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The University of Manitoba campuses are located on original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. More

Women and Education: Women in Religious Education


Role of Women in the Delivery of Education through Religious Bodies


The earliest educational systems in Manitoba were run by sectarian organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. At first the majority of the teaching in these schools was done by men since it was rare for women to work outside the home. The sisters, Angelique and Marguerite Dolin, who operated a Catholic school intended to educate aboriginal children in the 1820s and 30s, were a significant exception.

As the territory became formalized under provincial government, formal structures also came into education. The Grey Nuns and later the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary were dominant figures in the field of Catholic education, symbolized by the establishment of St. Mary’s Academy in 1869. The creation of a non-denominational public school system in 1890 ended the domination of religious based in Manitoba. Some religious institutions such as St. Mary’s Academy, Balmoral Hall and St. John’s Ravenscourt have continued to operate as private schools to the current day. Religious bodies, such as the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, also continue to provide educational activities.

The Ukrainian Catholic Religious Education Centre: A Short History

Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate fonds

The Ukrainian Catholic Religious Education Centre: A Short History

The Ukrainian Catholic Religious Education Centre (UCREC) was established as a result of a resolution passed in 1977 by the Synod of Bishops assembled in Rome. This assembly was convoked by Pope Paul VI, of Blessed memory, to discuss catechesis and specifically that of children and young adults. The bishops returned from the Synod with a mandate to establish Religious Education Centres in their dioceses/eparchies, or jurisdictions.

In the autumn of 1977, Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk, CSsR, of the Winnipeg Archeparchy, in consultation with the Provincial Superior of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (SSMI), Sr. Justine Kowal, SSMI, appointed Sr. Christine Opalinsky, SSMI, Director of the newly created Religious Education Centre for the Archeparchy of Winnipeg.

Metropolitan Maxim and the clergy selected the God With Us (GWU) series, designed for catechesis in the Byzantine rite Churches, as the official Catechetical Programme for the Archeparchy of Winnipeg. In September of 1978, Catechist Formation Classes began at the Centre on a weekly basis for those who volunteered for the ministry of catechetical instruction of the young in the various parishes of the Archeparchy. Upon the request of Sr. Christine, Mrs. Vicky Adams was appointed by Metropolitan Maxim to assist Sr. Christine with foundational workshops promoting the GWU programme as well as in the training of catechists. The Centre’s office was located at the Chancery, except for the period 1980 to 1982, when the Audiovisual Department was administered from the convent of the Sisters Servants at 131 Aberdeen Avenue, East, to make materials available after hours. 

By the autumn of 1978, workshops and in-services were held throughout Manitoba as far north as Thompson and as far south as Vita. Financial assistance from Catholic Missions in Canada, from parishes, the Knights of Columbus, the Eparchial and Regional branches of the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s Leagues, the Catholic Foundation and other private and group donors sustained the Centre’s efforts. Soon it became apparent that additional staff was also required. Dennis Wawrykow was invited to join the staff to serve as treasurer; Sr. Marie Bielski, SSMI, though active at the time in Campus Ministry at the University of Manitoba, volunteered to assist with workshops in Winnipeg and rural locations. In 1980, Sr. Carmela Lukey, SSMI, joined the Centre as Assistant Director, with responsibilities in existing programmes but also undertaking new programmes, such as the Parent Sacramental Programme, Catechetical Sunday, Inscription Programmes, the creation of the Chronicles of the Centre’s activities, and song tapes for the various grade levels of the catechetical programme.

In 1982, Sr. Christine left the Centre to further her studies, and Dennis Wawrykow was no longer able to continue as treasurer. Sr. Carmela was appointed Interim Director and Programme Coordinator, while Sr. Hilary Lenyk, SSMI, became the financial secretary, office manager, and Head of the Centre’s Audiovisual Department. Through the audiovisual material, Sr. Hilary was able to assist catechists and clergy, and with the introduction of the “Christus” video programmes to provide a valuable Adult Religious Education resource. Sr. Georgina Yakimyshyn, SSMI, served as Director of Obnova (University student group), and for a time, Sr. Valerie Krochenski, SSMI, assisted with Adult Faith Enrichment sessions.

In 1983, Sr. Christine returned from her studies, resuming her position as Director. Sr. Carmela remained the Assistant Director until 1985 when she left Winnipeg to pursue a Master’s degree in spirituality. Cheryl Zinyk, who was working with youth, joined the staff, temporarily replacing Sr. Carmela. In 1986 when Sr. Christine took a teaching position in Saskatchewan, Sr. Carmela was appointed Director. Sr. Patricia Lacey, SSMI, served as Assistant Director from 1986-1990. In 1987, with Sr. Marie Shewchuk, SSMI, Sr. Patricia co-authored a manual for catechists, Journey of Faith, a resource book for the celebration of the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine.

In 1989 on behalf of the Canadian Ukrainian Catholic Bishops, Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk requested through Provincial Superior Sr. Ambrose Stachiw, SSMI, that the Sisters Servants produce a catechetical programme for children preparing for the Holy Mysteries (sacraments) of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Sr. Carmela played a significant part in formulating the programme We Are Children of Light, piloting it in the Archeparchy, finalizing, publishing and promoting it. The programme, published in Ukrainian and English editions, consisted of a teacher’s guide, children’s workbook and an audio cassette of original religious songs. Currently it is used in most Ukrainian Catholic parishes and in schools world-wide.

Over the years many lay persons worked with the Sisters to develop and promote the UCREC. All were valuable; most were volunteers. For instance, Helena and Michael Chuckree volunteered for a number of years as liaisons between the Centre and rural catechists in the Dauphin Deanery. Sandra Dobson and Olga Twerdun served as team members in the faith formation of adults. Joe Kulyk volunteered as computer consultant, Norm Dobson as financial accountant; Gwen Pich volunteered in the Prison Ministry Programme. Heather Rutley served as financial advisor and as recording secretary during the annual meetings. Mary Gural worked with both Sr. Hilary and Sr. Carmela in the Prison Ministry Programme, and during the annual meetings, filled the role of recording secretary, as had her predecessor, Jean Solylo.

Vicky Adams helped establish programme delivery for the first two years of the Centre’s inception, but over the years continued to promulgate the Centre’s activities whenever called upon. She also chaired annual meetings, held to summarize the previous year’s activities for the community at large and, for the sake of financial accountability, to report to the various funding bodies. 
Veronica Dudych and Lydia Firman, followed for a short period by Teresa Hryndzio, were employed as office support to Sr. Hilary. Using their expertise, at the request of Sr. Carmela they began to computerize the catechetical programmes and materials produced by her, thus greatly enhancing and enriching the Centre’s archives, which will serve the ministry of catechesis in the future. Elsie Yarish, who is still active at the UCREC, joined the staff in 1991, volunteering three days a week as librarian and as assistant to Sr. Hilary in the office.

In addition to numerous teaching and programming duties, the UCREC staff participated in conferences on the regional and national levels. Sr. Carmela represented the Ukrainian Catholic Church on the Adult Religious Education Advisory Committee for the Canadian Conference of Bishops; Sr. Patricia sat on the executive committee of the Western Religious Education Conference. The Centre has also been an institutional member of the Eastern Catholic Diocesan Directors.