George Kotovych for NP-UN, Edmonton.
Long time pastor (1940-1967) of Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Winnipeg which is now celebrating its 100th anniversary
Right Reverend Father Mitrat Ihor George Shpytkovsky died peacefully on Sunday, February 8th, 2004 at the Holy Family Nursing Home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His family was at his side, while members of the Sister Servants Staff recited and sang prayers. He passed away in his 89th year of life and his 66th year of priesthood.
Rev. Ihor was born on February 21st, 1915, in Lviv, Ukraine, to Stanislav Shpytkovsky, a priest and high school teacher of history and geography, and to Antonina Lahola, a singer and accomplished pianist. He studied at the Greek Catholic Theological Academy in Lviv from 1932-1937. On October 16, 1938, he was ordained in Lviv by the Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky. As a very young priest, he was invited by Bishop Ladyka to come to Canada, and in 1939 he began his pastoral work. His first posting was in Ethelbert, Manitoba, where he served as Assistant Pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
He then served as pastor of Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Winnipeg (East Kildonan) from 1940 to 1967. Under his pastoral leadership, the congregation flourished and quickly outgrew its small original wooden church. Fr. Ihor and volunteers built a new church in 1954 to accommodate the growing church community. Father Ihor was involved not only in consulting in the theological design requirements, but also taking part in the actual day-to-day construction, such as nailing copper onto the domes.
The Holy Eucharist Parish is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019. Rev. Ihor served as Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus at Holy Eucharist Parish; was editor of the Ukrainian Journal “Buduchnist Natsii” (Future of our Nation); wrote articles for various Ukrainian newspapers, including “The New Pathway,” “Progress”; and ran “Dostava,” a church-goods store for priests in Winnipeg. In 1946, he prepared “An Almanac of Ukrainian-Canadian Servicemen,” which was published by “The Future of our Nation.” This Almanac lists about four thousand servicemen who served in the Canadian Armed Forces. It is available in the library of St. Stephen Protomartyr Church in Calgary, as well as in the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Winnipeg Archives. Seventy years later, we see Canadian troops helping to train Ukrainian soldiers as part of Operation Unifier (New Pathway-Ukrainian News, Jan. 25, 2018).
In 1967, he accepted the position of Administrator of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Brandon, Manitoba. He was then invited by Bishop Prashko of Australia as a missionary pastor in that country, and with Metropolitan Hermaniuk’s blessing, he left for Australia in 1968, where he spent 22 years.
In 1990, Rev. Ihor returned to Winnipeg to his family, and then became pastor of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. Rev. Ihor joyfully celebrated his 60 years of priesthood at this church on October 16, 1998, and His Excellency Metropolitan Michael Bzdel presided over the Divine Liturgy. Rev. Ihor served in Portage until his retirement in 2000, when he moved back to Winnipeg.
Rev. Ihor enjoyed travelling. In 1965, he travelled around the world with three other priests, culminating in his authoring a best-selling Ukrainian book with many photographs, called “Around the World – World Pilgrimage of four Ukrainian-Catholic Priests of Canada,” published in Winnipeg in 1967.
Fr. Ihor was a mountain of a man who was dedicated to his calling. He was a priest in every sense of the word who loved and carried out his duties as precisely and sincerely as he could. He was truly a member of “the eternal priesthood of Christ” who “spiritually acts in His person.”