Funeral Services Held for the Late Metropolitan Archbishop Emeritus Stephen Sulyk in Philadelphia Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral


Funeral Services Held for the Late Metropolitan Archbishop Emeritus Stephen Sulyk in Philadelphia Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral


Philadelphia, PA – In the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where he was enthroned as Archbishop of Philadelphia for Ukrainian Catholics and Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States on March 31, 1981, funeral services were held Bright Monday, April 13, for the late Metropolitan-Archbishop Emeritus Stephen Sulyk.  The former spiritual shepherd fell asleep in the Lord, Monday, April 6, succumbing to covid-19 at the age of 95.  Because of restrictions on public gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, a limited number of people were present for the private services that were live-streamed on the social media website of the archeparchy.


During the Bright Week Parastas, followed by the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Philadelphia Archeparchy, Borys Gudziak was the main celebrant and homilist.  He was assisted by his auxiliary, Bishop Andriy Rabiy,  Very Reverend Robert J. Hitchens, rector of St. Josaphat Seminary; Very Reverend Roman Pitula, Cathedral rector; Reverend Evhen Moniuk and Deacon Volodymyr Radko.  Reverend James King, chaplain of St. Mary’s Villa, Cherry Hill, NJ. was also present.  Servers were Brother Eumir Bautista CSsR and Petro Pitula. Liturgical responses were sung by Lisa Ann Stasiuk Oprysk, cathedral cantor.


Since it was Bright Week all the liturgical services included the Paschal themes and hymns, including those of Resurrectional Matins and the Easter Divine Liturgy while the clergy were attired in white vestments.  The joyful Easter tropar,  “Christ Is Risen” was repeatedly sung and  reverberated throughout the cathedral and reminded all that everyone who dies in Christ shall share in the resurrection of Christ.


After being welcomed into the cathedral narthex with a Gospel reading,  the casket of Archbishop Sulyk was carried into the front of the nave and placed upon a burgundy cloth covered bier.  The purple mantia, which the late Archbishop Sulyk frequently wore while presiding at services, draped his casket.


During his moving homily, Metropolitan Borys eulogized the life of Archbishop Sulyk.   “In 1924 in the foothills of the Carpathians in the small Ukrainian village of  Balnycia began the life and the life in Christ of our dear and departed Metropolitan and Archbishop Stephen.  And today his pilgrimage, an unbelievable pilgrimage, on this earth ends here, in the crypt of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in the United States.”


“Little could anyone in the family imagine that this boy from Balnycia, could became a pastor, let alone the Metropolitan in America.”


Archbishop Gudziak recalled how when Stephen Sulyk was a young boy, as a teenager, around the age of 15, World War II broke out.   He described how the small village of Balnycia was the battleground between the Soviet Read Army and the Nazi Army and thousands of people died in battle in that area.  After the war, Polish authorities in 1947 resettled the Ukrainians in an ethnic cleansing program and burned the town to the ground and the village of Balnycia was no more.


Prior to that, young Stephen and his family were fortunate to flee to post World War II Germany where he entered the seminary and eventually came to the United States, earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C,. and was ordained a priest in 1952.


He recounted how as a young priest, Father Stephen in his first seven or eight years, served in seven parish assignments in Nebraska, Ohio and different points in Pennsylvania before he was assigned to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, serving there from 1961 until be became archbishop in 1981.


During his time in Perth Amboy, after listening to the Archbishop Fulton Sheen program, he began a private Holy Hour devotion. praying before the Blessed Sacrament an hour every day.


As a priest, “he was a diligent and demanding pastor.”


Archbishop Borys recalled how when he was a first year seminarian in Rome at the Ukrainian Catholic Seminary of St. Sophia, he had the privilege to serve as an altar boy at the Divine Liturgy on March 1, 1981 when Archbishop Sulyk was consecrated bishop at the hands of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj and co-consecrators Bishop Basil H. Losten and Bishop Nilus Nicholas Savaryn, O.S.B.M.


Archbishop Sulyk treated “his service with great responsibility, seriousness and sternness.”


“In this last year and in previous visits, I got to see a man that had arrived at serenity. A man who kept growing in Christ’s faith.  A man not afraid of death.  He was waiting for God’s will.  Christ was growing in him,”  noted Archbishop Borys.


Referring to Holy Week, Archbishop Borys noted how blessed Archbishop Sulyk was to experience death in solidarity with the death of Our Lord and now to be buried during Bright Week with the traditional song “Christ Is Risen” resounding throughout the cathedral.


He concluded, “We commend you to a merciful God.  Pray with us and for us.”


In remarks at the end of the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Gudziak referred to the numerous letters, messages, telephone calls that have been received recounting the dedicated years of service of Archbishop Sulyk as a priest and archbishop.  Letters of condolence and solidarity were received from the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Secretary of the Oriental Congregation  Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, our patriarch and our synod of bishops, metropolitans of our church throughout the world, papal nuncios in Kyiv, Ukraine and Washington, DC, the archbishops of Philadelphia and the bishops of Pennsylvania, the religious sisters—Missionary Sisters of the Mother of God, the Sisters of St. Basil the Great and the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate.


Father Hitchens read the letter received from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States containing a message from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State on behalf of the Holy Father, Pope Francis.


After the Divine Liturgy, another panakhyda was sung and Archbishop Borys offered the prayer of absolution.


The clergy then escorted the casket of Archbishop Sulyk to the cathedral crypt where the clergy offered a final panakhyda and Metropolitan Borys performed the rites of committal, the final blessing and the sealing of the grave.


In the crypt, Archbishop Sulyk was interred next to his predecessors Bishop Soter Ortynsky, Archbishop Constantine Bohachevsky and Metropolitan Ambrose Senyshyn.


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