Sister Neonilia Dora Charanduk, SSMI
1912 — 2012
Sister Neonilia (Noel), a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate, died in Mundare Long Term Care in Mundare, AB, on Thursday, November 8, 2012, in her 101st year and 86th year in Religious Life.
Sr. Neonilia was born on October 29, 1912, in Ituna, SK, the second eldest child of Anthony and Mary (Spilchuk). Her parents, Anthony (born 1881) and Mary had immigrated to Canada in 1906 from the village of Yamnytcia, near what is today Ivano-Frankivsk. They married in 1909 and homesteaded ten miles north of Ituna, SK in the Bedfordville (Churchill) district.
They faced the challenges of pioneer life on the prairies with faith and trust in God’s Providence, a faith that was passed on to them by their parents. Following the example of his father, Paul, who was one of the six founders of the St. Nicholas Church (Stanislavtsi) in the Bedfordville district, which was built in 1910, her father Anthony served on the parish executive as secretary in 1925. They sent their children to the summer catechism taught by the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate from Ituna, and also sent some of their children to St. Ann’s School in their convent.
The family was also involved in the life of the community, helping to build a hall and promoting their Ukrainian culture, a treasure they brought with them from Ukraine.
The Charanduks were blessed with eight daughters and eight sons: Anne, Dora, Sophie, Olga, John, Tony, Bill, Harry, Stella, Katherine (died in infancy), Alex, Katherine, Mary, Nestor, Bohdan (Bennie) and Isidore. In the pioneer days, before health care was available, many families experienced the sorrow of seeing their children die before they did. Their daughter Stella died at the age of 18 and their daughter Katherine died in infancy. Tony joined the Canadian army during World War II and was killed while in training for overseas battle.
But the grief they experienced was interwoven with many blessings and joys: weddings, baptisms, anniversaries. A special blessing was having two Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in the family to pray for them and share in their trials. Dora heard the call of Christ to follow Him and entered the Novitiate in Mundare, AB, on July 16, 1927. She took the religious name, Neonilia, and made final profession of vows on January 4, 1936. (She was frequently called “Sr. Noel”.)
Her younger sister, Katherine, named after the infant Katherine who had died, was born in the year her sister Dora entered the Sisters Servants’ Novitiate. Katherine also experienced Christ’s call while employed in Toronto, ON. On May 1, 1949, she entered the Sisters Servants’ Novitiate, which had been re-located to Ancaster, ON.
The witness and life of a dedicated Christian family and the ministry of their Eastern Rite Redemptorist pastors bore fruit in the Charanduk family. The Sisters Servants remain grateful to the faithful pioneers of Bedfordville district, who have given five of their daughters to serve the Lord as Sisters Servants.
In her 85 years as a Sister Servant, in her gentle, peaceful and cheerful manner, Sr. Neonilia wholeheartedly served her religious community, church and people at Sister Servant missions: Ontario: Kitchener, Oshawa, Windsor, Fort William (Thunder Bay) and in Montreal, QC; Alberta: Mundare, Calgary, Edmonton, Vegreville; Saskatchewan: Yorkton, Saskatoon, Ituna and Regina; USA - Buffalo, NY. She served as local Superior in Regina and Fort William. In 2001, Sr. Neonilia returned to Mundare to continue her faith journey with the Lord at St. Joseph’s Home, where she began her life as a Sister Servant. Her days were spent in prayer, offering her sufferings for the Sisters on active mission, for all those she had encountered in her life of service and for those in most need of God’s mercy.
Sr. Neonilia, a devoted and loyal SSMI, generously performed domestic duties. You would see Sr. Neonilia where a task had to be done, in the kitchen, laundry, in the parish teaching catechism, preparing children for their first Holy Communion, conducting Ukrainian School, caring for needy children in our Children’s Homes in Mundare and Ituna, making altar bread. She served in the Bishop’s residence in Saskatoon, welcoming the visiting clergy with a smile and a joke.
With great devotion she cared for the cleanliness and beauty of the church sanctuary. Many lonely and forgotten looked forward to her visits, bringing the bereaved, sick and elderly healing and peace.
Sr. Neonilia’s greatest joys were to make a pilgrimage for three weeks in 1988 to the Holy Land, Rome and Lourdes, and to go to Ukraine in 1992 for the Sisters Servants Centenary of Founding celebrations. She returned to her apostolic challenges, re-energized to serve her Church and people even more zealously.
Sr. Neonilia was truly grateful for the gift of “family.” She was thankful for her good and loving parents who instilled in all their children love of God and His Holy Church. Sr. Neonilia tried to find time to be with her many siblings with their children and families, sharing in their joys and sorrows, visiting and communicating with them when possible. She appreciated their efforts to host family get-togethers, which enriched and strengthened family bonds. In their difficulties, she encouraged her family members to put their trust in the Lord and our Heavenly Mother. She continuously reassured them of her prayerful support and love.
Sr. Neonilia celebrated many SSMI Jubilees in her life-time; she was honoured on her 85 Jubilee as Sister Servant on May 25, 2012.
Her 100th Birthday was celebratedon August 04, 2012 at St. Joseph’s Home in Mundare, AB., in anticipation of her actual birthday, October 29. Among the guests were Provincial Superior Sister Patricia Lacey, many nieces and nephews and other family members, government and civic officials, who brought special greetings to her. Darrel Charanduk, Sr. Neonilia’s nephew, spoke on behalf of the family and shared some memories of when he was a boy, growing up with Sr. Neonilia in his life.
It was providential that her birthday was celebrated earlier for in mid-September she broke her hip. Although she underwent surgery successfully in an Edmonton Hospital and convalesced in the Lamont Hospital, her medical condition was precarious. A short time before her death, she was transferred to Mundare Long Term Care, where her sister, Sr. Adrianne, and other Sisters were able to pray and care for her in her final days.
Sr. Neonilia was predeceased by her parents, and her siblings Anne, Sophie, Olga, John, Tony, Bill, Harry, Stella, Katherine, Alex, Mary, Nestor and Isidore. Her brother, Bennie, died a day before Sr. Noel’s funeral.
She leaves to celebrate her life Sr. Adrianne, SSMI, and many nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews with their families, and family members in Ukraine.
The funeral Divine Liturgy was celebrated in St. Joseph’s Home Chapel on Tuesday, November 13, at 10:00 am. Prior to the Liturgy, Sister Esther Kurylo led a common rosary. The main celebrant was Vicar General Fr. Bill Hupalo, representing Bishop David Motiuk, Eparch of Edmonton, assisted by Frs. Serafym Grygoruk, OSBM, and Thomas Kobak, OSBM.
Provincial Superior Sr. Patricia read the Epistle. Sr. Emanuella Kharyshyn, of Edmonton, led the singing.
Fr. Hupalo thanked Sr. Neonilia for her faithful and loving years of service, giving of herself to enrich her religious community and Sisters as well as the Church and parishioners. Gloria Sadownyk read the Epistle. Sr. Emmanuella Kharyshyn, of Edmonton, led the singing at the requiem services. The pall bearers were Barry Bohach, John Anderson (nephews of Sr. Noel), Milton Holowach, John Kulak, Allan Palzat, Joe Prystash.
Following interment at Ss Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church Cemetery, a memorial dinner was served at St. Joseph’s Home. Sr. Martha Zulyniak, Superior, greeted the family members and parishioners present, and expressed sympathy on behalf of all the Sisters Servants, who mourn not only the death of their aunt, Sr. Noel, but also uncle Bennie, who died the day before in Ontario. She shared the highlights of her life as a Sister Servant and thanked Sr. Neonilia for her generous service, be it by catechizing, doing the laundry, visiting the sick or offering her sufferings for those most in need throughout her 85 years of consecrated life from East to West in Canada and in the USA.
She assured the family members that they can be confident that Sr. Neonilia, their beloved sister, aunt and great-aunt, continues to love them and to intercede with the Lord for all their needs. “A special thank you to Yvonne Bohach, Sr. Noel’s niece, who planned the 100th birthday party in August for her beloved aunt Sr. Noel! And thanks for the many nieces and nephews who joined in the celebration! Know that you are family and friends of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. God Bless you and thank you for joining us in this final farewell to your family member.”
Sister Martha Zulyniak, superior at St. Joseph’s Home, thanked all those who came to celebrate the life of Sister Celeste. She thanked Fr. Kowalchyk for celebrating the Liturgy and sharing the word of God in his homily. She thanked the Basilian Fathers, Provincial Superior Sister Patricia, family members and parishioners.
She thanked those who visited and spent time with Sr. Noel in her last weeks: Sr. Adrianne, Sr. Noel’s sister, the staff of St. Joseph’s Home, and especially Catherine Olenick, her niece, Maryanne, and husband John Anderson from St. Albert, who spent time with Sr. Noel in the hospitals in Edmonton, Vegreville and Lamont. She thanked Sr. Cecilia Fystor for being a willing chauffeur, making it possible for many local Sisters to visit Sr. Noel.
She expressed gratitude to Dr. Slaninia, the doctors and Staff at Lamont Hospital and at Mundare Long Term Care.
She thanked Vicar General Fr. Bill Hupalo, representing Bishop David Motiuk, Eparch of Edmonton, for his inspiring homily at the requiem liturgy, and the Basilian Fathers for concelebrating. She thanked Sr. Emmanuella for leading the singing during the Services, and she expressed gratitude to the pallbearers.
She thanked the St. Joseph’s Home staff for preparing the memorial meal; she thanked Srs. Rose and Yvonne for setting the tables. She thanked Emily Zuk for greeting those who came to honour Sr. Noel, and Pauline Skubleny for the cornmeal served at the dinner.
She thanked the home Sisters, the visiting Sisters from Edmonton, and parishioners from Mundare and surrounding areas who came to pray and bid Sr. Neonilia final farewell. Finally, she thanked Park Memorial Staff for their professional, compassionate assistance.