Over sixty students, professors, support staff and university administrators recently gathered at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (MASI) over a pizza lunch to greet the new Director of the Institute, Father Stephen Wojcichowsky.
Father Stephen began a three-year term as director of MASI on February 1. MASI is an academic unit of the Faculty of Theology at Saint Paul University in Ottawa and offers graduate and undergraduate degrees in Eastern Christian Studies as well as certificate and summer intensive programs both in Canada and in Ukraine. It is supported by the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute Foundation.
The dean of the Faculty of Theology, Professor Normand Bonneau welcomed Father Stephen to the University and to the Faculty and offered two wishes: “that through his wisdom and guidance, he might continue the legacy of his predecessors in the Institute and help it flourish in the future; and that he might find fulfilment in this new ministry.”
Father Stephen shared some reflections noting that he is not unmindful of God’s kindness in his life in bringing him to this moment. Nor is he unmindful of the many kind people who have paved the way for his “coming here to work with and among you.” In this, he finds himself both honoured and humbled: “honoured that the administration of the University, the Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Canada and the members of the Institute and Foundation had the confidence that I could serve our Lord and the Universal Church in this capacity; and humbled to be following in the footsteps of my predecessors, Founding Director Right Reverend Mitred Protopresbyter Andriy Chirovsky and Very Reverend Canon Andrew Onuferko.” He expressed excitement in working with the other professors of the Institute, Fathers Peter Galadza and John Jillions and with the administrative staff and students who contribute to the life of the Institute in so many ways.
Father Stephen thanked Saint Paul University for having the vision to integrate into its very life and identity the Sheptytsky Institute which, though small in magnitude, is great in scope. Referring to the Institute’s identity as “a centre of higher learning, a centre of research, a centre of ecumenical understanding, and a centre of prayer, dedicated to integrating academic study and worship of the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” Father Stephen underscored its mission to communicate, in dialogue with contemporary societies, “the power of Christian Faith and living Tradition, so that all may share in the very life of God.”
He spoke of the differences and similarities between the Eastern and Western churches and noted that while there are differences of emphasis, expression, thought and understanding, there is only one Christ. He hopes to use these differences, which are not divisive at heart, as a springboard to dialogue and exchange so that the good relations that exist between SPU, the Institute and the community may continue and develop even closer.
In his closing remarks, Father Stephen addressed the students in particular saying. “I am edified by your passion for life, your hopeful outlook for the future, your desire to serve, your straining after what is true and right, your appreciation of goodness and beauty wherever you find it. It is with you especially that I wish to work for your joy. Thank you for being here.”
Originally from Montreal, Father Stephen was ordained a priest in 1980 at the Ukrainian Catholic Studite Monastery in Castelgandolfo, Italy. He studied at Loyola College in Montreal, University of Toronto, University of St. Michael’s College, and the John XXIII Institute for Eastern Christian Studies in New York, earning degrees in Theology, Education, and Political Science. Prior to assuming his position as director, he completed the requirements for a Licentiate in Theology in Eastern Christian Studies and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry at Saint Paul University. Father Stephen and his wife Maria have three adult children and two grandchildren.
For over thirty years, Father Stephen has combined service to Catholic schools and Ukrainian Catholic parishes as a teacher, principal, school district administrator, lecturer in Theology, school chaplain, seminary spiritual director, deacon, assistant priest, pastor, and as a member on any number of committees and boards, both in educational and ecclesial settings on a local and national level. His most recent appointments were as Director of Religious Education Services at the Edmonton Catholic School District and as assistant pastor of St. Josaphat Cathedral in Edmonton.
MANY HAPPY YEARS – MNOHAYA LITA!