Homily given by Most Reverend Metropolitan Archbishop Stefan Soroka

Слава Ісусу Христу!

Сьогодні ми зібралися в цій чудовій Катедрі, щоб помолитися за душу нашого дорогого покійного – емеритованого Митрополита Михаїла Бзделя.  Ця Катедра дотримується Юліянського календаря і сьогодні ми маємо Страсну середу.  Багато інших парафій за Григоріянським календарем уже відсвяткували Воскресіння нашого Господа і Спаса Ісуса Христа.  Митрополит Михаїл помер на Страсному тижні за Григоріянським календарем.  Це так, наче час спинився з цією смертю, чекаючи, коли ми зберемося разом на Парастас та Заупокійну літургію, в очікуванні доручення його душі Воскреслому Христові.

Під час Страсного тижня ми пригадуємо час перебування Ісуса в Єрусалимі та Його приготування до свого розп’яття на хресті та воскресіння, які він передвістив своїм апостолам.  Ісус безперервно присвячував себе служінню іншим.  Він йшов до знедолених, і оздоровлював хворих та одержимих.  Він навчав Апостолів та людей про Свого Отця Небесного. Він вибрав, приготовляв і навчав своїх Апостолів, щоб вони стали скелею, на якій буде збудовано Його  Церкву, що пошириться на весь світ.

Серед тих багатьох, кого впродовж століть кликав Ісус Христос, був молодий чоловік з побожної родини, в якій було чотирнадцять дітей.  Молодий Михаїл був натхненний місіонерами Редемптористами, які давали реколекції та служили в парафіяльних спільнотах Саскачевані. Він був вражений їхнім палким проповідуванням, їхньою побожністю та простотою в побуті.  Живий Ісус Христос прийшов до нього в образах цих молодих місіонерів Редемптористів.  Він почув заклик наслідувати їх у своєму власному житті.  Це абсолютне «Так!» Ісусові стало початком мандрівки молодого Михаїла Бзделя, яка висувала перед ним постійні випробування та розкривала можливості.  Він ніколи не відвертався – що би його не просили.  Він просто хотів, щоб Ісус Христос був живий для тих, кому він був покликаний служити.

Наш дорогий покійний Митрополит Михаїл служив учителем, парохом, місіонером, провідником спільноти, екуменічним керівником для інших віросповідань,  архиєпископом єпархії, духовним провідником нашої Церкви в усій Канаді, і що  найважливіше, був для багатьох вірним другом і порадником.  Значна частина його життя, про яку він часто говорив, припала на багаторічне навчання, опісля вчителювання, і, нарешті, служіння ректором коледжу святого Володимира в Роблін, яким керували Отці Редемптористи.  Коледж зайняв особливе місце в його серці й був його особистою радістю. Цей досвід глибоко вплинув на його життя, і він прагнув, щоб таким самим позитивним виховним досвідом скористалися інші молоді хлопці, які відвідували школу.  Шкільний досвід мав основний вплив на розвиток характеру Митрополита Михаїла.  Прекрасна виховна риса  його особистості засяяла яскраво.

Слідом за Господом Ісусом Христом Митрополит Михаїл постійно запрошував інших, навчав, випробовував, виховував, скеровував – щоб помогти кожній особі, з якою він зустрівся в житті, стати людиною, якою вона має бути перед Господом.  Уявіть тільки собі ту велику кількість людей натхненних його вихованням і наставленням в класах, де він навчав; тих багатьох парафіян, яким він служив як парох та місіонер;  організації, які він заснував, як наприклад клуб «Д» у Вінніпегу, Раду Лицарів Колумба, та інші, які він підтримував як капелан своєю радісною особистою присутністю;  його братів – отців Редемптористів, з якими він здійснював подорож віри та наставництва;  священиків, яким він помагав, уділяючи сповідь та даючи поради;  преподобних сестер, з якими його єднала віра та сміх;  працівників Канцелярії, яким він довірив помагати йому в здійсненні його обов’язків;  єпископів-помічників, яких він обирав і наставляв, приготовляючи до їхніх майбутніх обов’язків у Церкві;  його братів єпископів, з якими він розділяв провідництво й виклики, що поставали перед  Католицькою Церквою.

Наш дорогий Митрополит Михаїл був гордий своїм українським походженням.  Він був вдячний своїм батькам за прищеплену йому любов до своєї української канадської ідентичності.  Він гордився своїм походженням зі Саскачевані, і рисами, прищепленими йому життям на фармі.  Однією з найвідоміших картин в його квартирі був портрет його мами, яка на фармі сплітає цибулю.  Митрополит Михаїл часто розповідав про те, який він вдячний за те, що від своїх  люблячих батьків він навчився молитися й вірити.  Батьківські настанови віри зумовили формування  цієї молитовної людини.  Митрополит  досягав молитовного життя з Господом в простий і смиренний спосіб.  Він завжди випромінював дуже сильну довіру до Господа, Який те, чого недостає, доповнює, – як гарно сказано в молитві рукоположення на єпископа.  Митрополит Михаїл любив Пречисту Матір, до якої зберігав особливу побожність у своєму житті

Напевно найкраще як ми можемо висловити подяку за дар Митрополита емерита Михаїла – так це постаратися наслідувати життєдайні якості, які він прищеплював, у своєму власному житті.  Нехай кожен з нас прагне бути надихаючою та доброю особою.  Будьмо гостинними для інших в нашій вірі, обираймо навчати, скеровувати та виховувати інших, щоб вони стали людьми, якими покликані бути в очах Господніх.


On the day our beloved Metropolitan Emeritus Michael died, he went grocery shopping with his longtime cook and friend, Maryann Klasz.  It was his custom to host an elaborate lunch every Wednesday for the clergy residing in the Holy Family Nursing Home and in the retirement home in which he lived. Archbishop Michael, despite his heart condition, would weekly push the wheelchairs of various clergy from their respective rooms throughout the complex and up on the elevator to his apartment.  He took great pride in being able to do this.  Archbishop Michael showed great compassion for his brothers in need of priestly company. He loved to host visitors and he was always very welcoming and inclusive.

This simple and heartwarming gesture speaks so loudly of the man whose memory we are honoring today, and for whom we express our love through our prayers for his soul.  Throughout his years of ministry as a teacher and then Rector of St. Vladimir’s School in Roblin; in the many parishes he served as a missionary and as a pastor; as a brother Redemptorist Father and as the Provincial of the Yorkton Province, and as Archbishop of this Archeparchy and Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada, Metropolitan Michael  was continuously a man in quick motion.  He was like those apostles who ran to the grave upon hearing from the women that Jesus’ body was not there.  They ran with anticipation of witnessing that which Jesus had foretold them, that He would be crucified and then rise.  Archbishop Michael was always on the move, visiting parishes, especially on Good Friday to pray at the tombs set up in all of the parishes in and around Winnipeg; being present and contributing at all the archeparchial organization meetings; constantly travelling to participate in the many meetings of bishops of the province and nationally; meeting with ecumenical leaders of different Churches; and especially, being present with the children annually at their summer camp at Ukrainian Park, including the children of the archeparchy, and the Plast and SUM camps.  He loved children.

Jesus was anxious to share the Passover meal with his apostles.  It was then that he took off his outer garments and washed the feet of his apostles.  What a tremendous act of friendship and intimacy with those he called to journey with him.  Jesus tells them that he no longer regards them as servants but as his friends.  He demonstrates tremendous humility and compassion for the apostles, and endeavors to strengthen them in the difficult journey which lies ahead of them.

Sincere and simple hospitality was very characteristic of Archbishop Michael throughout his life.  As Archbishop, he was held in high esteem and was accorded reverence due to a person fulfilling such a high office in the Church.  Yet, how many times many of us witnessed him quietly disappearing from the head table and then being seen serving coffee to guests at a banquet or to his guests at home. Archbishop Michael took off his outer cloak of distinction surrounding his office and chose to be of service to all. He was very warm and inviting to all who met him.  It was very easy to speak with him.  He was a very good listener, not just to the words being shared by someone but also the hidden messages expressed in other ways.  He was very perceptive of people. He always responded with great sincerity and from the depth of his heart.  Archbishop Michael was always an ‘upbeat’ type person, happy and life-giving – an Easter person.

Archbishop Michael imitated Jesus on the cross in his dealings with difficult and offensive people.  Jesus simply listened to the thief berating him while hanging on the cross, not responding with any insult or judgment.  Archbishop Michael was not a man who held any hard feelings for anyone, even for those who may have offended or wronged him.  He felt sorry for them and he prayed for them.

Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist at that Last Supper with his apostles.  The Holy Eucharist was at the center of Archbishop Michael’s life.  Even after an overnight travel to Ukraine or some distant place, he would immediately seek opportunity to celebrate the Divine Liturgy before resting.  When sick and in frail health, receiving the Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist was at the center of his being.  Metropolitan Michael coveted a close and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  His mission in life was to impart that same love for Jesus Christ to all whom he was called to serve.  His homilies were brief and to the point. His wisely selected reflection offered the listener an important message to ponder in their daily life.  He was inviting to others to share in the Eucharist, breaking down barriers of misunderstanding.  Archbishop Michael encouraged a simple but meaningful prayer life with the Lord, preferring to set aside some embellishments which we had become accustomed to in our Church.

Archbishop Michael loved his priests and endeavored to serve them in whatever manner needed.  He was very attentive to their individual needs, balancing them with the needs of the parishes.  He instituted a massive change in assignments of pastors shortly after assuming his responsibilities as Archbishop. Many, including his predecessor, said that it would be too difficult to do.  The change was beneficial to both clergy and parishioners alike. Archbishop Michael embraced the value of change. He implemented many significant changes with much consultation and with much care for all involved.  He did not shy away from challenges, but embraced issues and needs with a view to improving the Church which he was called to lead and to serve.  Archbishop Michael widely consulted with others. He then empowered people to implement the changes and policies he saw as necessary for growth in faith and in the Church.  He stood behind everyone he asked to assist him.  He gave people tremendous freedom to use their gifts and talents in fulfilling that which he envisioned.  He was very generous personally towards any endeavor he initiated and supported.

It is that nurturing and challenging characteristic which led to so many persons being creatively involved in the Church throughout his ministry as a priest and as an archbishop.  Archbishop Michael was clearly the leader but he stood in the background giving others credit and acclaim, and supporting his co-workers one hundred percent.  In this way, Archbishop Michael developed leadership qualities in the clergy, among his peers and among the religious sisters, and among the laity who were involved in programs at the parish level, at the archeparchial level and nationally.    He initiated and supported many in various organizations, among them forming Club “D” Young Adults in Winnipeg; strongly supporting the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood, the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League, and the Ukrainian Catholic Youth organizations; the many Ukrainian Councils of the Knights of Columbus, and actively supporting all the Knight of Columbus in Manitoba; and so many others organizations.

Archbishop Michael valued his Saskatchewan roots and kept in close and intimate contact with his family members throughout Canada.  During these past years, he was dedicating a lot of effort writing about his personal and family history.  He wanted to pass on the family history to the many descendents of the Bzdel and Wasyluk families in which he held much pride.

It is a beautiful testimony to Archbishop Michael that the obituary suggested donations for the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in lieu of flowers.  This speaks loudly of who Metropolitan Michael was.  He was a man who took great pride in the instruction and formation of young people as exemplified by his dedication and ministry at St. Vladimir’s College in Roblin.  The closing of that school after such huge sacrifices made by him to sustain it was a particularly painful decision he had to make.  His dedication to provide for the nurture and formation of the young in our Ukrainian Catholic faith and traditions was always at the core of his being.  He energetically fostered the continued catechetical outreach within the archeparchy. He enjoyed his many visits at the Immaculate Heart of Mary School especially at the many seasonal concerts put on by the diverse student population.  Your generous support of this exciting and challenging initiative to build a new school would be an excellent expression of your love and appreciation for the ministry and influence of Metropolitan Michael.

I want to conclude with perhaps a characteristic which Archbishop Michael endeavored to fulfill uppermost throughout his life.  He always took great pride in the meaning of his name, Michael, which means “one who is like God”.  He always expressed such profound gratitude in his life for the gift of the name ‘Michael’.  The desire to be one who is like God characterized his entire life.  His life was a journey of continually growing in the image of the Lord whom he followed and endeavored to serve as His priest and archbishop.

Having been privileged to have shared a portion of that journey with Archbishop Michael, a journey in which I was drawn intimately closer to our Lord Jesus in the service of our Church because of his rich example, I believe without any doubt that our beloved friend and mentor Metropolitan Michael has already heard the response of Jesus given to the repentant thief, “Today, you will be with me in paradise”.  Archbishop Michael has been “one who is like God’ to so many people throughout his life.  Our gratitude and our testimony to his profound influence on all of us and on the entire Ukrainian Catholic Church can best be expressed by imitating his life-giving and God-like characteristics in our own life.

You loved Archbishop Michael.  I loved him.  All of us were in some way struck by his God-like manner.  Each of us are a better individual today because of our shared journey with this significant servant of our Lord.  Let us celebrate that admiration and love by praying for his soul.  Let each day of our life be a rich reflection of God-like characteristics.  In this way, the memory of our beloved Metropolitan Michael will be forever.

We are grateful to the many hierarchs, bishops, religious leaders, clergy, sisters, organizational representatives, government and civic representatives, and all the good people present this evening to give testimony to Archbishop Michael and to pray for his soul in the common bond of holy prayer.

God grant to the soul of his faithful servant, Metropolitan Michael, the reward promised to all who love and serve the Risen Jesus Christ.  May his memory be eternal.

 + Слава Ісусу Христу!