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Fr. Zenon’s Funeral
Fr. Zenon’s Funeral

Bishop Peter Stasiuk’s homily at Fr. Zenon’s Funeral

Today we are celebrating and thanking God for a Priestly vocation.

God spoke to Zenon Chorkawyj, as young man, and asked him to follow Him, to feed His sheep, to pastor His flock, to bring the good news to those who are oppressed, to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God.

We all know that this usually means that God asked Zenon to become a priest, but we also now understand that all of us who are baptized, also share in this vocation. Today the church, with the Popes leading the way, all stress that we all have received this gift, this Grace, or shall we call it, a shared vocation. St. Peter tells us that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own glorious works. (Peter 2, 9-10)

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Fr. Zenon’s vocation was special, because he was also asked by God to lead his people who are and were in the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the world and particularly in Australia.

Fr. Zenon answered this call, we can say, in the fullest sense. His calling had four pillars, each of which built a solid foundation for Fr. Zenon privately and for the community he served.

When I reflect on his life, I see the following pillars – his spirituality, his icon writing (artwork), his work on the museum and his patriotism.

Let us look at these individually. They altogether give us a picture or understanding why so many people are talking so nicely about Fr Zenon after his death. I have heard that he was a man of God, a great leader, a visionary, a great community man.

He was a man of God, he prayed always and without stopping. The day before he died, while he was in the hospital, he wanted to go to church. He celebrated Divine Liturgy every day. In the last week of his life, he was our cantor because he could not stand at the altar. In the last months of his life, in Ardeer, he walked over to the church in Ardeer for the Divine Liturgy, whether there was someone in church or not.

Take a look at his private molotoslov, the book that contains the daily prayers of the church. The pages are all brown from years and years of private personal prayer. He never missed his prayers and never shortened them. He needed to and wanted to constantly talk with God. Because he was in touch with God and he could speak to people with true wisdom and in truth.

He was a patriot of two countries, Australia and Ukraine.

Icon writing is particular to Eastern Churches. He developed a love for it and created his own style. It was unique. Go to our Geelong church and you will soon realize that you are in the house of God and it is very easy to pray in that church. His icons are now in many places. But his love for the heart of our spirituality has resulted in many fine collections of ancient and holy icons as well.

This leads us to reflect on the museum. Here in Melbourne we have the best and biggest Ukrainian museum in this part of the world. Museums are tied to culture, as the church teaches us. Our church and faith come from and exist in the culture in which we live. You cannot separate our faith from our culture.

Ukrainian culture explains and gives meaning to our spirituality. We live in Australia, but most of us have an ancestry from Ukraine. Our museum gives us the history and context of our unique church. In order to understand our church, you need to go to the museum often. That’s where your spiritual, cultural roots are better understood. Those in our church whose roots are not in Ukraine, must go to the museum to understand our church and spirituality.

Icon writing is particular to Eastern Churches. He developed a love for it and created his own style. It was unique.

You can’t talk about Fr. Zenon without mentioning his sense of Patriotism. He was a patriot of two countries, Australia and Ukraine. Australia recognized this fact by giving him the “Order of Australia”. He also received other awards from the State of Victoria. Additionally, Ukraine thanked him for his Patriotism by giving him recognition. Many churches were rebuilt in Ukraine because he asked for donations to help in their construction. Our Patriarch knows and acknowledges his generosity. Just a few days ago the Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Lviv wrote to me acknowledging his great contribution.

Even in his dying days, he asked us to help him set up the computer so that he could be up to date on the news from back home.

We can and should learn from him. We must be good citizens of Australia and love the country of our ethnic origins. That is very important element for us to explain who and what we are. St. Peter says “because of the Lord, be obedient to every human institution. Such obedience is the will of God. You must esteem the person of every man. Foster love for the brothers, reverence of God, respect for the emperor” (St. Peter 2.13-17)

Yes, today we are thanking God for a priestly vocation. We are also praying for a better understanding of our own vocation. We are above all praying that God will give us more vocations who will lead us into the future as priests, deacons and religious sisters and laity.

 + Peter.

This post is also available in: Ukrainian