Archbishop Stephen Sulyk, 95, a longtime leader in the Ukrainian Catholic Church who had been appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia by Pope John Paul II, died Monday, April 6, from the coronavirus at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees.
During a religious career that spanned Europe and the U.S. over more than a half century, Archbishop Sulyk, of Cherry Hill, served as an assistant pastor and pastor at churches that ranged from Omaha, Neb., to Perth Amboy, N.J., according to the Metropolitan Archeparchy of Philadelphia. At the request of the Vatican, Archbishop Sulyk, a Ukrainian native, contributed to diplomatic talks with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as the Soviet Union neared its end. At the time of his death, he was Metropolitan Archbishop Emeritus.
“As a priest and bishop, he was a dedicated minister of the Lord in the Archeparchy for 65 years since his priestly ordination in 1955,” Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak said in a statement. “We thank God for his life and raise prayers of gratitude for his service.”
His career in the church included posts in towns big and small, the archeparchy said. He was ordained as a priest in 1955 and served as pastor of St. Michael’s Church in Frackville, Pa., from 1957 to 1961. There, Father Sulyk built a new church and parish hall and managed to increase the church’s annual income from $10,000 to $60,000 in a year — an achievement in a financially struggling coal town.
A year later, appointed pastor at Assumption Church in Perth Amboy, Archbishop Sulyk undertook a number of projects that included transforming the rectory into a convent, renovating the parish church, and compiling bilingual worship texts.
His reputation rose over the next several years as Pope Paul VI honored him in 1968 with the title of monsignor, the archeparchy said. In 1980, Pope John Paul II named him Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia, then consecrated him as a bishop in Rome the following year. He also served on committees for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
In Philadelphia, Archbishop Sulyk created the Seminary Endowment Fund, which paid for seminarians’ educations, renovated the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, and constructed a new chancery center and cathedral.
Born on Oct. 2, 1924, to Michael and Mary Denys Sulyk in the Western Ukrainian village of Balnycia, Archbishop Sulyk fled the country in the throes of World War II and became a refugee. He landed in Germany, where he entered the Ukrainian Catholic Seminary of the Holy Spirit in Hirschberg, then immigrated to the U.S. There, the archeparchy said, he continued his religious education at St. Josaphat’s Seminary and the Catholic University of America.