Christopher Julian Zajac, OSBM
On the morning of October 9, 2004, in Vancouver, Father Christopher Zajac passed from this world and to his eternal reward in God.
Julian Zajac was born on January 4, 1938, in Montreal, Quebec, to parents Mykola Zajac and Janina (Jenny) Robaszewska. His father had fought in the Sichovi Striltsi brigade for Ukrainian independence and was forced to leave his native land after the polish occupation of Eastern Galicia. Mykola Zajac immigrated to Canada in the early 1920s, where he continued to be very active in Ukrainian church and cultural affairs. Together with his wife Janina, they had four children: Alice, Irene, Roman (Romeo), and young Julian. Tragically, their mother Janina was killed when Julian was still a young Basilian student, and his father died not long after. His sister Alice died accidentally, in the 1990s.
As a young man, Julian Zajac was very involved in church activities and Catholic youth movements, such as The Christophers Movement; hence the choice of St. Christopher as his monastic name. He frequented the Holy Sacraments regularly, making his Holy Confession even weekly, on Saturday afternoons. Julian was especially attracted by the witness and example of the Basilian fathers who, at that time, were serving his home parish of St. Michael, in Montreal.
Young Julian was very gifted and creative but his parents were not wealthy. They could not afford the tuition for McGill University, so Julian attended St. Joseph's Catholic teachers' college, directed by Canon (later Cardinal) Gerald Emmett Carter.
After a brief teaching career, Julian entered the Basilian Novitiate at Mundare, Alberta, on January 13, 1961. That same year, he received the monastic tonsure and the Basilian habit, taking the religious name of Brother Christopher. In 1963, after the completion of his novitiate, he professed his first vows in the Order and was sent to Ottawa, Ontario to study philosophy and theology. He made his solemn profession of perpetual vows on January 26, 1967 and was ordained a priest, on June 15, 1969.
After entering the Order, Father Chris continued to teach and form young people, according to the Gospel of Christ. He continued to teach children at the parish summer camp in the Laurentian mountains, as he had done before entering. After his ordination, for several years, Father Chris, together with Father Justin Ewanchyshyn directed Camp St. Basil's, Pigeon Lake, (Mulhurst) Alberta.
Father Christopher served as parish priest and assistant at the parishes of St. Mary in Vancouver (1969-1972; 2004), St. Basil in Edmonton (1972-1979; 1988-1996), St. Nicholas (1979-1982; 1996-2004) and St. Basil (1982-1988) in Winnipeg. He also served as a consultor on the Canadian Basilian Provincial Council, from 1979-1982.
During his 35 years of priestly service, Father Chris served as chaplain to several branches of the the Ukrainian Catholic Women's League, as chaplain to the St. Nicholas & St. Basil's Men's Clubs and the Knights of Columbus Father Hannas (Edmonton) and Filipow (Winnipeg) Councils. He was also chaplain to the Apostleship of Prayer and director of youth, Altar Boys and Children/Sodality of Mary.
Father Christopher was a very gifted person, well read, creative, a writer of poetry and of many articles, spiritual talks and sermons. In particular, he was a regular contributor to the Basilian Order's English-language 'Beacon' magazine. Throughout Father's writings, his sensitive nature and compassion for all living things, especially for his fellow men, shone forth. Often delivered with great feeling and emotion, his sermons gave witness to his loving concern for the plight of the human person and society.
Father Chris possessed a pleasant sense of humour. His humorous stories were never negative or demeaning to anyone; he was meticulously careful never to laugh at anyone's expense. We will always cherish the recollection of some of his favourite sayings, stories and songs.
His compassion for others was particularly evident in the celebrating of the holy Sacraments, preaching at funerals and in his care for the sick and dying. From his diligent hands, many Basilians and faithful were able to receive the comfort of the last sacraments: of Confession, Holy Anointing and the Blessed Eucharist. As Pope John Paul II taught in his last letter "Mane Nobiscum, Domine", Father Christopher's Eucharistic life, indeed his priesthood, may be evaluated by this valiant service in the humblest tasks to the most needy.
Due to his profound humility and genuine love, Father Christopher was able to perceive the depths of e human heart and was an excellent judge of character. Thus, he was very reluctant to judge others harshly or superficially. His virtues, although unknown to many, were known by the Apostolic See and the Hierarchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. This is the reason why he was frequently consulted regarding church appointments.
During his lifetime, Father Christopher closely resembled his Suffering Saviour, through his own sufferings. As a true 'alter Christus', Christopher Zajac was conformed to the image of his Crucified Lord, who suffered willingly, carrying the heavy cross even unto torture and death. Let everyone learn to measure themselves by the generous and loving heart of Father Chris who lived the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world".
Funeral services took place on Wednesday, October 13, at St. Mary's in Vancouver and Thursday-Friday, October 14-15, at St. Basil's in Edmonton. Interment followed at Sts. Peter & Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church Cemetery, in Mundare, Alberta. A memorial Divine Liturgy was celebrated on Saturday, October 16, 2004, at St. Nicholas Church, Winnipeg.
A 40-day memorial Divine Liturgy was celebrated, at St. Nicholas by Bishop David Motiuk on November 20, 2004. A one year memorial Liturgy was celebrated by Bishop Cornelius Pasichny, OSBM & Bishop David Motiuk, on October 8, 2005. In addition, a special tribute was paid to Fr. Chris in the 2005 St. Nicholas Parish Directory.
Zi svjatymy upokoj, Xryste, dushu raba Tvoho, Ieromonaxa Xrystofora. Vichnaja pam'jat!