Soviet occupation of 1939, the Neo Unia mission was suppressed and the CSsR shifted its focus and support back to its original Eastern-Rite mission in Canada. However, more effective superior was needed to put the Canadian mission back on track. Accordingly, at the beginning of 1948, the Belgian Provincial Superior, Father Buys, announced that Father Hermaniuk was to be transferred to Canada. 

After completing his noviciate, in 1934 Maxim Hermaniuk was sent to study at the prestigious Catholic University in Louvain (Leuven), in Belgium. Following his ordination, four years later, he was scheduled to begin graduate studies at the Angelicum, in Rome, but, when the war erupted, his superiors sent him back to Louvain. There, Hermaniuk achieved the highest academic excellence as well as pastoral experience, especially with Ukrainian university students which he served as chaplain. When his reassignment became known, his Ukrainian confreres and Bishop Ivan Buchko (who had become Apostolic Visitor over UGCC in western Europe) complained that his transfer would be a terrible blow to the mission to Ukrainian DPs in Europe. But Hermaniuk was deemed essential for Canada, and the capable young priest was sent packing in October 1948. Shortly after his arrival, Buys named him superior of the CSsR’s Ukrainian vice-province.


Saskatoon, Cathedral, new Auxiliary

            Neil Savaryn had been a very deferential auxiliary bishop to Vasyliy Ladyka, and continued to enjoy the latter’s confidence even after he was transferred to Edmonton. Nonetheless, Ladyka entrusted financial matters to his savvy chancellor, Basil Kushnir, who was also parish priest of his tiny pro-cathedral. Kushnir was very much the model of a worldly, politicking European priest. He was successful in raising funds to build a magnificent new cathedral church for the Winnipeg exarchate. Saints Vladimir and Olga Cathedral was opened on 15 April 1951, amidst great pomp. The impressive guest list included civic and religious dignitaries, including Cardinal McGuigan of Toronto (the de facto primate of English-speaking Canada), archbishops and bishops of Latin and Byzantine Rites from Canada and USA, the Premier of Manitoba, mayors, parliamentarians, judges, the president of the University of Manitoba, and 8,000 faithful (10 of which fainted in the massive crowd, during the lengthy ceremony). This achievement consolidated Kushnir’s hold over church administration and won him the papal honorific of domestic prelate (a mid-grade Monsignor).

            Ladyka had presented Fathers Kushnir and Roboretsky among his choices for auxiliary bishop. Kushnir had been excluded for his maverick style and involvement in politics. The zealous and energetic Roboretsky, assuming the charge of auxiliary in 1948, attempted to make order of Ladyka’s administration. He was successful in establishing parish boundaries but ran afoul of the Basilians for insisting that their church, located directly across from the cathedral, be moved to a part of Winnipeg where a Ukrainian Catholic church was still lacking. He also crossed swords with Kushnir, who had retained the office of vicar general, over financial and administrative matters. In doing so, Roboretsky lost the confidence of his Archbishop, whose poor health had made him heavily dependent on others. A project was devised, approved by Ladyka, to split the Central Exarchate in two, creating a new bishopric in Saskatoon to which Roboretsky was to be appointed.

            During the Great Winnipeg Flood of 1950, Archbishop Ladyka abandoned his flooded riverside residence and took refuge with the Basilians in in Mundare. He spent several months, totally incapacitated with a weak heart, in the Mundare Hospital, where hope was lost for his recovery. On 15 August, he petitioned the Pope to appoint Bishop Savaryn apostolic administrator of the Central Exarchate. Cardinal Tisserant suspected that this was done under pressure from the Basilians. Apostolic Delegate Antoniutti, however, recommended that Savaryn remain in Edmonton, where the Basilians were in the majority, and a candidate from the other male religious order be selected. 

The Superior the Ukrainian Redemptorists, Maxim Hermaniuk, received august praise from leading Canadian and European churchmen and religious superiors, including the Basilian Vice-General and Bishop Boretsky. Hermaniuk was deemed to be the most educated UGCC clergyman in Canada. He was a devout religious, held a wide view of affairs, and spoke English better than any Ukrainian bishop. On 3 March 1951, Pius XII approved the division of the Central Exarchate into Winnipeg and Saskatoon Exarchates. Hermaniuk was appointed coadjutor to Ladyka and Roboretsky– Exarch of Saskatoon. However, the Apostolic Delegate asked that Hermaniuk’s office be commuted to Auxiliary bishop, since he was still untried, and on condition that he be appointed Ladyka’s Vicar General. The bishop-elect attempted to decline the appointment but to no avail. Maxim Hermaniuk was consecrated bishop during the celebration of a Ukrainian Catholic Eucharistic Congress, on 29 June 1951, in the new Saints Vladimir and Olga Cathedral. 


Storm before the Calm

The Edmonton and Toronto Exarchates began with great energy and enthusiasm and, after only a few years, were transformed with the influx of DP clergy and faithful. The Western Exarchate held a provincial synod in 1952 but, the following year, a feud began between Bishop Savaryn and the Basilians, which was actually a conflict between European and Canadian-born clergy. Savaryn had begun to replace OSBM with secular clergy, in the parishes, and initiated the liturgical purification envisioned by Metropolitan Sheptytsky and Cardinal Tisserant. Nevertheless, under the influence of a small group of DP priests, this reform was carried out in an clumsy and imprudent manner, without catechizing the faithful. The same group tried drive the Basilians out of youth formation, targeting their summer camp, and demanded the OSBM be removed from Saint Josaphat’s Cathedral. Rural Canadian-born folk resented the unfamiliar language and style of the European Fathers, and organized petitions and protests in an attempt to remove them.

The outcome of this battle, which ended only in 1959, was twofold: After much negotiation and protests, the OSBM finally gave up the cathedral in exchange for canonical rights of four churches in Mundare, Edmonton, Vegreville, and Vancouver. Savaryn lost much prestige over the affair, especially after Hermaniuk was called in to perform an apostolic visitation, which resulted in the removal of two of the DP ringleaders from the chancery. The Basilians also abandoned plans to run the UGCC minor seminary in Edmonton, turning their energies to a private high school in Toronto. The Canadian hierarchs had to approach the Redemptorists to start the minor seminary, which opened in 1956, in Roblin, Manitoba. St. Vladimir’s College was a tremendous success for the forty years it was administered by the CSsR. It provided numerous vocations to the priesthood and to a number of religious orders, as well as religiously educated laity that maintained a strong, enduring Ukrainian Catholic identity. 


Ladyka’s final illness

Bishop Maxim Hermaniuk’s first three years as auxiliary bishop of the Winnipeg Exarchate were tranquil. But in December 1954, Archbishop Ladyka became incapacitated once more. The exarchate’s affairs ground to a halt as Hermaniuk was unable to access finances, which the Archbishop had kept entirely to himself and his private advisors. The time had come for Hermaniuk to be made coadjutor, which would give him a right to assume the governance of the Exarchate, leaving Ladyka as titular head, out of consideration for many years of dedicated service. Hermaniuk was appointed coadjutor on 25 February 1955, but Ladyka refused to give him access to the finances and blocked an attempt to purchase property. As a result, the new apostolic delegate, Giovanni Paníco, recommended that Hermaniuk be given exclusive governance. On 19 January 1956, a decree was issued by the Oriental Congregation naming Maxim Hermaniuk Apostolic Administrator of the Exarchate. When informed, in April, the Archbishop meekly accepted “the will of the Holy See,” under obedience. Vasyliy Ladyka lived for another five months, cared for by the SSMI at the Exarchate’s summer camp, finally succumbing to his illness on 1 September 1956.


Metropolitan Province with Three Eparchies

In August 1951, newly-consecrated Bishop Hermaniuk informed the Apostolic Delegation in Ottawa that the Ukrainian Orthodox had elected Archbishop Ilarion (Ohienko) as Metropolitan-Archbishop of Winnipeg. That act led to the unification of two jurisdictions into a single Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada, and to the founding of bishoprics in Edmonton and Toronto. That December, Archbishop Antoniutti repeated his recommendation to Rome, that the UGCC be raised to a full ecclesiastical province headed by a metropolitan. The Apostolic Delegate reasoned that that new arrangement would foster greater unity and uniformity in the Canadian UGCC. But Cardinal Tisserant did not want to confer the dignity on Archbishop Ladyka, whose lacklustre performance in implementing of the purified liturgical books and establishing a distinct UGCC seminary he strongly castigated.


In the 1950s, Bishops Savaryn, Boretsky, and Roboretsky, committed serious blunders, and only Bishop Hermaniuk avoided censure. The Oriental Congregation watched his performance closely, while he took over the administration of Winnipeg from Ladyka. Having handled the transfer with great tact, and given his superior intellectual qualities, Hermaniuk was recommended for the office of metropolitan. The elevation of the UGCC in Canada was to take place at the end of celebrations of the millennium of the baptism of Saint Olha, grandmother of Prince Volodymyr and ruler of Kyivan-Rus (a precursor of modern Ukraine) and co-patron of the Winnipeg Cathedral.

On 3 November 1956, a decree was issued raising the Apostolic Exarchates of Edmonton, Toronto, and Saskatoon to eparchies (full dioceses), and Winnipeg to an Archeparchy and head of a Metropolitan ecclesiastical province. On that day, Hermaniuk was visiting his Redemptorist confreres in Newark, New Jersey. He returned to Canada on 14 November, to take part in the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Just after noon on the following day, 15 November, Archbishop Panico informed him of his elevation. Later that day, the other bishops received the news with great joy, despite the fact that their junior had been selected for the highest dignity. 

Metropolitan Maxim’s enthronement ceremony took place on 12 February 1957 at Saints Vladimir and Olga Cathedral. After initially declining to attend, out of fear of Winnipeg’s “Siberian temperatures,” Archbishop Panico accepted the invitation to perform the ritual. In his remarks, he noted that the Apostolic See of Rome had founded a new Metropolia in Lviv in 1806, when the Catholic Kyivan Metropolia was suppressed by the Russian Empire. The same Russian State had suppressed the Lviv-Halych Metropolia in 1946. A few months before the enthronement took place, word had reached the west that Metropolitan Yosyf Slipyi was still alive in Siberian captivity. Panico also honoured the memory of the first bishop, Nykyta Budka, news of whose death in the gulag had only recently reached the west. (Budka was beatified in 2001).

Maxim Hermaniuk’s enthronement happened 65 years after the first Ukrainian Catholic immigrants reached Canada, in 1891. It was attended by 21 Canadian Roman Catholic archbishops and bishop, the entire Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy in Canada, USA, and Europe, the Manitoba Lieutenant Governor, Premier, the Mayor of Winnipeg, and a personal representative was sent by Canadian Prime Minister, Louis Saint Laurent. For the historic occasion, Cardinal Tisserant deputized Archbishop Buchko to represent of the Oriental Congregation. The event was felt by Ukrainians around the world and would be the first of many. The following year, the American exarchates were also raised to eparchies headed by a Metropolitan in Philadelphia. From 1957 to 1961 Apostolic exarchates for Ukrainians were established in Britain, Brazil, Australia, France, Germany, and Argentina. 

Metropolitan Hermaniuk held the first Conference of the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy at his enthronement. The same Conference, at his initiative, actively lobbied for the release of Metropolitan Yosyf (Slipyi) at the Second Vatican Council, to the great embarrassment of certain Vatican bureaucrats, who had agreed to supress criticism of the Soviet regime in exchange for the presence of Russian Orthodox advisors. Slipyi’s release and euphoric acclamation by the Council Fathers permanently altered the Catholic landscape and led to profound changes within UGCC itself. Among the UGCC hierarchs, Hermaniuk was the most important contributor to the theological preparation and discussions at the Council, during which he made at least 22 interventions. His contributions to the teachings on collegiality and ecumenism were particularly valuable. While the Council was still in session, he lent his authoritative voice in petitioning the Pope for synodal governance and for a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate.

Metropolitan Maxim shepherded the Winnipeg Archeparchy for 36 years. During his term, the UGCC in Canada underwent many changes and challenges. In the 1950s, the UGCC started using “Ukrainian Catholic Church” as its official name. Many parishes were founded and new church buildings replaced older structures. Vladimir and Olga Cathedral was adorned with icons, frescos, and stained glass windows depicting the history of the Church. A modern Immaculate Heart of Mary School building, administered by the SSMI, replaced Saint Nicholas parochial school in 1962. In June of the same year, Hermaniuk held a provincial synod for the entire Metropolia, with delegates from all 4 eparchies. In the early 1970s, Ukrainian and English vernaculars replaced Church Slavonic as the language of liturgical worship. In 1972, he invited to Winnipeg Bishop Vasyl Velychkovsky, who had been released from the Soviet Gulag, That Confessor of the Faith died the following year and was beatified in 2001. A fifth eparchy for British Columbia and Yukon was established in 1974. And the Ukrainian Catholic seminary, so ardently desired by the Apostolic See, was finally established in Ottawa in 1981. 

Upon reaching the age of 75, in 1986, Hermaniuk tendered his resignation to the Roman Pontiff, in accordance with Canon Law. The same year, he hosted a Ukrainian Youth For Christ Rally, which harkened back to a gathering he had attended in Lviv, in 1933. The Metropolitan was permitted to return to his native Ukraine, for the first time, in 1989. His resignation was finally accepted by John Paul II on 16 December 1992. Rosary in hand, Maxim Hermaniuk died on 3 May 1996 in the room which he had occupied since 1951, at the episcopal residence built by his predecessor on the banks of the Red River.

In 2012, an English translation of Hermaniuk’s Second Vatican Council journal entries was published by Jaroslav Skira, following by an accompanying volume in 2020. The prelate was also mentioned, numerous times, in the diaries of the secretary of the Council’s influential theological commission, Father Sabastiaan Tromp, SJ, which historian and theologian Alexandra von Teuffenbach began publishing in 2006. Thanks to the support of Hermaniuk’s successors, the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops of Canada, and a lively interest by historians and theologians, we can look forward to new research on this fascinating historical figure, in the upcoming years.