Sister Martha Mary Zulyniak, SSMI
1942 — 2016
Sister Martha died peacefully on September 13 at Mary Immaculate Health Care Centre, Mundare, AB. The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate kept a prayerful and loving vigil by her bedside.
Mary was born to Peter Zulyniak and Catherine (Protz) on January 31, 1942, in Yorkton, SK. Her father was a farmer in the Willowbrook district.
Mary attended the local school and took her high school at Sacred Heart Academy in Yorkton, SK, where she was taught by Sisters Servants.
She responded to the Lord’s call to dedicate her entire life to Christ and His Church, entering the novitiate of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Ancaster, ON, on August 18, 1958. Sister Martha made first profession of vows on February 9, 1961 and final profession on August 15, 1966.
For 58 years Sister Martha served in whatever apostolate she was missioned with her whole heart. She was blessed with many talents, from cooking and canning, to caring for the sick and elderly as an LPN, to snow plowing and lawn mowing and hosting celebrations. She truly served in the manner of Blessed Josaphata, responding to serve where the need was the greatest.
Her first missions were in Saskatoon and Yorkton, SK, and Ancaster, at Mount Mary Academy and Toronto, ON. She served in the kitchen, preparing meals for the Sisters and the resident students. She returned to Sacred Heart Academy to serve as the resident students’ prefect for five years.
Then Sister Martha entered the health care mission of the Sisters Servants, preparing for it by becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse at St. Boniface School of Nursing in Winnipeg. She served at Holy Family Home in Winnipeg, caring for the elderly and serving as Activities Supervisor. Sister Martha was missioned to St. Paul’s Home in Dauphin, MB, where she also was the local Superior and a catechist at the parish. She then used her nursing skills at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Mundare for several years. She served as LPN and local Superior for seven years at Mary Immaculate Hospital, Willingdon, AB. From 1999 until 2015 she was local Superior at St. Joseph’s Home in Mundare, where she cared for the elderly Sisters Servants.
Sister Martha served generously, with love and concern for those entrusted to her care. She herself summed up her SSMI mission in the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: I am only the earthenware jar that holds this treasure, that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from me. In her lifetime she was a channel of God’s tender compassion and healing touch to young and old - priests, Sisters Servants, laity. Sister Martha was truly a “Martha,” hosting, preparing meals, providing what was needed, but she was equally a Mary, listening at the feet of the Lord in chapel.
In her later years, with joy and self-sacrifice, Sr. Martha ministered to the needs of the elderly and infirm Sisters Servants Bethany Home in Winnipeg, St. Ann’s Home in Ituna and St. Joseph’s Home in Mundare, where she served since 1999. Her loving concern, prayerful support, words of encouragement, sense of humour and spiritual uplift were appreciated and treasured.
Sister Martha welcomed all who came to visit or to pour out their difficulties. She listened with her heart and was a source of strength by her common sense approach to life.
Sister Martha was a devoted member of the Sisters Servants, participating wholeheartedly in the community life of the Sisters and in their renewal programs, meetings and celebrations. She was deeply grateful for the opportunities the Community provided her for pilgrimages to Greece, Rome and Israel, spiritual renewal program at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA, and for retreats and spiritual growth. She was a seeker for a deep prayer life and an authentic following of Christ. She especially valued all the opportunities given her to grow in self-knowledge. She was blessed “to see the gift in her woundedness and brokenness.”
Whenever there was a need, Sister Martha would share her faith with children and youth, teaching catechism in the parishes and at summer camps.
Sister Martha came from a large family and tried in every way she could to support them, to mourn with the sorrowing and to laugh with the rejoicing. In her last months, she made it a priority to visit her family and friends in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, travelling by car.
Sister Martha’s life journey drew to a close with the onset of cancer. After going through several rounds of treatment, she opted to discontinue them and in her words: Leave it all up to God ... to live day by day ... and enjoy each day. This is the gift that Sister Martha was to all of us, to teach us to enjoy each day.
Sr. Martha was predeceased by her parents, brothers John, Steve, Paul, Andrew, Raymond, Nick, Alex and sisters Angie (Cameron) and Frances (Fredette). She is survived by sisters Rosalie Molinski and Josephine (Marty) Koshman; brothers Bill, Orest (Stella), Walter (Lila), Arthur and Clarence and many nieces and nephews with their families, cousins and friends.
Before the evening Parastas on Monday, September 19, 2016, the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Home and visiting SSMI had an opportunity to pray for her repose, and bade farewell to Sr. Martha in the chapel. Provincial Superior Sr. Christina Syrotynsky led the rosary at 4:30 pm.
The requiem services for Sr. Martha were held at Ss Peter and Paul Church in Mundare. At both services, members of the UCWLC formed an honour guard, holding lit candles, in gratitude and respect for Sr. Martha.
Present for the requiem services for Sr. Martha were Superior General Sister Theresa Slota, presently in Canada, Provincial Superior Sr. Christina Syrotynsky of Toronto and Sisters Servants from Mundare, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and New Westminster. Sr. Martha’s brothers and sisters were present, with the exception of Bill and her nieces and nephews. Among the many friends and colleagues of Sr. Martha, in the area, were former staff of the Mary Immaculate Hospitals in Mundare and Willingdon, the Mayor of Mundare, members of the Basilian House of Studies in Edmonton and many parishioners.
Parastas was celebrated at 7:00 pm by Basilian Fathers Irenaeus Prystajecky, Pastor, Daniel Wach, John Sembrat and Fr. Michael Kowalchyk, Fr. Paul Lysack and Fr. Ivan Nykyforuk. The choir from the Krakow parish in Mundare district, conducted by Danny Letawsky, sang the responses to the requiem services. In his word of farewell to Sr. Martha, Fr. Irenaeus dwelt on Sr. Martha’s response to God’s plan for her, to become another Martha, working for the Lord as a Sister Servant in many different apostolates, and in the end, bearing her suffering in God’s plan for our salvation. He also underlined her service in the “larger community”, her impact in the lives of many.
After the service, coffee and doughnuts were served in the Mundare Recreation Centre, a time of sharing memories and fellowship. Sr. Zoe Bernatsky expressed gratitude to those who cared for Sr. Martha in her last days, the staff at Mary Immaculate Health Centre in Mundare and for the prayers and visits of many.
The funeral Divine Liturgy was celebrated on Tuesday September 20, 2016, by Bishop David Motiuk, Basilian Fathers Irenaeus Prystajecky, Daniel Wach, John Sembrat and Josaphat Tyrkalo and Fr. Bohdan Nahachewsky. Ed Stelmach read the Epistle. In his homily, Bishop David referred to the newly canonized St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Like the saint, Sr. Martha reached out to all in need, materially and spiritually, giving of herself, her time and energy generously. In this she mirrored this beloved saint of our day.
The interment took place at Ss Peter and Paul Cemetery. The pallbearers were Sr. Martha’s nephews Doug Sarafinchan, Ken, Jonathan and Brent Zulyniak and brother-in-law Marty Koshman and close friend Allan Paltzat. At the interment, Bishop David distributed roses from the memorial bouquet to all present to place on the coffin. At the close of the service the Sisters sang their community hymn, “Glory, glory, glory in the highest.”
The memorial meal was in the dining facility at the Mundare Recreation Centre. After the meal, Sr. Laura Prokop, local Superior at St. Joseph’s Home, expressed gratitude to Bishop David and clergy for celebrating the requiem services and sharing their meaningful reflections with all present. She thanked all those who came to say a final farewell to Sr. Martha and to those who assisted in any way. Provincial Superior Sr. Christina gave the eulogy. Sr. Martha’s nephew, Ken, spoke on behalf of the family, sharing their gratitude for their beloved Sr. Martha and to the Sisters Servants for their many kindnesses. Her nieces Karen and Gwen gratefully acknowledged special memories of their aunt.
At the conclusion, Sr. Zoe Bernatsky once again expressed thanked those who cared for Sr. Martha in her last days, the staff at Mary Immaculate Health Centre in Mundare, and for the prayers and visits of many and those who came to say a final farewell to Sr. Martha. She expressed gratitude to those who assisted with the funeral arrangements. In particular she thanked Park Memorial Funeral Home for their kind and thoughtful service.