New Episcopal Ordinations in Mission Eparchies

Eparch Michael Smolinski, CSsR, at his ordination

Within the group of mission bishops who are stakeholders of CMIC are 2 eparchs for the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchies of Saskatoon and New Westminster. I’ve visited both. Most recently, I taught in Saskatoon for the Eparchial Faith Formation Program. CMIC welcomes and congratulates them on becoming Vicars of Christ. With the joy of ordination and enthronement comes the challenge of women and children refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, many of whom want to make Canada a permanent home.

In January, Pope Francis named Rev. Michael Smolinski, CSsR, to be the new eparch of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon. The announcement came in December when I was teaching at the Ukrainian Catholic Religious Education Centre’s Year 1 programme. Congratulations to both Smolinski and the Saskatoon Eparchy, which has been anxiously awaiting an appointment since Eparch Bryan Bayda, CSsR, was moved to Toronto.

The Vicar-General, the Very Rev. Ivan Nahachewsky, told me he’s personally pleased that Smolinski was appointed, since the latter is from Saskatoon and is well known. He will certainly be welcomed home by family and friends. Smolinski was born in 1972 in Saskatoon, then educated and ordained a priest there in 2003. His episcopal ordination and installation occurred in January, 2024. The Redemptorist Scala News reported that, “He hardly speaks Ukrainian, but he claims that he loves Ukraine and its music, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and its traditions.” Smolinski was quoted as saying, “I have been to Ukraine several times and felt that our church is a church for Ukrainians. Of course, it also welcomes everyone in different parts of the world, including Canada. People marry Ukrainians, come and join our Church and fall in love with it.”

He takes over the eparchy at a difficult time in history for Ukrainians, with the ongoing war and refugees coming to Canada. CTV News reported that, “The federal government has issued 936,293 temporary emergency visas since March 2022 for Ukrainians who want to work or study in Canada while they wait out the war. A total of 210,178 people had actually made the journey to Canada as of Nov. 28th.” The Government of Canada’s website states that, “As of October 23, 2023, you can apply for the new permanent residence pathway for Ukrainians if you’re a Ukrainian national who is in Canada and the family member of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.” According to the CBC, “Settlement agencies are preparing for the arrival of tens of thousands of Ukrainians before emergency visas for those fleeing the Russian invasion expire at the end of March.” The Globe and Mail also noted that, “In November, 2023, the province made it possible for more displaced Ukrainians to settle permanently in Saskatchewan by expanding eligibility requirements under the Existing Work Permit stream of the SINP.”

In a letter written in 2022, the Very Rev. Janko Kolosnjaji announced “the formation of a new working-group in the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon dedicated to addressing ways to assist with the current humanitarian crisis occurring in Ukraine: RESCU (Response by Eparchy of Saskatoon to Crisis in Ukraine). RESCU will continue to convene to organize and action various responses that the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon will undertake to assist Ukrainians affected and displaced by the war including through spiritual, financial, and educational means.” This decision was made under Eparch Bayda. The Catholic Register quoted him as saying, “There is an effort and a need to welcome people who are fleeing the war. In many cases there are people coming who don’t go to church or even profess a faith, that we are trying to help. This is not just merely welcoming another faithful person. This is fundamentally missionary and humanitarian work.” It should be noted that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon has also been actively taking in Ukrainian refugees.

While sharing a meal with Nahachewsky, he told me how he is running around trying to find mattresses for some of the refugees. As Vicar General, he’s taken on many responsibilities of the eparchy that he is now only too happy to turn over to Smolinski. “I’m looking so forward to it,” Nahachewsky said. “He (Smolinski) just has to tell me what to do and he can consider it done because I don’t want to make any more decisions.”

It’s not only Saskatoon that’s ministering to the Ukrainian influx. Earlier in the year, Eparch David Motiuk of the Edmonton Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy called me asking to redirect one of CMIC’s grants to a mission that is experiencing many refugee families. The situation had changed in the mission to which the grant was originally allocated.

The ordination and installation of Smolinski brought the Father and Head of the world-wide Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude, the Most Rev. Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Patriarch of Kyiv-Halych, to Saskatoon.

What is a Patriarch? This is always confusing, unless you’re a canon lawyer. According to Wikipedia, the current patriarchates within the Catholic Church also include Alexandria (Coptic), Antioch (Maronite, Melkite, Syriac), Baghdad (Chaldean), and Cilicia (Armenian). The Pope is effectively Patriarch of the Latin Church. To add to the confusion, 4 major archbishops operate as Patriarchs of their autonomous churches. A Patriarch’s election is communicated to the Pope as a sign of communion between equals, but a major archbishop’s election must be approved by the Pope.

Smolinski is not the only new eparch. The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of New Westminster, BC waited even longer than Saskatoon. Bishop Michael Kwiatkowski was ordained in November, 2023, by Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak, OSBM of Winnipeg. His Beatitude Sviatoslav, also present, addressed the urgent needs of Ukrainian refugees who ended up in New Westminster saying, “Dearest Bishop, You have worked in Ukraine for a long time, you know well the customs and needs of its residents – attach every effort to surround them with paternal love and the attention of the Mother Church” (reported by the Eparchy of Saskatoon). Eparch David Motiuk of Edmonton, who had been administering New Westminster, reported to the Catholic Register, “Already Holy Eucharist Cathedral has supported the arrival of over 300 families over the year.”

Kwiatkowski has long pastoral and administrative experience to help him navigate his new eparchy and minister to Ukrainian refugees. He spent 10 years in Ukraine from 1996 to 2006, as the Chancellor of the Archeparchy of Lviv. The last decade found him as a parish priest in Winnipeg.

Smolinski and Kwiatkowski face challenges not only in being new to the episcopacy but in helping Ukrainian refugees. While large in geography, their respective eparchies do not contain many parishioners, thus the existence of missions in their areas. The will is there but not the resources. Both have long received grants from CMIC. They are Spirit-filled men and we pray that Christ will direct them.