In Loving Memory of Sr. Thomas Hrynewich, SSMI – January 6, 2023

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

Celebrating our Jubilarians

On August 7th, 220 people joined the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Sloatsburg, NY to celebrate our SSMI Jubilarians Sr. Evelyn Stock, Sr. Anne Roman,
Sr. Zenovia Chmilar, Sr. Michele Yakymovitch and Sr. Eliane Ilnitski.
The celebration began with an 11:00AM Divine Liturgy at the Grotto.  The concelebrants were Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak, Bishop Paul Chomnycky and Bishop Bohdan Danylo, along with clergy from the Archeparchy of Philadelphia and Eparchy of Stamford.   The celebration continued with a festive dinner on the outdoor terrace behind St. Mary’s Villa with approximately 220 people in attendance. 

We offer our gratitude to these five Sisters for 265 years of prayer and service, vowing to Almighty God obedience, chastity and poverty.   Each of these Sisters have lived their religious consecration in their own unique way making a difference in our church, in our community and in the personal lives of so many people. 

Sr. Evelyn, Diamond 75 year Jubiliarian, was born in St. Clair, PA to Theodore and Mary Stock who fostered in all seven of their children a deep faith and love of God.  Mary Stock prayed that a son and daughter would be given a vocation to the Priesthood and Religious Life, and her prayers were answered as her brother John became a priest and eventually Bishop John Stock, of blessed memory, and she entered the Sisters Servants. 

Fidelity in a vocation to Religious Life or Married Life for 75 years is something that does not happen often.  However, when such a commitment does occur, we must honor that life with utmost awe and respect.  Sr. Evelyn began her life of prayer and service caring for the elderly at St. Mary’s in Philadelphia, but the need for teachers was greater, and Sr. Evelyn said yes, going where the need was, following the charism of Blessed Josaphata.  She did as many of our Sisters did, teaching during the day and going to school at night.   Sr. Evelyn not only earned a BA but also an MA in education.  Many of her 45+ years were as Principal.   She was well known for her generosity to the students and staff, modeling after her patron saint that she chose, St. Nicholas.  Anyone who has served in education, knows that being in it for 45+ years indicates your stamina, but for Sr. Evelyn it also demonstrated her love for nurturing the minds and souls of so many students.  Sr. Evelyn continued to go where the need was, when she asked to serve in our mission in Lourdes, France, and then to a new mission that opened in Conyers, GA.  Sr. Evelyn is a resident at St. Joseph’s Home and her ministry now is focused on “Praying Always,” as she is seen in chapel for hours each day lifting up in prayer the needs of many who send us intentions.

Sr. Anne celebrates 60 years as a Sister Servant.  She was born in Rochester, NY.  Her parents William and Ann, were parishioners of St. Josaphat Church and their children Anne, Rose Marie and Stephen attended the parish school.  Sr. Anne’s faith was nurtured by her parents, and she attributes her vocation to Religious Life to the example of service and dedication of her pastor, +Fr. Nicholas Wolensky. 

Sr. Anne’s ministry in the field of education as a teacher and Principal for over 40 years in various elementary schools, combined competency with Gospel values.   She held her students to high standards in developing their character and excelling in their studies.  Even after leaving the ministry in Education she still retains a love for reading, developing her mind.  She is like those yellow cliff notes that we all used when we didn’t feel like reading the whole book.  The other ministry that is dear to
Sr. Anne’s heart, is “care for the beauty of God’s Churches,” which she took great pride in, especially at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Philadelphia for many years.  She presently serves as our SSMI Sacristan at St. Joseph’s Home, following in the example of our foundress, Blessed Josaphata who stressed upon the Sisters the sacredness of caring for God’s House.   

 Sr. Zenovia celebrates 55 years of Consecrated Life.  She was born in Germany as her parents Wasyl and Zina Chmilar were forced to leave their native Ukraine.  They moved to Rochester, NY and were part of the St. Josaphat parish and school along with her sister Irene and her brother Bill. The faith-filled values and examples of her parents, pastors and sisters nurtured her desire to live the life of a Sister, and she entered the SSMI’s in 1966.

Sr. Zenovia responded to God’s call by joyfully sharing her faith with her students for over 40 years as a teacher in elementary schools across the U.S. as well as St. Mary’s Academy in Sloatsburg.  Sr. Zenovia continues to touch the lives of the students and parishioners as she teaches Religion and Music at St Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic School in Minersville, PA.   She was gifted with a beautiful voice and talent for music, and went for studies at our Christ the King Province in Canada, and is our “SSMI Cantor/Musician.”  Her joyful personality and compassion are genuine and unconditional.  Her ministry at St. Nicholas includes visiting the infirm and shut-ins. The impact of her visits is displayed in a note I received from a family member: “I wanted to inform you that Sr. Zenovia’s visit was just what my parents needed, they felt like she was an angel sent from God.”   

Sr. Michele, Golden 50th Jubilarian, was born in Rochester, NY along with her siblings Frank, Mary Ann, Nadia and Monica to Michael and Mary Yakymovitch.  They were parishioners of St. Josaphat Parish, and attended the parochial school, staffed by the SSMI’s.  Sr. Michele’s position as the eldest in her family has attributed to her strong sense of responsibility, loyalty and independence.  Her decision to enter religious life was her own, but the decision to enter the Sisters Servants was a little nudge from her mother.

Sr. Michele’s desire to change the world with a totally committed spirit, as a Sister Servant, began as an educator in various parish schools as well as St. Mary’s Villa Academy.  Her superiors noticed a maturity and love for her consecration, which would enable her to guide young women who were contemplating Religious Life.  Therefore, from 1984-1987 she attended St. Louis University for this training. 
Sr. Michele also carried in her the spirit of our foundress to “go where the need is the greatest” and became Administrator of St. Mary’s Spiritual, Cultural and Educational Center for four years.   Her leadership qualities were recognized by the sisters in the province, and she was elected Provincial Superior in 1995 for an unprecedented (3) three 5-year terms until 2011.  Her generosity and active presence on advisory boards in the community of Sloatsburg is respected by many. Sister Michele continues to use her leadership skills, as she became Administrator of St. Joseph’s Adult Care Home in 2011, providing the elderly with compassionate and loving care.  Sr. Michele already has a gold watch, so her eyes are focused on acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly with her God. (Micah 4).

Sr. Eliane, our Silver 25th Jubilation, was born in Brazil along with her sisters Elizete, Elenice and Janete to Enuario and Helena Ilnitski.  Sr. Eliane joined the SSMI’s in the province of St. Michael the Archangel, Brazil, in 1996.  She was stationed at several Catholic schools in Brazil. 

 In 2005, Sr. Eliane said “yes” to come to the U.S. as a “missionary,” following the words of our foundress Blessed Josaphata to “go where the need is the greatest.” She was open to learning a new language, experiencing a different culture, and discovering the many talents she was given.  Sr. Eliane’s first mission in the U.S. was at St. Mary’s Villa Retreat House in Sloatsburg.  Her willingness to develop her hidden talents led her to learn the art of sewing Liturgical Vestments.  She also took on the roles of our SSMI Photographer and Technology Sister.

In 2010, Sr. Eliane made a decision and sacrifice that would change her life, as well as our life in the USA Province.  In her letter to Sr. Michele, she wrote, “Now after spending 5 years as a missionary, I feel that the Lord is directing me to make another commitment in my service to Him.   Seeing the need of your province, I feel called to become a full member of the province of the Immaculate Conception in the USA.”  In 2012, Sr. Eliane became the Principal at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic School in Passaic, NJ.  Her work ethic, devotion and love for St. Nicholas School & Parish was reciprocated by the deep love and respect of her students, parents and parishioners. Now, a new chapter, even something beyond Sr. Eliane’s imagination, has been placed upon her shoulders, to guide the SSMI’s in the US as Provincial Superior. She will do it joyfully with a deep faith in God. 

May God grant Sr. Evelyn, Sr. Anne, Sr. Zenovia, Sr. Michele and Sr. Eliane many blessed and happy years!  Mnohaya Lita!