Adélard Langevin, the Basilian Fathers and the Ukrainian Church in Canada
Father Athanasius McVay, OSBM
Adélard Langevin was first and foremost a pastor, a shepherd to his flock. Pastoral and spiritual concerns are evident throughout his correspondence. Racial, social and political questions affected the situation of Catholics in Western Canada during his years as ‘Primate’ of the West. Yet, in his dealings with all of those issues, his primary concern was for the spiritual welfare of those entrusted to his care. The holy Faith was his guiding light in all. Langevin became Archbishop of St. Boniface in 1895 and lead his ever-growing flock until his death in 1915. During his archiepiscopal mandate, the Ukrainian community took-root in Western Canada; by the end of his life, his own City (Winnipeg-St. Boniface) and the surrounding areas had become the seat of the largest concentration of Ukrainians, by far eclipsing that of the Edmonton area. In this context we begin the story of the entrance of the Basilian Fathers.
Langevin has often been criticized for his initially negative stance towards the Ukrainian (Greek) Catholic Church, or at least his lack of initiative in providing suitable spiritual care for Ukrainians. It is true that, initially, he was not enthusiastic to have a separate Ukrainian rite in his archdiocese. Having never had any first-hand knowledge or experience of the Eastern Churches, Langevin sought to provide good spiritual care for Ukrainians, according to the means at his disposal. His prime concern was to hold his growing flock together in their faith, and to help the new immigrants to become good Canadians while remaining faithful Catholics, full-fledged participants in the religious and social life of their newly chosen country.
At the turn of the twentieth century, immigration and assimilation trends were still uncertain. No one could be sure as-to how quickly new immigrants would adapt to their new country. In the case of Ukrainians, Archbishop Langevin felt that, in order to retain their faith, they would do best to adapt the Rite of their new country. Until quite recently, the theological concept of ‘Particular Churches’ (Ecclesiae sui juris) with their own law and spirituality was not known; the Eastern Churches were regarded merely external Rites, which were permitted by the Church. It was almost as if Ukrainian Catholics were considered identical in all to their Latin Rite brothers in the faith, except for the Liturgical texts and rubrics that they were ‘permitted’ to use. Actually, because of these underdeveloped concepts, the Eastern Rites were looked-upon as inferior to the Latin Rite; not quite Catholic. It was felt that the particular ritual concessions, while being useful to maintain the faith in the Old Country, would only cause division in the new land.
Today we can better understand that our ancestors (indeed our own) Catholic Faith came exclusively through the filter of their culture, and part of that culture was their Church. Their authentically Catholic Faith could not be expressed in any other way except through their particular rite and spirituality. Consequentially, Ukrainians were extremely reluctant to be ministered-to by Latin Rite clergy, or to worship in Latin churches. Yes, they knew that they were Catholic, but could not practice that faith with expressions that were alien to them. As the local hierarchy began to take-stock of this reluctance, instructions from the Holy See were issued asking the local bishops to provide more permanent spiritual care for the Ukrainians in their own Rite.
By 1900, it had become clear that this large Ukrainian immigration was a permanent matter, requiring a permanent solution. Desperate for spiritual sustenance, many had joined Churches ministered to by Russian Orthodox and other clergy. There was a great danger that, left without their own clergy, Ukrainian Catholics would pass to other Churches rather than adapt themselves to the Latin Rite. It was at that point that Adélard Langevin radically changed his pastoral strategy towards the Ukrainians. Henceforth, he would work towards providing a permanent pastoral structure for his new faithful. Unfortunately, obtaining clergy to serve them was not an easy task.
Several free-lance priests has been arriving in Canada since the end of the nineteenth century. They considered themselves outside the jurisdiction of the local Catholic hierarchy. In addition, the spiritual caliber of these new pastors was rather low. They were operating independently, neither subject to a bishop or any other ecclesiastical authority; a situation completely unknown in their homeland. Often, the encouraged our people to believe that they too were somehow ‘exempt’ from any obedience to the legitimate Pastor, because he was of the Latin Rite. Often these ‘fly-by’ priests would move-on to greener pastures, abandoning the sheep, as the hired hand in the parable of the Good Shepherd. Archbishop Langevin, a Good Shepherd like Christ His Master, did not dismiss his flock when headaches arrived. He was profoundly conscious of his obligation to them, as God had given them to His care. He continued to try to provide for the Ukrainians in the best way known to him.
Several solutions to the problem of ministry to the Ukrainians were contemplated. Due to the profoundly negative impression left by some of the Ukrainian Secular Clergy, Langevin considered them unsuitable for ministry in this country. Instead, he turned to Latin Rite Religious who would consider adopting the Ukrainian Rite. In doing so, Langevin was following a line which was consistently promoted by Metropolitan Andrej Sheptytsky. At that time, only the Belgian Redemptorists accepted this difficult challenge; more clergy were needed.
Through the mediation of the Oblate Missionary Father Lacombe Bishop Legal of St. Albert, has obtained from Austrian Galicia, three Basilian Priests and four Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. They arrived in Canada at the end of October, 1902, and proceeded to settle in Beaver Lake, Alberta, near what became the town of Mundare. At the time, that area of the prairies contained the largest concentration of Ukrainian settlers. In as much as the secular priests had made a negative impression, so the Basilian’s mission made a very positive impression on the Archbishop. The zealous self sacrifice of the first missionaries proved to Lanegevin that indeed Ukrainian clergy were spiritual and responsible enough the take-up the task. Langevin subsequently moved mountains, appealing to civil and religious authorities alike, to obtain Basilian Monks and Sisters Servants for his own archdiocese. Writing to Petrus Bapst, then Superior of the Basilians Order:
“After having spoken to the good father Filas about our Ukrainian in Winnipeg and in the whole Archdiocese of St. Boniface, I have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely necessary and urgent to erect a residence in Winnipeg, for the salvation of these poor Ukrainians… Father Filas has succeeded, I believe, as his prudence and marvelous manner has succeeded in maintaining the Ukrainians in their duty; but [now] he has convinced them that the Basilians will come to take-care of them. Wherefore, I beseech Your Paternity to send us one or two Basilians…” (LANGEVIN TO BAPST, 31 MARCH 1903)
At the end of that year, Langevin was indeed successful in obtaining a permanent Basilian mission in his diocese, with the arrival of Fathers Hura and Kryzanowsky. In 1905, the Sisters Servants established their own mission at St. Nicholas Church.
Now that an effective pastoral vision for ministry was set-out and working well, Langevin continued his zealous efforts to organize permanent church-structures for the Ukrainians. The Archbishop purchased a residence for the priests, paid for a magnificent new Church and later, in 1911, constructed a new school in which the Sisters would teach the Ukrainian children. This was not enough: Langevin corresponded frequently with the Superior of the Basilian Mission in Canada, Father Platonidas Filas, who was at Beaver Lake. Langevin encouraged Filas to move the headquarters of the Basilian Mission to Winnipeg, as this was fast becoming the largest centre of Ukrainian immigration (as much as 15,000 by Winter 1905). Also, the Archdiocese of St. Boniface was the heart of the Catholic Church in Western Canada. As is seen in their correspondence, Langevin and Filas quickly developed a close relationship. Their collaboration was cut-short only by Filas’ recall to become head of the Basilian Order (that office was, at the time, Provincial Superior of Galicia). Nonetheless Filas and Langevin continued to correspond as friends, exchanging news and advice regarding the Ukrainian mission. The intimate tone of their correspondence proves that there was never any element of racial or Ritual prejudice towards Ukrainians in the Good Archbishop’s heart.
Following Filas’ recall, Langevin’s vision came true. Father Sozontius Dydyk became the new superior of the Canadian Basilian Mission; he set-up his headquarters in Winnipeg, at the house on Flora Avenue bought by Langevin himself. Many people are not aware that the headquarters of the Basilian Mission remained in Winnipeg throughout Dydyk’s term; it returned to Mundare only in 1923, the building of the Mundare Monastery and the appointment of Father Naucratius Kryzhanowsky. Father Kryzhanowsky would later become the first Provincial Superior of a separate North American Basilian Province, in 1931. In 1958, following the establishment of the Ukrainian Metropolitan See, the Basilian Provincial Headquarters would once again be drawn back to Winnipeg, where it has remained ever since.
Father Dydyk joined the other priests in Winnipeg, Fathers Matthew Hura and Athanasius Filipow, who were already ministering at St. Nicholas Church. When Father Hura had arrived in Winnipeg, the little St. Nicholas Church Committee (on Stella & McGreggor) voted to accept him as their Pastor. Father Filas, on his way to Ukraine, stopped-in for the dedication of the new larger Church. Filas insisted that Archbishop Langevin assist at the ceremony, as the legitimate pastor of his faithful. Langevin was welcomed warmly by and addressed them as their solicitous shepherd, promising to always preserve their Church and Rite. This speech was an important reassurance for our Ukrainian people, who were worried that the Latin Hierarchy would try to absorb them, especially if they held the deeds to Church property.
When the new larger Church was completed in 1905, Langevin gave it over to the spiritual jurisdiction of the Basilian Order. Despite the fact that the Archbishop had paid for everything, the issue of Ukrainian Church Property remained a stumbling-block. Already in 1904, Langevin had advised Filas:
“I am well disposed to hand-over the properties… but as I must advance the money for them, I cannot give you the deeds yet…I have written to Monsignor Légal that the time has come for you [the Basilians] to ask for corporation status. I understand the repugnance of your Ukrainian to leave the church property and land to the Latin bishop, but I must hold-onto it until I can transfer it to the Order of Saint Basil; it is thus necessary that it [the Order] exists legally. In the meantime, your Fathers may tell the people: we are the owners.” (LANGEVIN TO FILAS, 1 MARCH 1904)
It was clear the Langevin was doing all that he could to establish a permanent structure for the Ukrainians, under the leadership of their own clergy. In 1906, with Langevin’s full support, Redemptorist Father Delaere passed permanently to the Ukrainian Rite. Together with the Basilians and the Sisters Servants, Langevin had successfully established lasting spiritual ministry and structures for Ukrainians.
Although Adélard Langevin had established a lasting church structure, many Ukrainians were still suspicious of his motives and those of non-Ukrainian clergy ministering to them. In 1910, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky was finally able to accept Langevin’s invitation to visit Canada. Open completion of this visitation, Sheptytsky recommended that a separate Ukrainian Bishop be appointed for Canada. He was able to present this case to the Canadian Catholic Bishops, gathered at the Eucharistic Congress in Montreal.
Langevin felt that he had sufficiently provided for the spiritual needs of his Ukrainian flock, and indeed he had, in as much as it was in his power. Thus, it was not without difficulty that he came to accept that he must relinquish his jurisdiction over them. Nonetheless, the lingering conflict over church property, arising from mistrust and suspicion of the Latin Bishops, remained an impossible obstacle for the spiritual welfare of our people. Thus, in 1912,the appointment of a separate bishop for Ukrainian Greek Catholics came with Langevin’s consent, and the consent of other Canadian bishops. Nicetas Budka (now Beatified) arrived to take-up his post in Winnipeg; he was installed in his mission at St. Nicholas Church, on December 22, 1912. This began another chapter in the history of the Ukrainian Churches in Canada, but closed that of Archbishop Langevin. And yet, how could this zealous and generous shepherd be forgotten by his flock? Three years later, upon his death, Langevin was remembered with gratitude by the people that he cared for. A requiem Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Budka at Saint Nicholas Church, which had been built, paid for and consecrated by Langevin. One hundred years later, the Basilian Fathers, the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, and all Ukrainians remember the hardships and sacrifices of our first High Priest and Shepherd, Adélard Langevin, Archbishop of St. Boniface, precursor of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg, the Metropolitan See for all Ukrainians in Canada.
Most of this article is based on unpublished archival sources, in particular:
Centre du Patrimoine (St-Boniface), CORPERATION ARCHIÊPISCOPALE CATHOLIQUE ROMAIN DE SAINT-BONIFACE, Adélard Lanegiin Livraux lettres, Boites 141, 142, 143.
CACRSB, Fonds Langevin, Boites 82,83.
Segretaria di Stato di Sua Santità, ARCHIVIO DELLA CONGREGAZIONE DEGLI AFFARI ECCLESIASTICI STRAORDINARI, Rapporto della Sessione 922, Stampa 711, Agosto 1901; Sessione 922 Parere dei Cardinali.