Reflecting upon the banishment of the Zaporozhian Kozaks from their lands, the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko wrote in 1847:
“. . . Wandering days and nights, the Zaporozhian, Upon leaving the Great Meadow and Mother Sich, Took along the icon of the Divine Mother, Nothing else did they take with them … ”
The sentiment expressed in these words can apply as well to the Ukrainian immigrants who came to, the United States in the late nineteenth century and brought with them their most cherished possession – a deep love of their Church. However, in America there were no Ukrainian Catholic churches or priests to serve them; and in 1882, a group of Ukrainian immigrants from Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, wrote a letter to the Metropolitan of Lviv Sylvester Cardinal Sembratovich, requesting a priest, since
“…we are not entirely the same as we were in our country because we are missing something. What we miss is God Whom we could understand Whom we could worship in our own way…”
The first Ukrainian Catholic priest to arrive in the United States was reverend John Wolanski in 1884. The arrival of Father Wolanski was a turning point for Ukrainian Catholic immigrants; the Ukrainian Catholic Church flourished and in 1907, Reverend Soter Ortynsky was consecrated bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in the United States.
Upon his departure from Ukraine for the United States, Bishop Ortynsky stated in his farewell speech that:
“…with great fear and quivering heart, with a thousand uncertainties flooding my soul, I gazed in the direction of the cross. 0, how awful did this cross appear, how gigantic, how overcast – so like the clouds before a terrible storm… I am corning to you to help beautify the Ukrainian Church with the light of Christ’s true faith, with a burning desire to bring praise and glory to our Church, glory before the whole Catholic world”.
Simultaneous with Bishop Ortynsky’s departure for the United States, Pope St. Pius X issued the Papal Bull, “Ea Semper”, which specified the rules, regulations, privileges, as well as obligations of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the new bishop. A critical element of the-document was the provision that a seminary be established in the United States in which young men from the Ukrainian-American community could be trained as priests.
On October 15-16, 1907, Bishop Ortynsky and his clergy, met in New York City at St. George’s Church to discuss the major issues and problems of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States. The establishment of a seminary was included among the issues of the conference.
Bishop Ortynsky appealed to Ukrainian Catholics for contributions to buy land for the site of a seminary. A 122 Acre tract of land was purchased in Yorktown, Virginia, for this purpose. On September 22, 1910, the Metropolitan of Lviv, Andrey Sheptytsky blessed the grounds.
The preparation of an adequate number of candidates for the priesthood was to remain a serious concern for the bishop. The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 deprived Bishop Ortynsky of clergy from Ukraine, who, up to that point, had been able to freely emigrate to America. The Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States was growing, but the number of priests was not.
Church records from the first decades of this century give us a clear idea of the expansion of Ukrainian Catholic Church. In 1909, there were 140 churches and 100 priests. In 1914, there were 206 churches and 159 priests.
On March 24, 1916, Bishop Ortynsky passed away suddenly. The episcopal see remained vacant for eight and a half years. It was during this time that the Greek Catholic Church in America was separated into two jurisdictions. One group was comprised of immigrants from Galicia, and was administered by reverend Peter Pontiatyshyn; the other group, comprised of Carpatho-Ruthenians was headed by Reverend Gabriel Martyak. Prior to the division .between the Ukrainians and the Carpatho-Ruthenians, there had been 296 churches and 220 priests serving over 500,000 faithful.
Father Pontiatyshyn was confronted by numerous problems and conflicts; plans for the building of a Seminary were postponed. The few seminarians then studying for the priesthood attended St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland, and were ordained by. Bishop Nicetas Budka, the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop in Canada.
On May 8, 1924, Pope Pius XI announced that the Reverend Constantine Bohachevsky would be the successor to the late Bishop Soter Ortynsky. At that time there were 144 Ukrainian Catholic churches and 102 priests in the United States.
Upon assuming his duties as the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop of Philadelphia, Constantine Bohachevsky immediately recognized the need for a seminary. In December, 1924, shortly after his arrival in the United States, Bishop Bohachevsky asked that all parishes contribute to a special Christmas collection to establish a seminary fund. Bishop Bohachevsky also spoke frequently on the need for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He encouraged parents to help foster religious vocations among their own families. Furthermore, all gifts and donations given to the seminary fund ‘were published to encourage even greater contributions.
In September of 1925, Bishop Bohachevsky designated a building in Philadelphia as t he first minor seminary for students who attended local schools. Candidates at the instruction in liturgies, language, and most importantly, revived spiritual direction from priests assigned to the Institute. Upon graduation from local high schools, students from the Institute were sent to Rome for further studies in philosophy and theology.
In 1933, Bishop Bohachevsky transferred the Institute from Philadelphia to Stamford, Connecticut, and established the first Ukrainian Catholic High School in conjunction with the minor seminary. In 1939, a college curriculum for the seminary in Stamford was established as St. Basil College.
Bishop Bohachevsky began the final phase of his seminary plan in 1941, with the decision to open a major seminary for the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, where the seminarians would have the advantage of studying at the Catholic University of America, as well as at other religious institutions nearby. The major seminary was placed under the protection of St. Josaphat.
On September 8, 1941, Bishop Bohachevsky rented apartments at 2315 Lincoln Road NE, Washington, DC, to serve as the first St. Josaphat Seminary. A few weeks later on September 19, 1941, The Reverend Emil Ananevich came to St. Josaphat Seminary as its first Rector. The seminarians began their classes the next day, September 20, 1941. In 1944, Father Ananevich entered, the newly established Byzantine Franciscan Order and took the monastic name of Josaphat.
The Reverend Athanasius Chimy, OSBM, became Rector of St. Josaphat Seminary in November, 1941. Father Chimy would later serve as consulter and secretary at the General House of the Basilian Fathers in Rome.
On September 2, 1942, St. Josaphat Seminary ,was moved to a rented building at 714 Monroe Street, where the seminary remained for nine years.
On April 21, 1943, Bishop Bohachevsky purchased 1.29 acres of land from the Franciscan Society of the Atonement for the construction of St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Seminary at 201 Taylor NE, Washington, DC.
The Reverend Jacob de Boer was appointed Rector of St. Josaphat Seminary on May 12, 1944. Father de Boer was one of 30 Belgian Redemptorists who had accepted the Ukrainian-Byzantine Rite at the request of Metropolitan Sheptytsky, and had worked among Ukrainian Catholics in Ukraine, as well as in the United States.
The Reverend Stephen Hrynuck became Rector of St. Josaphat Seminary on May 1, 1949. In addition to his responsibilities as Rector of St. Josaphat, Father Hrynuck began the process or organizing the first chapter of the Ukrainian Catholic Youth League (now the League of Ukrainian Catholics) in Washington, DC.
On September 10, 1949, The Way, the official newspaper of the Ukrainian Exarchy of Philadelphia, published a sketch of architect Julian Jastremsky’s design of St. Josaphat Seminary. The original design included a three-story building and adjacent chapel. In order to further promote the seminary building project, The Way began to publish the names of contributors.
On May 28, 1950, a ground-breaking ceremony was held to begin the construction of St. Josaphat Seminary. Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky was the principal celebrant at the Main Altar in the Crypt Church of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. He was assisted by Fathers Basil Wasylyk, Basil Makuch, Basil Holowinsky and Peter Lypyn. Deacons were Fathers Myroslav Charyna and Russell Danylchuck. Chaplains were Fathers Leo Adamiak and Platon Kornyljak. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Archbishop Ameleto Giovanni Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the U.S. delivered the sermon. Also present was the Most Reverend Ambrose Senyshyn, OSBM, Auxiliary Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States, and the Right Reverend Monsignor Patrick McCormick, Rector of the Catholic University of America, as well as many Catholic University professors. After the divine Liturgy, a procession was held from the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to the building site of the new seminary where Bishop Senyshyn blessed the grounds.
On May 31, 1952, the seminary building was completed at a cost of more that $500,000. The first Rector of the newly completed seminary was the Reverend Roman Lobodych. St. Josaphat Seminary was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Bogachevsky. Attending the blessing were Archbishop Ameleto Giovanni Cicognani, and Bishop Senyshyn, as well as Bishop Neil Savaryn, OSBM, and Bishop Andrew Roborecki, both Ukrainian Catholic bishops from Canada. The Most Reverend Daniel Ivancho, Bishop of the Carpatho-Ruenthian Diocese of Pittsburgh was also present, as well as six Latin Rite bishops. The Apostolic Delegate. conducted the dedication ceremony assisted by Bishops Senyshyn, Savaryn, and Roborecki. Bishop- Bohachevsky was the principal celebrant of the Divine Liturgy on the seminary. grounds. Over 7,000 faithful and 80 priests from throughout the United States attended the ceremony. Archbishop Ameleto Cicognani gave a moving address in which he said:
“…and now. ‘lift up your eyes and behold that the fields are already while for the harvest’ (Jn. 4:35). Rejoice in the thought of the contribution that-you have made to the Catholic Church in this great country. Be glad in seeing the panorama constructed by your fathers and yourselves: 153 parishes established throughout 122 of these United States, more than 60 parochial schools; five high schools, two colleges, three orphanages three homes for the elderly, a Ukrainian Catholic press, a rich flowering of religious, cultural, and welfare organizations, a minor seminary in Stamford, Connecticut, and finally this major seminary in Washington, bearing the glorious and beloved name of your patron, St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr
“In gladness for this day, with our gaze. on this Seminary, let us lift Lip to God this fervent prayer: For the more than 300 priests who belong to the Exarchate of Philadelphia, and for the approximately 32.3,000 of its faithful, may this Seminary of St. Josaphat be a new bond of close union and fraternal love; may it be the heart and life of the youth who are here formed for the priesthood; may it be a hope, a comfort and a benediction for. Ukrainians who are suffering in Europe; may this place be ever sacred for you, today, and always, may it inspire amongst your families a holy completion to provide an adequate number of vocations, may those families in particular be blessed who will be privileged to give a son to it.
“This seminary will continue to need your prayers, your interest, your help. Assist it now and in the future, and may the Savior bless with divine generosity, those who dwell here, both teachers and students, and all those who in any way are its benefactors. Let us thank God!..”
Fifty years after its beginning in a rented building, on Lincoln Road, NE, St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Seminary has graduated 128 priests, among which are four bishops, Jaroslaw Gabro, John Stock, Basil H. Losten, and Robert M. Moskal, and the Metropolitan-Archbishop, Stephen Sulyk. Among the former Spiritual Directors of St. Josaphat is the Major Archbishop Ivan Cardinal Lubachivsky
Reverend Basil Makuch, Rector of St. Josaphat for 24 years, was honored in 1975 as “Man of the Year” by the St. Joseph’s Committee in Chicago for his outstanding work in preparing young men for the priesthood. In 1976, Monsignor Makuch was raised to the rank of Mitred Prelate by His Beatitude Josyf Slipyj. Former St. Josaphat Seminary Vocation Director, Monsignor Walter Paska, became Rector of St. Josaphat in 1979. As Rector, Monsignor Paska also taught canon law at The Catholic University of America and Oblate College. In 1984, Monsignor, Leon Mosko became the new Rector of St. Josaphat after having been Rector of both St. Basil Preparatory School and St. Basil College in Stamford, Connecticut.
Reverend John Bura, joined St. Josaphat in 1987. In conformity with the recommendations of the Marshall Commission, the seminary completed the revision of a newly-developed Formation Program for seminarians. At this time, St. Josaphat is also expanding and reorganizing the seminary library, which now contains over 3,200 books on religion, philosophy, Church history and Ukrainian topics, and over 1,000 periodicals.
In 1991, Archbishop Stephen Sulyk celebrated the 10th anniversary of his episcopal ordination and installation as Metropolitan-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. During his reflections on the accomplishments of his tenure, the Archbishop noted the establishment of the Seminary Endowment Fund for St. Josaphat. This fund, along with the new Formation Program, helps ensure that in upcoming years, candidates for the priesthood in the Ukrainian Catholic Church can be fully prepared to meet the challenge of a life of ministry.
With Ukraine becoming independent in 1991 and the dearth of vocations in the United States, Metropolitan Stephen Sulyk set into motion a program to continue supplying our Church in America with vocations. Candidates from Ukraine who desired to be priests in the United States were accepted and educated at the Dominican House of Studies while pursuing their priestly formation at St. Josaphat Seminary. To this date, two priests, two deacons and five subdeacons have been ordained.
With the installation of Metropolitan Stefan Soroka in 2001, the Seminary is still playing a vital role in the life of the Church. Formation now includes a parish management course along with revamped courses teaching the ritual of our Tradition as prescribed by Vatican Council 11 and various Vatican and Synodal pronouncements. The Seminary still sees itself, as it has throughout its history, as the lifeblood of the Church in America.
The call to ministry is a call to leadership and service more than 100 years ago, the first priest left Ukraine to serve and guide the faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America. Since then, much ha been done to help prepare new priests for their vocation. For the past fifty years, St. Josaphat Seminary has been integral to the growth of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America, and now in turn, several graduates of St. Josaphat travel to Ukraine to minister to faithful whose deep love of their Church and faith in God gave them dignity and hope through five decades of oppression.
All are called to God, yet a few are uniquely called to lead and serve the Church. Within months of his arrival in the United States, Bishop Ortynsky had laid plans to establish a seminary in the United States Then, as now, the strength of the Church is reflected in its commitment to the formation of Her priests. St. Josaphat will continue to serve in this tradition.
“Master, to whom shall we go’ ? You have the words of eternal fife.” John 6:68