June 14, 2019

A BRIEF HISTORY: Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia


Catholics of the Byzantine ritual tradition in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were known in church terminology as Ruthenians. Large numbers of them began to immigrate to the United States in the late 1870s. A priest of their own arrived in 1884, Father John Wolansky and blessed their first church building in Shenandoah, Pa., that same year. These Catholics were placed under the jurisdiction of the Latin ordinaries of the places of residence by virtue of the Apostolic Letter of Leo XIII Orientalium Dignitas (1895).

In 1907 Bishop Soter Stephen Ortynsky was appointed their ecclesiastical superior, but he had to procure actual jurisdiction as vicar general from the Latin ordinary of each community where his faithful had settled. In 1913 Bishop Ortynsky was accorded full ordinary jurisdiction and independence from the Latin ordinaries (Cum Episcopo, August 17, 1914), under the vigilance of the apostolic delegate in Washington.

Bishop Ortynsky died prematurely on March 24, 1916. World War I had severed communications with the dioceses of origin in Austro-Hungary. The Holy See did not then appoint another bishop but ordered the apostolic delegate to assign two priests as temporary administrators, one for the faithful who came from the ecclesiastical province of Lviv-Halych (Galicia [Halychyna] and Bukovyna), and another for those whose origin was in some part of the kingdoms then called Hungary and Croatia. This division implied the permission for either group of the faithful to detach themselves from an existing parish and found one of their own, defined either according to the criterion of regional origin or of language, which was to be decided by the majority of the faithful in each parish. Smaller groups chose sometimes not to separate themselves and to stay with the majority in the local parish.

This separation was made permanent when in 1924 bishop ordinaries were appointed for each group. For the faithful and parishes who traced their origin to the province of Lviv, the seat of the ordinary (soon to be termed apostolic exarch), Bishop Constantine Bohachevsky, was established on May 20, 1924, in Philadelphia.

On July 20, 1956, Pope Pius XII created the Apostolic Exarchy of Stamford, Conn., assigning to it the parishes situated in the state of New York and in all of New England, and appointed as its first titular bishop Ambrose Senyshyn, previously auxiliary in Philadelphia.

The same Roman pontiff erected on July 12, 1958, the Ecclesiastical Province of Philadelphia, consisting of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia of the Ukrainians, and the Eparchy of Stamford. Pope John XXIII separated the western part of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia on July 14, 1961, comprising all the states of the U.S.A. west of the western boundary of Ohio and on the west of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and established it as the Eparchy of St. Nicholas of Chicago for the Ukrainians. Bishop Jaroslav Gabro was installed at the time of the canonical erection of the Eparchy on December 12, 1961, as its first bishop.

Pope John Paul II created on December 5, 1983, the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio, comprising the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina and West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania. Bishop Robert M. Moskal was installed at the time of canonical erection of the new eparchy on February 29, 1984, as its first bishop.

As a result of these separations, the Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia now includes the District of Columbia, the states of Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania to the eastern boundaries of the following Pennsylvania counties: Potter, Clinton, Center, Mifflin, Huntington and Fulton.

The Archbishop of Philadelphia is the metropolitan for the Ukrainian eparchies of the United States, which have their sees in Stamford, Chicago and Parma. He is, according to law, a metropolitan outside the territory of the Major Archiepiscopate in accordance with canons 133-138 of the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches. The bishops of the Metropolitan Province of Philadelphia of the Ukrainians enjoy jurisdiction over all their faithful in the territory of their eparchies, thereby excluding the concurrent jurisdiction of bishops of any other co-territorial (Western or Eastern) Catholic autonomous churches.

Today the Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia, with a population of 13,051 souls, comprises 62 parishes and two missions presently served by 57 priests.


Hierarchs of the Philadelphia Archeparchy

– Most Reverend Stephen Soter Ortynsky, OSBM

Consecrated May 12, 1907; died March 24, 1916.


– Most Reverend Constantine Bohachevsky

Appointed bishop in the United States May 20, 1924; consecrated June 15, 1924; appointed first metropolitan-archbishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy August 6, 1958; enthroned November 1, 1958; died January 6, 1961.


– Most Reverend Ambrose Senyshyn, OSBM

Appointed second metropolitan-archbishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy August 14, 1961; died September 11, 1976.


– Most Reverend Joseph M. Schmondiuk

Appointed third metropolitan-archbishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy October 1, 1977; died December 25, 1978.


– His Eminence Myroslav Cardinal Lubachivsky

Appointed fourth metropolitan-archbishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy September 21, 1979; appointed apostolic administrator of Philadelphia October 3, 1979; consecrated November 12, 1979; named coadjutor major archbishop of Lviv March 24, 1980; became major archbishop of Lviv September 7, 1984; named cardinal May 25, 1985; died December 14, 2000.


– Most Reverend Stephen Sulyk

Appointed fifth metropolitan-archbishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy December 29, 1980; consecrated March 1, 1981; retired November 29, 2000.


– Most Reverend Stefan Soroka

Appointed sixth metropolitan-archbishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy November 29, 2000; enthroned February 27, 2001; retired April 16, 2018.


– Most Reverend Borys Gudziak

Appointed seventh metropolitan-archbishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy February 18, 2019; enthroned June 4, 2019.


Source: Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.