When I reflect on my relationship with Bishop Peter – I do so from a personal and professional point of view. In regard to the former, my memories are one of a quiet man, a deep thinker, who told my wife and I many stories about his life growing up in Canada; including his experiences as a teacher and ice hockey coach.
Bishop Peter has always struck me as a man with a sincere concern for others, in particular those of his Church. When not in view of the public; he is an introverted man, with a ready and dry sense of humour. I recall his coming to Perth to celebrate my wedding – and his great enjoyment while fishing out in the Indian Ocean – 20 kilometres off shore. It was on this occasion I met his nephew, Eugene, and I heard more stories of bear hunting – and the two of them staying in log cabins. Bishop Peter is very much a man’s man; he says what he means and means what he says. I recall a Roman Rite Bishop come to me during the early days of Bishop Peter being in Australia – and rather coyly asking me as to whether Bishop Peter actually does travel back to Canada every year or so to hunt bear, I replied by saying that this was indeed true. The Bishop who asked me the question quietly nodded. I felt it was a breath of fresh air to have a Bishop who had a rugged upbringing; a vast difference to so many of the clergy. It was in fact Eugene who made good on his promise after returning to Canada, to hunt a bear and was prepared to send the rug over as a gift for having been invited to our wedding. I recall my short bride, Kathy, at the close of our wedding ceremony, standing on her tip-toes to give Bishop Peter a gentle kiss on his cheek – and how he blushed. Later on in years to come, Kathy and Bishop Peter would argue back and forth about the strengths (Kathy) and weaknesses (Bishop Peter) of the Harry Potter book series.
From a professional perspective, the Ukrainian Church in both Australia and abroad, owes Bishop Peter a very great debt of gratitude. Whereas Bishop Praszko had the difficult task of overseeing a Church that was being sown on a foreign soil; Bishop Peter had an equally demanding task of nurturing the Church in its transition from migrant Church to an established Church; and working with a new generation of leaders who were now first and second generation Ukrainian-Australians. His foresight and determination saw among other achievements: the publication of a bi-lingual Church and Life newspaper – by so doing increasing that paper’s outreach to an English speaking audience. Bishop Peter also oversaw the establishment of a Ukrainian Catholic Church website – that connected our most distant Antipodean Eparchy to every corner of our planet – ‘in real time.’ His monumental guidance of Christ Our Pascha, the Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to my mind is Bishop Peter’s greatest legacy to our Ukrainian Church. That our Eparch was the fundamental protagonist of this great work is both a credit to who Bishop Peter is as a Church man, as well as a badge of honour for the Eparchy. In later years, the Bishop was instrumental in the live- streaming of Divine Liturgies that meant that even during periods such as the COVID Pandemic the members of our Eparchy could still pray together. He led the Bishops of Australia in this initiative.
I owe Bishop Peter a personal debt of gratitude; for he readily published my writings over a two decade period – and strongly encouraged me in these endeavours. It was always our intention to provide articles in Church and Life that gave the readers a sense of a vibrant, thinking, relevant and growing Church, at the heart of social issues – at the core of both Church and Life. Bishop Peter and myself are in some ways similar and very different; yet we never disagreed in what I published – although in the early years, when referring to a piece I wrote in support of married Ukrainian Catholic clergy in the diaspora – he gently asked that the tone be more subdued, specifically when addressing my approach to the resistance faced in some quarters by the broader Catholic Church. There was also the altercation I had with a high-ranking Cardinal, while I was a Research Fellow in Oxford over the Vatican’s hesisitancy in recognizing the Ukrainian Catholic Church as a Patriarchal Church. I knew that he smiled broadly about his young firebrand from Australia. Bishop Peter was a mentor to me in my younger adult years; and continues to be so. His leadership has been one of a steady rock amid times of radical change within our Church, and in the broader Australian community. He has led our community in Faith, and cultural identity. For me his endearing mark is of a man who always backed me to go beyond – and who always had confidence in my ability, even when I doubted. Bishop Peter kept on feeding me more rope, to climb.
As he returns to his homeland – I will miss Bishop Peter’s constancy and friendship. I thank God for all Bishop Peter has done – and the sacrifices he made – in order to be a leader and pastor of our Church, in a very far distant land. My heart is quite heavy as I come to this closure in the life of our Church. Although we have never lived in the same city ever – but for a handful of days – Bishop Peter and myself have shared the proximity of Pages One and Two in the Church and Life for every edition of that newspaper for over two decades. It will be very strange for me in editions to come.
As I do not enjoy farewells – I am glad that I will not be able to see Bishop Peter leave Australia; but when the day and time comes, I will be praying the words from St. Luke’s Gospel known as the Song of Simeon: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” (Luke 2: 29 – 32, RSV)
Farewell – and thank you. Godspeed and Mnohaya Lita!