Homily by Most reverend Bishop Paul Homnycky, OSBM at Sr, Thomas Hrynewich’s Funeral on January 12, 2023
Condolences to Sr. Eliane and all the Sisters, especially her immediate superior, Sr. Michele.
When I read her CV, all I could say was: Wow! I don’t think I’ve read a CV of a Sister Servant that was as long or as varied or as impressive.
She really packed a lot of life into her 80 years of religious life: enough for two lifetimes. She was a true trailblazer and did it all with grace, love and humility.
Every vocation needs a jump start, something to get the engine turning. I was astonished to learn that jump start in vocation story came from the same source as hers – albeit separated by 40 years.
Sr. Thomas wrote that when she was a teenager, she was fighting her vocation, but that during a Lenten mission given by Fr. Maksym Markiw, she said: “I finally gave in and decided I belonged to the Lord.”
I had the same experience 40 years later and on the other side of the continent.
Then, she spent her novitiate in the same town I did – no surprise there – in Mundare, Alberta, in which were located, for many years, the motherhouses of both the Basilians and the Sisters Servants.
Her professional career stretched for an incredible seven decades: from her first teaching assignment at the age of 21 in 1945 in St. John’s School in Detroit, to her final assignment, when, in 2011, at the age of 87, she accepted the mission of principal of St. Nicholas School in Minersville, PA, a post she held until 2014. She finally retired from active work at the age of 90 years. Talk about serving where the need is greatest.
And those intervening years were filled with so many more assignments, so much more responsibilities, in so many more places, so much more serving where the need was greatest:
Teaching, cooking, studying, administrative work. Everything except nursing, and I think and she probably would have done that, if they had asked her to.
Besides teaching, there were many years in Rome as general counsellor and econome (treasurer) of the Sisters Servants, a stint as the Provincial Superior in America, even choir director of the Sisters in Rome. But I think, most groundbreaking aspect of her life were the years of study at various institutions of higher learning throughout the world: in Detroit, Ottawa, Fordham University in NYC, Regina Mundi in Rome and the Catholic University in Washington, DC, which led to being appointed to her longest and most consequential mission and the one in which she was an undoubted trail-blazer: that of Vice-Chancellor and then Chancellor of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia for 25 years under two archbishops. She was, I think, the first woman to hold such a position of authority and responsibility in our Ukrainian Church and perhaps in the en-tire Catholic Church in America. She was put in the spotlight. Any false move, any mistake on her part, would have invited inevitable a barrage of criticism. A woman can’t do this job.
But she didn’t give the naysayers a chance because she performed her tasks with skill in an exemplary fashion and with a smile on her face. And I’ve even heard it stated by some priests, that Sr. Thomas provided the human face in the chancery office.
She was indeed a true trailblazer, she served where the need was greatest, and she served without hesitation, going places where women and religious have never gone, without reservation, selflessly and all with grace, good humor, love and humility right until the very last even during the last decade of her life here at St. Mary’s and in St. Joseph’s.
Her CV ends, after listing her education and where she was missioned, with the words: “All this was great, but the joy, peace and love that are found in the complete surrender to God and serving others as our Lord Jesus Christ did, is the most satisfying. I could not wish to live any other way.” How wonderful it would be if each of us could say these same words about ourselves! What a marvelous example she gave with these words and the life she lived in which these words were fulfilled.
Sr. Thomas desired nothing more than to come to end her earthly life in the heart of her beloved community. After a couple of weeks in hospital, her final wish was granted. She was brought home, here to St. Joseph’s and within a few hours the Lord took her from her earthly to her eternal home.
Sr. Thomas passed away in the early hours of January 6, the feast day of the Theophany of Our Lord – Богоявління.
God, who had been obscured from humanity since its fall in the Garden of Eden, finally appears clearly in three person on the day of the Baptism of Our Lord: Father voice), Son (Messiah) and Holy Spirit (dove)
How fitting that on the morning that we, here on earth, celebrate, in song and sacrament, the Baptism of the Lord and the Theophany of the Triune God, our dear Sr. Thomas, faithful to her vocation to the last minute of her life, was lifted up to heaven, to gaze upon the Triune God, whom she loved and served for 80 years as a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate.
May her memory be eternal!
– St. Joseph Home, Sloatsburg, NY: 12/1/23