THE MONTREAL STAR, MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 1963

Legend Within a Lifetime
Ukrainian Priest Honored
By WALTER PORONOVICH

 

Rev. Josaphat Jean is a priest who has become a veritable legend within his lifetime among Montreal's large Ukrainian Catholic community.

 

Born to French - Canadian stock, educated and reared in the traditionally austere French - Canadian milieu of Rimouski in eastern Quebec, Father Jean has succeeded in penetrating the Ukrainian Catholic membership in Canada to such an extent that a cold recitation of his accomplishments border almost on injustice.

 

There was the patient guiding of a people settling in a new land after World War I; there was the founding and maintaining of early, unsteady parishes in Montreal and out west; there was the aiding of thousands of Ukrainian refugees following World War II.

 

Father Jean, now in his 70's, was honored here yesterday. More than 900 Ukrainian Catholics, many of them only children when Father Jean worked quietly, but effectively, at his pastoral duties, attended a gala banquet in his honor in the recreation hall of the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rosemount.

 

The banquet was preceded by a solemn High Mass at the church, celebrated by Father Jean himself, now marking his 54th year of priesthood.

 

Among those present were Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian clergy from the area, Ontario, and the U.S., and Father Jean's brother, Rev. David Jean, of St. Eloie, Riviere-du-Loup county, and a nephew, Martin.

 

In an interview over the week-end with The Montreal Star, Father Jean, now retired at a monastery at Grimsby, Ont., operated by the Ukrainian Order of St. Basil, shrugged off his myriad accomplishments with characteristic modesty.
"I did what any priest would do. My parishioners were my children; and what mother does not love her children?" he asked.

 

If Father Jean is French by birth, he is Ukrainian in spirit and heart.

 

Changes Rites

Completing his studies at the Roman Catholic seminary at Rimouski, he was ordained in 1910 in the Church's Latin (western) rite. A little more than a year later he was "re-ordained" into the Church's Ukrainian (eastern) rite.

How did this almost unheard of change come about?

 

"I became keenly interested in the Ukrainians and their rite through the reports I had been receiving from my colleagues in Western Canada," he said. "I later went there where a Ukrainian bishop recommended that I go to Ukraine to pursue my interest."

 

"I went to Ukraine, studied the language and completed studies in the Ukrainian rite at a seminary there. I was accepted by the Order of St. Basil (OSB) in July 1912."

 

Father Jean's first parish upon his return 15 years later was at Sifton, Man. "It was actually a chapel, but it was a challenge since the parishioners were hard-core Ukrainians. I was accepted immediately."

 

He said he was actually one of five French-speaking priests who interested themselves in the Ukrainian church because of the dire shortage of Ukrainian priests. He was the only survivor of the five "missionaries."

 

Comes to Montreal

After service in Manitoba, he came to Montreal in late 1930's, taking over the first Ukrainian Catholic parish here, the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, which stands at Iberville and Hochelaga streets.

 

He later worked in nine different parishes in Canada, with his most notable achievements being the founding of parishes in Lachine and Ville Emard.

 

Father Jean was called into government service shortly after World War I and II to aid with the re-settlement of Ukrainian refugees and prisoners of war.

 

Following World War II, as a Canadian Government aide with the United Nations in London from 1946 to 1949, Father Jean was instrumental in aiding some 45,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war who declined to return to their homeland for fear of communist persecution.

 

He returned to Canada in late 1949, serving in Edmonton until 1958 and in Vancouver until 1961 when he retired, a situation he is not taking too seriously - he is working on his memoirs.

 

"I can trace my ancestry back 300 years, when my elders came to Canada from France. Little did they think they would foster a Ukrainian." he said, waving his hand in a customary Slavic gesture.

New!

Postal Address:

Father Josaphat Jean Scholarship Foundation

The Assumption Of Blessed Virgin Mary

6185 10e Avenue, Montréal, QC H1Y 2H5

Join us on Facebook!