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Ukrainian Catholics of the US bid prayerful farewell to reposed Bishop-Emeritus John Bura

January 25, 2023, 09:50 177

On January 23–24, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia, funeral services were held for the retired Auxiliary bishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy, John Bura, who passed away on January 17, in Washington, DC. Funeral services were led by Metropolitan Borys Gudziak with Bishops Paul Chomnycky (Stamford Eparchy), Bohdan Danylo (St. Josaphat Eparchy in Parma), Bryan Bayda (Toronto and Eastern Canada Eparchy), as well as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Greensburg Larry Kulick concelebrating.

Ukrainian Catholics of the US bid prayerful farewell to reposed Bishop-Emeritus John Bura

Close to 40 priests — clergy of the Philadelphia Archeparchy, Stamford and Parma Eparchies, representatives of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church in the USA, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox priests joined the prayer.

The Head and Father of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church Sviatoslav Shevchuk and the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent their letters of condolences. Cardinal Parolin behalf of Pope Francis thanked God for the years of priestly and episcopal service of Bishop Bura, who died in the 52nd year of the priesthood and the 17th year of the episcopacy.

Bishop Bohdan Danylo, during the Parastas on January 23, said that the life of Bishop John was one link in the chain of the history of salvation and compared him to Zacchaeus, whom the Church remembers at this time of the liturgical year. “Bishop John was not the tallest member of our Synod, but like Zacchaeus, throughout his life, he always was searching for God. He wanted to feel God’s mercy and God’s love and then share this gift with others,” emphasized the Parma bishop, who succeeded Bishop John in this seat in 2015. He also noted that the last sermon of the deceased is in the wonderful deep texts of the funeral services.

During the Parastas, Metropolitan Borys thanked Father Robert Hitchens, rector of St. Josaphat Seminary in Washington, DC, where Bishop Bura lived in recent years, for his devotion and care, especially at the time when Bishop’s health deteriorated significantly.

In his remarks, Fr. Robert shared several stories illustrating the character and style of the late Bishop Bura, whom he met upon entering the seminary. “In his office, which is now my office, he made my mother cry because he said I wouldn’t always be able to be home for the holidays. He was teaching about the seriousness of this vocation to be a priest. It is about the service to the people. Not taking the place of problems, but rather being a server and going until you are dead tired, to offer whatever care and consolation and celebration that might be part of the priestly life and serve the people,” shared Fr. Robert. “One of the most important things that he has taught me during our time together is to be humble and to serve the people of God,” said Fr. Robert, recalling a detail that struck him — already seriously ill, unable to perform pastoral ministry, Bishop John kept his emergency sick call kit at the entrance to his apartment in case he had to leave urgently.

In his sermon at the funeral liturgy on January 24, Metropolitan Borys drew attention to the fact that the Church accompanies Bishop John on his last journey at a time when many Ukrainians have the feeling that they are surrounded by death: “Death is a daily painful experience of our people and our Church. The world is talking about death in Ukraine. And Ukrainians say that it is not only about death but about life, about eternity.”

“From his Baptism, having accepted the gift of eternity, being nourished by the Sacraments, he [Bishop John] accepted Christ’s invitation to share this gift — to baptize, to celebrate the Eucharist, to absolve, to wed, to help people understand death, to understand that they are called to live eternally,” said Metropolitan Borys. On behalf of the clergy and the faithful, he thanked the late bishop for the fact that he fully devoted himself to his service, for his modesty and kindness.

In his letter, which was read by Bishop Paul Chomnycky, Metropolitan Emeritus Stefan Soroka, who worked with Bishop Bura who was his auxiliary, also thanked him for his service and support.

“I am most grateful to Our Lord for giving me the opportunity to have shared in a portion of Bishop John’s journey of life, and for his invaluable assistance and guidance. Perhaps the most joyful times for me while living in the Archbishop’s residence in Philadelphia were when Bishop John Bura, Bishop Walter Paska, and I resided together at the residence. A joyful and trusting bond of fraternity was our gift to one another,” wrote the retired Metropolitan Soroka, who was unable come to the funeral.

Toronto Eparch Bryan Bayda in his brief address focused on the art of presence, which Bishop Bura had mastered. He recalled that Bishop John did not speak much during the Synods of Bishops of the UGCC, but he said it best when he said nothing at all. “We give thanks today for times when John was present. For that opportunity to really sense an encounter with the Trinity, an encounter with the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is speaking to you when you have that encounter, when you recognize and underline the presence of somebody else.”

The Auxiliary Bishop-Emeritus of the Philadelphia Archeparchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was buried at the St Andrew’s cemetery in Bound Brook, New Jersey, which belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA. “Through this symbol, Bishop John will testify to the end of history about the unity in Christ, about the fact that human sin, discord, and the walls that exist on this earth do not reach the heaven,” said Metropolitan Borys Gudziak.

The need for unity in today’s polarized world was also emphasized by Larry Kulick in his short speech on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops: “Today, as we commend our brother to the Lord, we know that he sees and understands the fullness of that unity represented in being united with God his creator, with Christ who died for him, and with the Holy Spirit who in this world gave him the breath of life.”

During the burial ceremony, Metropolitan Antony Scharba, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, joined in prayer. He expressed his condolences to the clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USA and shared several memories about Bishop John, whom he called a man of few words, but who knew how to be close to his faithful.


Text — Communications Service of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia

Photo — Halyna Vasylytsa

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