PHILADELPHIA — Retired Metropolitan-Archbishop Stephen Sulyk of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia died the morning of April 6 after having been hospitalized some hours before with symptoms of COVID-19. He was 95.
Funeral details will be announced at a later date.
St. John Paul II appointed him to head the archeparchy Dec. 29, 1980. He was consecrated a bishop in Rome March 1, 1981. He retired Nov. 29, 2000. St. John Paul accepted his resignation after he turned 75, the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation to the pope.
As head of the archeparchy, Sulyk supervised the construction of a new chancery center and bishop’s residence and cathedral rectory. He renovated the sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral and landscaped the adjoining grounds. He established the Seminary Endowment Fund to finance the education of seminarians and to provide income for St. Josaphat’s Seminary in Washington.
At the request of the Vatican, he was involved in sensitive diplomatic talks with members of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine. At that time, the Soviet Union was collapsing, Ukraine was becoming an independent nation and the Ukrainian Catholic Church was emerging from its existence as a persecuted catacomb church under atheistic communism of the Soviets.
He has served on various committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Stephen Sulyk was born to Michael and Mary Denys Sulyk Oct. 2, 1924, in Balnycia, a village in the Lemko District of the Carpathian mountains in Western Ukraine. In 1944, he graduated from high school in Sambir, Ukraine. After graduation, the events of World War II forced him to leave his native land and share the experience of a refugee.
He entered the Ukrainian Catholic Seminary of the Holy Spirit in Hirschberg, Germany. In 1948, he migrated to the United States and continued his priestly studies at St. Josaphat’s Seminary and The Catholic University of America in Washington.
In 1952, he received his licentiate of sacred theology from The Catholic University of America and was ordained to the priesthood June 14, 1952, at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia.
After ordination, he served as an assistant pastor in Omaha, Nebraska, and in Brooklyn, New York; at St. Nicholas parishes in Minersville, Pennsylvania, and Youngstown, Ohio. He received his first pastoral assignment in 1955 in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, with the additional responsibilities as chancery secretary.
From July 1, 1957, until October 5, 1961, he was pastor of St. Michael’s Church in Frackville, Pennsylvania. During his four-year tenure there, he built, furnished and paid for a new church and parish social hall. Annual gross income rose from $10,000 in 1957 to $60,000 in what was considered a financially depressed area.
After a short stay at St. Nicholas Parish in Philadelphia, he was appointed pastor of Assumption Church in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, March 22, 1962. Within a year, he completed a new elementary school. During his pastorate, he converted the rectory into a convent for nuns, built a new rectory, purchased and landscaped additional parish grounds and renovated the parish church. He also compiled and printed a series of bilingual texts for use in liturgical services.
On June 14, 2002, Sulyk marked the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood with the celebration of a hierarchical Divine Liturgy and a testimonial banquet June 23, 2002.
When he retired as metropolitan-archbishop in 2000, he was succeeded by Archbishop Stefan Soroka, whose resignation at age 67 was accepted by Pope Francis April 16, 2018, for health reasons. The pope named Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak as his successor Feb. 19, 2019, His enthronement was June 4, 2019.