Sister Fotenia Kathleen Spilchuk, SSMI
1926 — 2016
Sister Fotenia, a member of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, died in the Lamont Hospital, AB on Thursday, October 27, 2016.
Kathleen (Sister Fotenia) was born on November 23, 1924, in Bedfordville, SK. Her parents, Dmytro and Annie (Spilchuk) had immigrated to this district near Ituna from Yamnytsia, near present day Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine.
Dmytro had married in Ukraine in 1904 and had two daughters, Dora and Mary. He emigrated to Canada in 1914, deciding to settle near Annie’s family members who had come much earlier. He was employed, building the railway lines until 1918. In 1918 he got a homestead in the Bedfordville district and began farming. In 1921 his wife Anna and two daughters joined him. Anna was happy to be reunited with her parents, who were in Canada since 1906 and her six siblings.
Kathleen (Sr. Fotenia) was the second youngest in the family, having a brother William and a third sister Annie, both born in Canada and two older sisters.
Dmytro and Annie shared their precious treasure of faith with their children, teaching by example. Dmytro assisted the priest as a Sacristan. In the winter, he walked over two miles to the church to light the fire for the service, and also to clear away the snow. Annie washed the church linens. The family hosted the visiting Redemptorist priest in their home.
Kathleen experienced difficult pioneer life, learning the importance of reaching out to neighbours in need. She attended the local school.
The Sisters from Ituna came to her parish to teach the children and youth in the summer months. Desiring to follow their way of life, Kathleen entered the Novitiate of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Mundare, AB on September 02, 1944. She felt that she owed her vocation to the witness of her parents. For them faith was the way they followed Christ day by day, shaping the way they lived and loved.
On her Clothing Day she took the religious name, Fotenia. Sr. Fotenia made first profession of vows on March 09, 1947, and final profession, August 15, 1953.
Truly Sister Fotenia led a challenging apostolic life, serving in our three Prairie Provinces and Ontario where her gifts of culinary know-how and kitchen management flourished in many different missions for a total of sixty years. She was especially grateful that the Sisters Servants gave her opportunities to take a dietary in-service in St. Louis, MI, for four summers, so that she could serve more competently.
In the Sisters Servants’ Mary Immaculate Hospitals in Willingdon and Mundare, AB, she was missioned a total of twenty years as Food Service Supervisor. In the 1960s she taught the culinary arts in the Novitiate at Mount Mary, Ancaster, ON, and 25 years later at the Novitiate in Mundare, AB. She served in the culinary department of Sacred Heart Academy, Yorkton, SK, and in Ancaster, ON, at Mount Mary Academy and later on at the Retreat Centre. She served in the Dietary Department of St. Paul’s Nursing Home in Dauphin, MB. She prepared meals for the Sisters at our Calgary Home and served in the parish as well.
However there is more to her vital service in the kitchen. From 1994-1996 she served in the kitchen department at the Apostolic Nunciatura in Kyiv, Ukraine, where the challenges were great, indeed, since this was the time of setting up a household in a country just emerging from the Soviet system.
However, Sister Fotenia rose to the occasion, celebrating her first Canadian Thanksgiving in style. To quote from her letter: “When I tried to buy a turkey, all I could find was a small portion of smoked turkey. I thought it would do, with some chicken legs added. No pumpkin pie, though, but apple pie will be good. I went out and picked some leaves and made a horn of plenty with all we had on hand.” From another letter: “Everything is great and I enjoy being here, always something new!” Her adventure in Kyiv was followed with another one in Lourdes, where she once again managed the kitchen from May to July in 1996.
Upon her return from overseas, after her mission in the Calgary SSMI Home, from 2000 she served our Senior Sisters and many guests at St. Joseph’s Home, Mundare, where she assisted in the culinary department as her health permitted.
In her 72 years as a Sister Servant, Sister Fotenia generously served her religious community, our clergy and church and people on both sides of the Atlantic. She often went beyond the call of duty and spared no effort. She joyfully and generously accepted the gifts of hospitality, organization and creativity in the art of cooking, always seeking a better way, a more pleasing presentation. Hers was a gentle and welcoming spirit. In the midst of difficulties she was blessed with a sense of humour, which put things in perspective.
Reflecting on Sister Fotenia’s contribution to the mission of the Sisters Servants and to the Church Universal, we can readily conclude that such a whole-hearted dedication could only come from a deep and ever-growing prayer life, faith in action. Hers was a heart full of gratitude, even one that embraces suffering and pain, accepting it as sharing in Christ’s passion. She was a woman of prayer, praying for her religious community, the church and her people, especially those in most need.
Coming from a loving pioneer family, Sister Fotenia treasured her parents and siblings and their children. Understandably she was very close to her younger sister Annie, who later joined her as a Sister Servant, Sr. Andronica. Together they spent many enjoyable family visits, including those in Ukraine, Lourdes and other places. She prayed for all her family members and all their concerns. The family bond was very important for her.
Sr. Fotenia was predeceased by her parents Dmytro and Annie and sisters Dora Kushnerenko and Mary Halipchak and brother William and his wife Sophie. She is survived by Sr. Andronica, SSMI at Holy Family Home, Winnipeg, MB, nieces and nephews with their families and cousins among whom are Sisters Servants Sr. Florentine Smysniuk and Sr. Adrianne Charanduk.
Sister Fotenia’s funeral and interment took place at 10:00 am on Wednesday, November 02, 2016 in St. Joseph’s Home Chapel. The Rosary was prayed before the Requiem Divine Liturgy, which was celebrated by Fr. Irenaeus Prystajecky OSBM. Sisters Florentine Smysniuk and Zoe Bernatsky led the singing. Provincial Councillor Sr. Janice Soluk of Winnipeg represented Provincial Superior Sr. Christina Syrotynsky. She gave the eulogy before the Liturgy. Sr. Fotenia’s nephew Michael Spilchuk and his wife Kris were present. Interment followed at Ss Peter and Paul Cemetery. The pallbearers were SSMI Sisters Zoe Bernatsky and Janice Soluk and her nephew Michael and Marty Koshman and Allan Paltzat.
A memorial meal was held at St. Joseph’s Home following the interment. Sister Laura Prokop, the local superior, welcomed all who came to say their final farewell to the late Sr. Fotenia and pray for her repose. She also thanked all those who assisted the Sisters, in particular Fr. Irenaeus, Provincial Councillor Sr. Janice, the pallbearers, those who helped with the reception and Park Memorial Funeral Home.
May the memory of Sr. Fotenia be Eternal!