A Tribute to the late
On the First Anniversary of his Death
Fr. Athanasius McVay, OSBM
I would like to pay tribute to Father Alexander Baran. My reasons are personal, historical and spiritual; personal for the encouragement he offered me, historical for the legacy he has left behind relating to the study of History, and spiritual because Father Baran was, above all, a Christian historian, a discerner of God’s History of Salvation in Jesus Christ.
I first came into contact with Father Baran when I was a small child living in Fort Richmond. In those days Father Baran lived in a house at the end of our street. My mother often took me for walks past his house and frequently she would stop for a neighbourly chat with him. In these encounters, Father was very friendly and always found time to address a few kind kind words to me. These events may seem to lack importance, but I firmly believe they played a part in leading up to the friendship that we forged later.
Later, we moved to another area, and Father Baran also moved, we lost track of each other. Whenever Father’s name would appear in print or was mentioned in connection with some church or university event, mom would think of him with affection: "Oh yes, Father Baran, our old neighbour."
After I had become a priest, I met-up with him in various locations. One in particular, I will always remember. I was leaving Winnipeg and returning to Rome to complete my licentiate degree in Church History. As Father Baran was also leaving to see his mother we had an opportunity to converse. During our conversation he showed great interest in my studies and offered the encouragement of an ‘older statesman’ in the field.
Eventually, after I was assigned to St. Nicholas Church in Winnipeg in the fall of 2000, I was able to re-connect with Father Alexander. We now had the opportunity to continue our conversation at the airport, interrupted several years earlier. By this time, I had begun systematic archival research in preparation for the doctorate. One morning, Father Baran came-over to discuss Church History. He examined the many documents that I had transcribed from the Vatican and other church archives and offered many concrete suggestions. He reminisced over his long-time collaboration with the Basilians, especially with our publication Analecta OSBM and its re-founder Father Athanasius Welykyj. I will always remember the tremendous encouragement and assistance that he offered me on this occasion. He remarked that he too had some unfinished research at the Vatican Archives and seemed to be pointing me in the direction of some of the questions underlying his research, as if passing the torch. Since that day, each time I have returned to Rome I have continued to research these still unanswered questions. In the light of Father Baran’s relationship with the Basilians, it gave me great pleasure, on the occasion of his Fiftieth Priestly Anniversary, to have the privilege of delivering to him a letter of congratulation from the Basilian Order, entrusted to me by our then Superior General Protoarchimandrite Dionysius Lachowicz. I also made available online some of Baran’s articles from Analecta OSBM, together with a special dedication.
The reflections that have preceded are exclusively personal. Yet, Father Baran’s legacy is predominantly universal and spiritual. More than an historian, he was a Christian and a priest of Jesus Christ.
One of my professors defined history as "the memory of mankind". Certainly, Father Baran contributed to our historical memory by his tremendous work and research. For Christians, however, History has a deeper significance. as it is viewed not merely as a series of mankind’s accomplishments, but moreso of God’s accomplishments for us through time. The latter is a journey of pilgrimage recorded in the Holy Scriptures, continuing in us throughout history up to this day. As a priest, Alexander Baran was a mediator of God’s grace in the history of our people and of each one of us. That is why his memory will not fade with the fading of earthly testimonies. Libraries and archives may turn to dust, whole civilizations may vanish but in God’s eternal memory we continue to make history.
Our liturgical response to this truth is Vichnaja Pamjat’. Although often translated as, “May his memory be eternal”, signifying our efforts to maintain a memory, I translate, “his memory IS eternal”, something that we believers accept, and for which we give thanks.
Tvoja pamjat' vichnja, dorohyj Otce Oleksandre. We thank the Lord for your life on earth, for your legacy among us, and for your eternity, with much love.