Sr. Stephanida Maria Rawlyk, a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate, died at the Lamont Health Care Centre, AB on Saturday, October 10, 2015.
Maria was born on February 02, 1921, in Ukraine, Stanislaviv Oblast, district of Horodenka, daughter of Demetrius (Dmytro) and Catherine (Budjak).
The family emigrated to Canada in 1927, settling on a farm in the Moon Hills District, located 85 km. north of Saskatoon, near the town of Blaine Lake. She attended the local rural school, where she received her elementary education. The 1930s were the years of severe economic depression and poor crops, but the farmers survived because they were self-sufficient raising livestock and poultry and planting large gardens. Maria, being the oldest daughter, helped her parents with domestic and farm chores, sacrificing a high school education.
Since immigrants from Western Ukraine began obtaining homesteads in this district from 1905, a Ukrainian Catholic parish church was built in 1910 in the village of Krydor. The parish priest from the nearby Hafford Church served the parishioners at the time the Rawlyk Family lived in the area. Maria’s parents were dedicated Ukrainian Catholics, faithfully attending the church and sharing their faith with their children. The priest who served the Krydor parish noted Maria’s love of prayer and her her upright Christian life. He encouraged her to become a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate and fully supported her vocation in his letter of recommendation to the Sisters.
With this encouragement and pastoral support, Maria joyfully entered the Novitiate of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Mundare, AB, as a postulant on January 21, 1942. Before beginning her formation as a novice, she took the name “Stephanida.” Her patron saint was a heroic Christian of the second century, who was martyred for glorifying Christ rather than adoring idols. Reflecting on the life of Sr. Stephanida, we can witness a different type of martyrdom: peaceful abandonment to the will of God in her day to day life of prayer and service and the patient acceptance of various difficulties and suffering.
Sr. Stephanida made first Profession of Vows on January 22, 1944 and Final Profession on August 15, 1950, a Jubilee Year.
In her 73 years as a Sister Servant, Sr. Stephanida wholeheartedly served her religious community, church and people in the following missions: Mundare, Vegreville, Willingdon in AB; Ituna, Yorkton, Saskatoon, Regina in SK; Sifton and Winnipeg in MB; Toronto, Ancaster, Oshawa in ON and in Montreal, QC.
At the thirteen missions in which she generously served, she developed her many talents for she was called to minister in various ways, serving where the need was greatest at the time.
In the SSMI Children’s Home in Mundare she cared for the little ones. By performing domestic works such as laundry and house-keeping, she supported the Sisters engaged in teaching or caring for patients in the Sisters’ Hospital. She helped with domestic duties at St. Joseph’s College in Yorkton, which young men from Western Canada attended. She served as support staff in the Residence of the Metropolitan of Winnipeg and the Episcopal Residences in Toronto and Saskatoon.
Sr. Stephanida, was involved in parish ministry, preparing First Holy Communicants, teaching catechism and Ukrainian in parishes in Winnipeg, Toronto, Oshawa, Regina. In addition she visited shut-in or ill parishioners in health care institutions. She also taught catechism in the summer months in the Winnipeg Archeparchy and the Toronto and Saskatoon Eparchies.
Sr. Stephanida’s major contribution to the mission of the Sisters Servants was in the sewing and church vestry departments. Her dressmaking and tailoring skills, which were enhanced by hands-on courses, were put to good use at the Sisters’ Home in Toronto and Mount Mary Novitiate in Ancaster in the 1960s. She also shared her expertise with the Sisters in formation.
From 1974 to the time of her retirement in the early 2000s, Sister Stephanida served in our church vestry department at our Bethany Home in Winnipeg. She sewed vestments for our bishops, priests and deacons and altar servers. She also sewed whatever was necessary for liturgical celebrations. She loved this mission and served painstakingly and devotedly. She also offered hospitality to those who came to order vestments or to visit the vestry. Her gentle, kind spirit was appreciated by all who came to the vestry. She assured all who came that she would pray for them and their intentions.
An outstanding characteristic of Sr. Stephanida was her love of learning. She was largely self-taught, making good use of her spare minutes to upgrade her knowledge of English and Ukrainian. She devoted as much time as possible to deepen her knowledge of our Catholic Faith, to better share it with her students and those she met on life’s journey. She took the opportunities offered to take Catechetical and Scripture courses to enrich her apostolate and her life of prayer and faith. In her later years, she attended art classes and enjoyed painting and also mastered the guitar, taking music courses. When she was less active in the apostolate of the Sisters, she found much peace and enjoyment in these hobbies.
In the late 1980’s she travelled to Europe, making a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. She treasured this opportunity to renew her spirit and grow in her love for the Blessed Mother and her Son. For her this pilgrimage was a great blessing and a time to deepen her life of consecration.
Sr. Stephanida loved her family and treasured every opportunity to visit them. When it was vacation time, her family members were her number one priority. She shared their concerns and joys, welcoming them, as she did everyone, with a radiant smile. She prayed for them daily, asking the Lord to watch over them with love.
Sr. Stephanida suffered ill health in the last years of her life. Although her physical energies decreased, she was still a vibrant community member, rejoicing with the Sisters in their mission efforts. She continued to serve her religious community and Church by bearing her sufferings patiently and offering silent prayer for those actively serving and all those she had encountered while on active mission. To the end of her life she followed in the footsteps of Blessed Josaphata, accepting Christ’s call with delight, serving quietly and bringing happiness into ordinary lives.
Sr. Stephanida will be cherished for her simplicity, her gentle, caring and peaceful spirit. She was a woman of deep conviction and persistent, trusting prayer. She loved her vocation and her religious community.
Sr. Stephanida was predeceased by her parents and her brothers Josaphat, Roman, and John, Ray and her sister Anna. She is survived by her sister-in-law Jean (Ray) and numerous nieces and nephews with their families.
Sr. Stephanida’s funeral will take place at St. Joseph’s Home Chapel on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 with Bishop David Motiuk officiating. The interment will be in the Ss Peter and Paul Cemetery in the Sisters Servants’ plot. Park Memorial is in charge of arrangements.