The Rarest of the Seven Holy Sacraments
by Lidia M. Wasylyn
The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton celebrated the ordination of Deacon Jim Nakonechny into the Holy Priesthood on August 8, 2015 at St. Basil’s Ukrainian Catholic Church. The ordination took place during Divine Liturgy by the laying on of hands by Bishop David Motiuk, Eparch of Edmonton. This was the first priestly ordination in the Eparchy in five years.
Probably everyone reading these lines has at sometime in their lives been present as a witness or participant in most of the seven holy sacraments of our faith. Virtually all of us have experienced Baptism and Chrismation, Reconciliation, and our first Solemn Communion. Many of us have likely been one-half of a marriage and sadly, at some point in our lives, we will witness the Anointing of the Sick. However, of the seven holy sacraments, the rarest one indeed, is to see and witness the Ordination of a Priest.
In the presence of well over 500 friends, colleagues, family, parishioners and faithful, and some 30 Ukrainian Catholic Priests and Deacons and servers from the Edmonton Eparchy and beyond, along with Bishop Emeritus Joseph Neil McNeil of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, Deacon Jim Nakonechny was ordained into the Holy Priesthood.
In this very special year when Ukrainians worldwide are marking the 150th birthday of the Servant of God Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, it is particularly symbolic that a young professional from our community joyfully yet humbly and unreservedly pledged his life and energies to service in God’s Vineyard. Father Jim demonstrates a real passion for our Church and commitment to our Ukrainian Catholic Byzantine Rite. He is a role model for others who may be considering a life of service to God.
Following the Ordination, a banquet honouring this event took place at St. Basil’s Cultural Centre with over 460 people in attendance. Master of Ceremonies for the event was family friend Mrs. Barbara Hlus. It was a genuine tribute to Father Jim to see so many in attendance; guests came from throughout Alberta and out of province. The very young to the very senior, Canadian-born and recent immigrants from Ukraine, all were drawn together to rejoice in the sacrament of the priesthood. Greetings were read from friends and colleagues in Ukraine, Australia, the U.S., and Canada. A heartfelt presentation was made by Martin Hryniuk from Saskatoon, Father Jim’s closest friend and former schoolmate. Elizabeth and John Nakonechny, parents of Father Jim, delivered a very touching greeting. Their expression of love and admiration for their son’s great achievement caused everyone to pause and contemplate the important role all parents can play in their children’s accomplishments. However, the most poignant and personal moment of all, was when the new Father Jim revealed an icon he had written himself during his final weeks of preparation for the ordination. The Icon of Christ the Pantokrator, a gift of thanks from a grateful son was dedicated to his parents. As his first religious act as a priest, Father Jim blessed the icon and presented it to his parents. Tears of joy filled most everyone’s eyes.
Father Jim’s journey to the priesthood began early in life, as he himself stated, it took him “41 years to prepare” for the day his dream of becoming a priest in God’s Vineyard was realized. Originally from the small rural Alberta community of Mundare, the eldest of five children, Father Jim stated that he felt a call to serve our Ukrainian people virtually his whole life. At the young age of 16, he left home to complete high school at St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Catholic College and Minor Seminary in Roblin, Manitoba. From about that same time Father Jim served as a cantor in many parishes around Edmonton and East Central Alberta.
For his university studies, Father Jim earned a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Alberta in 1996, majoring in political science with a minor in Ukrainian language and literature. He later studied architecture at the University of Manitoba and in 1996 earned a Bachelor’s of Environmental Design with a focus on Byzantine church design. Between 2000 and 2002, he studied at St. Josaphat’s Basilian Monastery in Glen Cove, New York. Throughout his youth and student years, the pull of serving the Ukrainian Catholic community was nurtured and continued to grow and Father Jim discerned that his vocation would best be developed as an Eparchial Seminarian. From 2002 and 2005, he was formed at the Holy Spirit Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Ottawa and studied at St. Paul University and the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute. In 2005, Father Jim achieved a Bachelor of Theology Degree in Easter Christian Studies.
Upon returning to Edmonton, Father Jim secured employment as the Heritage Conservation Specialist for the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, a renowned open-air museum, directing the on-site restoration program. He has always had a passion and an eye for beautifying God’s Churches. His many projects include the interior ornamentation program at Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Ottawa; ornament of the interior walls of St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church in Red Deer, Alberta; the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God Church in Edmonton, as well as completing interior restoration work at St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Edmonton. It was at this cathedral that Father Jim was ordained Deacon in November 2009. He served three years at four different Alberta country parishes in the rural communities of Borschiw, Krakow, New Kiew, and St. Michael. For the last two years, he has served at St. Josaphat Cathedral in Edmonton.
On Sunday, August 9, 2015, the newly ordained Father Jim celebrated his first Divine Liturgy at the historic St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village where he has directed restoration for the last ten years. He was extremely proud to be attired in hand made embroidered vestments he received as a gift from his relatives in Ukraine.
In keeping with our church tradition, Rev. Nakonechny married his lovely wife Olya in 2007 before he was ordained a Deacon. They are blessed with two charming sons, currently 3 and 4½ years old. On behalf of the priests’ wives, Dobrodiyka Maria Wojcichowsky made a special presentation to the new Dobrodiyka Olya, warmly welcoming her into the supportive sisterhood of Priests’ wives. Our church and the Edmonton Eparchy are extremely fortunate to have this strong Ukrainian Catholic family within the ranks of our clergy. There is little doubt that in the coming years, Father Nakonechny with the support of his loving family, community and by God’s grace, will bring leadership, hope, and guidance to our faithful, and will work very diligently to keep our Ukrainian Catholic heritage healthy and growing for years to come. Shchasty Vam Hospody!
Lidia M. Wasylyn Secretary, St. Josaphat Cathedral Parish Council, Edmonton