Republished with permission.
By Fr. Ed Eherer, C.Ss.R.
On the weekend of January 19 to 21, the ancient Greek acclamation “Axios – he is worthy” echoed throughout the Eparchy of Saskatoon. Over these three extraordinary days, Redemptorist priest and former provincial Michael Smolinski CSsR was nominated, consecrated and installed as the sixth Ukrainian Catholic bishop of the Eparchy of Saskatoon. Adding to the solemnity of this event, His Beatitude, Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, had travelled from war-torn Kyiv to Saskatoon to be the principle ordaining bishop for bishop-elect Michael.
Clergy and laity of the Ukrainian Church were joined by Latin clergy, Redemptorist confreres, family and friends, as well as guests from other denominations to celebrate this historical event.
The festivities began Friday night at the Church of the Dormition with Great Vespers. This featured the reading of the decree from Pope Francis and the Synod of Ukrainian Bishops nominating Michael as bishop. This was read by Monsignor Antons Prikulis (pictured above), Secretary to the Papal Nuncio in Ottawa. Following this, bishop-elect Michael made a solemn profession of faith, as well as an oath of fidelity to the Roman Pontiff and to the Ukrainian Patriarch.
The next day witnessed the formal consecration of Michael to the order of bishops at Bishop Michael’s home parish, Saints Peter and Paul Church. It began with a more extensive solemn profession of faith. It was reminiscent of a class in Christian theology, with professors posing tough questions to test the orthodoxy of a candidate. Having determined Michael’s orthodoxy, the ceremony moved into the sanctuary for the laying on of hands. Each consecrating bishop places a hand on the shoulder of another, to signify the unbroken line of bishops going back to the apostles. Following the ordination, Michael was vested in the episcopal vestments of a Ukrainian bishop: the tunic, the stole, the mitre, the shield, and the staff. Each element was accompanied by the acclamation: “Axios!”
“On the third day,” Bishop Michael was formally installed as bishop of the Eparchy of Saskatoon at the Cathedral of St. George. This involved the “enthronement” of the new bishop onto his episcopal seat, again to choruses of “Axios!” His local clergy were then invited to come forward to offer fidelity to their new bishop. During the course of the weekend, we had the opportunity to hear His Beatitude Sviatoslav preach in English. He is a fine preacher and his message was powerful and authoritative. Of course, the ongoing war in Ukraine formed the backdrop for the weekend. His Beatitude asked for continued prayers for peace and justice. He also mentioned two Redemptorist priests, Father Ivan and Father Bohdan, who were arrested by the invading Russian army and have not been heard from for a year. “Ours is a Church of martyrs,” the Patriarch said, also referring to Bishops Nicholas Charnetsky CSsR and Vasyl Velychkovsky CSsR, two of our Ukrainian Redemptorist martyrs.
In recent years, the Redemptorists have had a number of confreres elevated to the episcopacy in Canada. It’s always a bittersweet occasion, given that these men are always in positions of leadership in the Congregation. The big consolation is that we have given the Church some very fine leaders who will bring our Redemptorist charism into a broader ministry in the Church. This is the case with Bishop Michael. And so we wish him many years of faithful ministry as a good shepherd to his flock. Mnohaya lita!