10 facts about Bishop Soter Ortynsky

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Most Rev. Stephen Soter Ortynsky, OSBM

  1. Soter Ortynsky was born on January 26, 1866 in the village of Ortynychi, located in the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, within the larger Austrian Empire (today the Drohobych District of the Lviv Region, Ukraine). His baptismal name was Stephan and he first studied in the Drohobych Gymnasium, but due to the teachers’ Polish propaganda, his parents transferred him to the Stryi Gymnasium. Stephan entered the Basilian novitiate in February 1884 at the Order’s monastery located in Dobromyl (Lviv Region). There he received the name Soter.
  2. Father Soter prepared for missionary service to Ukrainian immigrants living in South America, yet he was unexpectedly made the first bishop for Ukrainians in the United States. Because of this he was named the “bishop-pioneer.” Hryhoriy Lushnycky wrote a book with this title on Ortynsky’s life and work.
  3. Since the Bishop arrived in the United States on August 28, 1907, the Feast of the Dormition was moved to the following day. (The Dormition is celebrated on August 28 according to the Old Calendar.)
  4. During the 10th Convention of the Ukrainian National Association (then known as the Ruthenian National Union), which took place July 1-8, 1907, Bishop Ortynsly was named an honorary member and protector of this organization.
  5. During his episcopate, Bishop Soter founded the Union of the Ruthenian Greek-Catholics’ Brotherhoods: Chrystyianska Lubov (Christian Love) as well as the Brotherhood of Saint Hryhoriy. He also launched the newspaper, Dushpastyr (Pastor of the souls).
  6. On September 28, 1910, during the visit of Metropolitan Sheptycky, the corner stone for the seminary building and orphanage was blessed in Yorktown, VA. However, the construction remained incomplete. Meanwhile, on November 28, 1911, the first Basilian Sisters arrived in the United States and started an orphanage in Philadelphia. Within a few years there were 131 children there. The Sisters also opened a publishing house around that time and started to print Misioner (Missionary).
  7. Bishop-pioneer Soter Ortynsly purchased a Protestant church and renovated it. This building became Philadelphia’s first Ukrainian Cathedral which Metropolitan Sheptycky consecrated on October 2, 1910.
  8. The Canonical organization of the Greek-Catholic Church in the United States happened during Bishop Ortynsky’s episcopate as well. The Apostolic Letter Ea semper, promulgated September 17, 1907, granted Bishop Soter ordinary jurisdiction though he was still dependent on the Latin Ordinaries. But then on May 28, 1913, the Exarcate for Greek-Catholics was established with full jurisdiction and was confirmed by the decree, Cum Episcopo. Henceforth, Bishop Ortynsky and his successors no longer answered to the Roman Catholic ordinaries of the United States.
  9. Regardless of canonical issues or internal tensions, the number of parishes grew from 86 to 296 and the number of priests increased from 120 to 220 under Ortynsky’s pastoral care.
  10. On March 24, 1916, Bishop Soter Ortynsky suddenly died of pneumonia at just 50 years old. He is buried in the crypt of Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Philadelphia.

by Rostyslav Savostianov

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