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Ukrainian Bishop Seminack dies; recalled as ‘an exceptional pastor’

Bishop Richard S. Seminack, the fourth bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of St Nicholas in Chicago, died on 16th August after a long battle with a heart ailment. He was 74.

His body lay in repose on 22nd August at St Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Chicago. The Divine Liturgy and a funeral service was celebrated the following morning at the cathedral.

On the morning of 26th August his body was to lie in repose at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia before the celebration there of the Divine Liturgy and a funeral service. Interment was to follow immediately at St Mary’s Cemetery in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.

Bishop Seminack “was an exceptional pastor” and “loved by his people,” Metropolitan Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette daily newspaper on 22nd August.

St John Paul II named then-Mgr Seminack to head the eparchy on 25th March 2003. He was ordained to the episcopacy on 4th June 2003, by Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, then major archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine. The principal co-consecrators were Archbishop Soroka and Ukrainian Bishop Robert M. Moskal, then head of St Josaphat Eparchy of Parma, Ohio.

The Eparchy of St Nicholas of Chicago has 38 parishes scattered across the western United States, stretching from the western borders of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi to the Pacific Ocean. About 43 priests serve those parishes. The eparchy has a Catholic population of 10,500.

As he faced his health problems and the rigours of serving a far-flung parishes and parishioners, he relied “on God’s grace,” Archbishop Soroka told the Post-Gazette, adding that such challenges “never seemed to take him over.”

Bishop Seminack was born on 3rd March 1942, to Raymond and Anna Cwiek Seminack in Philadelphia. His paternal grandparents emigrated from Ternopil, Ukraine, while his maternal grandparents came from Peremyshl, Ukraine. The oldest of seven children, he attended St Martin of Tours Catholic Elementary School and Fr Judge Catholic High School in Philadelphia.

Responding to a call to the priesthood, he received a bachelor of art’s degree in philosophy from St Basil’s College Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut, in 1963. He continued his priestly formation as a seminarian at St Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Seminary and continued his theological studies at The Catholic University of America, both in Washington.

After his ordination on 25th May 1967, by Metropolitan Archbishop Ambrose Senyshyn for the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, he pursued graduate studies at the Pontifical Institute for Oriental Studies in Rome and received a baccalaureate degree in canon law in 1969.

In the Philadelphia archeparchy, he served Catholics in several Pennsylvania parishes: Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Philadelphia; Holy Ghost, Chester; Presentation of Our Lord, Lansdale; St Anne, Warrington; and Sacred Heart, Philadelphia.

He also was a chaplain for the Sisters of St Basil the Great in Philadelphia, a campus minister at Manor College in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and a chaplain in the US Navy.

When the Philadelphia archeparchy was divided in 1983, he was parish priest of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Miami. He became incardinated into the newly erected Eparchy of St Josaphat in Parma, in which the Miami parish is located.

On 8th June 1984, Bishop Moskal appointed him parish priest of Holy Trinity Church in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. St John Paul made him a monsignor on 5th October 1984.

Within the Eparchy of St Josaphat, the future bishop held many eparchial positions including director of religious education, diocesan consultor, member of the executive board of the priests’ pension program, chairman of the diocesan priests’ personnel board, chairman of the diocesan priests’ council and staff member of the offices of pastoral ministry and of examiners for junior clergy.

Over the years, Bishop Seminack was invited to observe milestone anniversaries, bless new buildings, baptise new Christians, and bless weddings. He came to honour patronal feast day celebrations, or to be a visible sign of support to a struggling priest or congregation.

During his episcopacy, St Nicholas Eparchy observed its 50th anniversary.
The event was solemnised with an opening celebration in the easternmost part of the eparchy – and a yearlong step by step, parish by parish participation in an ongoing process of prayer as each parish hosted a specially commissioned jubilee icon of “The Protection of the Mother of God.”

A tall man, Bishop Seminack could easily “oversee” almost every element of eparchial life. He was described as a gentle man “who was not overbearing in fulfilling his role.”

He had a simple four-word episcopal motto – individual notions that express qualities of Christ’s priesthood and are attributes every priest – or bishop – can strive to emulate: taken, blessed, broken and given.

Bishop Seminack is survived by five brothers, one sister and several nieces and nephews.

Picture: Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Richard S. Seminack of the Chicago-based Eparchy of St Nicholas, right, is seen at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome in this 2012 file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).