Bishop Borecky, first Ukrainian Catholic eparch
of Toronto and Eastern Canada, dies at age 91

by Andrij Kudla Wynnyckyj
Special to The Ukrainian Weekly

TORONTO - Bishop Isidore Borecky, the former Ukrainian Catholic eparch of Toronto and Eastern Canada, died on July 23, at Toronto's Western Hospital, after 65 years in the priesthood and 55 years as a bishop.

Bishop Borecky was born in the village of Ostrivets, Terebovlia district, in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine, on October 1, 1911, to Symeon and Julia (née Dawosyr) Borecky. He began his elementary schooling in Ostrivets in 1918 and graduated from the gymnasium in Terebovlia in May 1932.

Upon graduation he was accepted in 1935 by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky for theological studies at the Greek-Catholic Theological Academy in Lviv. He pursued graduate studies at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, where for three years he was in residence at the Pontifical Seminary of St. Andrew the Apostle. On July 17, 1938, Bishop Dionysius Nyaradi of Krizevci (adjutor for the Byzantine rite), ordained Deacon Isidore to the priesthood in the Bavarian capital's St. Michael the Archangel Church.

On November 26, 1938, the Rev. Borecky left Germany to join his father, who had emigrated to Canada some years earlier, and to serve the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic faithful in Canada under Bishop Vasyl Ladyka OSBM. The Rev. Borecky's first pastorship was in Canmore, Sask., whence he was transferred several times to parishes in Manitoba and others in Saskatchewan, until he was appointed in 1944 as the first full-time resident priest of St. John the Baptist Church in Brantford, Ont. From this base, he also served mission parishes in Delhi, Grimsby, Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Thorold and Welland until 1948.

On March 3, 1948, Pope Pius XII appointed the Rev. Borecky as Apostolic exarch of Eastern Canada (his titular position was Bishop of Amatunte di Cipro), with a jurisdiction that comprised Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. His episcopal ordination was celebrated in Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral on May 27, 1948, and his consecrators were the newly elevated Archbishop Ladyka, Archbishop Constantine Bohachevsky (of the U.S.) and Bishop Neil Savaryn.

Bishop Borecky oversaw the rapid strengthening of his exarchate, fueled by the influx of the post-war wave of immigrants from Ukraine, not only in terms of numbers of faithful, but also the arrival of theological luminaries such as the Rev. Bohdan Lypsky (who had taught him in Lviv). Under Bishop Borecky's leadership, such clerical activists strengthened the resolve of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada to maintain the purity of the Eastern (Byzantine) rite, and avoid Latin influences.

The name of the exarchate was changed to that of "Toronto and All Eastern Canada" on March 10, 1951, and it was elevated to full status as an eparchy (the Roman Catholic equivalent of a diocese) on November 3, 1956, with a complementary promotion of status for its bishop.

Bishop Borecky took part in the Second Vatican Council, opened under Pope John XXIII in 1962, and strongly supported the cause of a Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate.

When Cardinal Josyf Slipyj was released the following year from a long period of imprisonment and exile, Bishop Borecky was among the first to express his support, which did not waver as succeeding papal administrations resisted Patriarch Slipyj's efforts to assert the independent authority of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

In the 1960s Bishop Borecky was granted an auxiliary, Michael Rusnak, CSsR, who was ordained on August 25, 1964, and served in this capacity until he was given his own eparchy on October 13, 1980. However, as the 1980s progressed, the eparch of Toronto found the Holy See unwilling to grant his requests for a successor to Bishop Rusnak.

In the 1990s Bishop Borecky passed through his own hour of dire crisis, as the Roman Curia began to apply extreme pressure on him to resign, in accordance with Roman Catholic practices (which stipulate that hierarchs resign upon reaching the age of 75), but in contradiction to Ukrainian Catholic tradition, according to which bishops are appointed for life. In December 1992, the Vatican moved to strip Bishop Borecky of his authority by appointing as apostolic administrator his long-serving chancellor, the Rev. Roman Danylak.

Backed by a majority of the Toronto eparchy's clergy and laity, Bishop Borecky resisted, even as the Rev. Danylak was consecrated as titular bishop of Nyssa in March 1994. In the end, the Vatican backed down. Bishop Danylak was reassigned.

Satisfied that the rifts in the eparchy were at least partially healed but primarily that his authority and, by extension, that of the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Bishops, were intact, Bishop Borecky officially retired, at 86, on June 16, 1998, paving the way for the succession to his post by Bishop Cornelius Pasichny.

Bishop Borecky was tireless in his assistance to the development of the Ukrainian community in eastern Canada. As the Toronto Eparchy's press release put it: "the achievements of Bishop Isidore's lifetime service include fostering religious vocations, and establishing lay organizations, churches, missions, senior citizens' homes, Eastern rite schools, cultural centers, and providing financial help to many institutions."

As acknowledged at his funeral, Bishop Borecky also lent considerable assistance to the underground Church in Ukraine. When it emerged from the catacombs in 1990, his support did not flag.

Through his warm personal relationships with the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada, Bishop Borecky was able to foster a climate conducive to ecumenical cooperation between the two major Churches.

Bishop Borecky also acted as a patron to an astounding array of Ukrainian Canadian cultural endeavors - from individual artists to substantial exhibitions and productions at the country's major cultural institutions - throughout his tenure.

A bishop's parastas was offered on July 24 at St. Nicholas Church, and on July 25 at the eparchy's cathedral, St. Josaphat's, both in Toronto. An estimated 650 clergy and laity participated.

The pontifical funeral liturgy was offered on July 26 at the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Holy Dormition in Mississauga, by Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, assisted by the newly consecrated Toronto eparch, Bishop Stephen Chmilar; Bishop Emeritus Cornelius Pasichny; Bishop Vasyl Filevych; Bishop John Pasak of the Slovak Eparchy of Canada, Bishop Severyn Yakymyshyn; and Bishop Michael Wiwchar of Chicago.

Also in attendance was Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, archbishop of Toronto, Archbishop Yury Kalischuk of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada; numerous clergy; and over 600 faithful. Bishop Isidore Borecky was laid to rest at Mount Peace Cemetery in a family plot.

Bishop Borecky is survived by his brother Walter (Volodymyr), with his wife, Helen; his three nephews, Richard, Myron, Eugene; and their families.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 3, 2003, No. 31, Vol. LXXI

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