Eudoxia was born in Springside, Saskatchewan, near Yorkton, May 9, 1924. Her parents, John Byblow and Pauline (Shumay), emigrated from Lycivka, in the Dolyna county, in 1907, married in Canada, and had their homestead in the Whitesand district. Of their twelve children, three died in infancy. Among the surviving children, three entered the religious life. Eudoxia’s sister, Mary (Sister Mechtilde), entered the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in 1931, and her brother, Demetrius, entered the Ukrainian-rite Redemptorist Fathers in 1940, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1946.
Sister Frances Eudoxia Byblow died on 07 January 2022, at Bethany Home, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at 97 years of life and 79 years in religious life.
She knew the Sisters, as they came to teach catechism in the summers; her family would often host them, and so she got to know them in a more personal way. Her home was also one in which was never heard a negative word about clergy or religious, as she once recalled, and so, on entering, she never had obstacles of external prejudices to overcome.
Eudoxia received her elementary education in her hometown, and her high school education in Yorkton, at Sacred Heart Academy, which was run by the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. When at the Academy, she mentioned, half-seriously, to her sister, Sister Mechtilde, that she would join her in Community, but her heart was set on a teaching career. After graduation, in 1941, she decided to work for a year, and then apply to teacher’s college, intending to enter after her studies. When her work year ended, she filled an application for teachers’ college, and gave it to her brother to mail. Two weeks later, past the deadline, he found it still in his pocket. He forgot to mail it! She entered shortly after.
Eudoxia entered the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Mundare on 12 July 1942. It was the 50th Jubilee of the founding of the Congregation, so her first encounter as a postulant was participating in Jubilee celebrations in Mundare – she did dishes all day, full of festive joy! She made first profession of vows on 14 January 1945, taking the religious name, Sister Frances; she made her final profession on 15 August 1951.
Sister Frances took Teacher Training in Edmonton, and after certifying, taught in Catholic elementary schools in Edmonton and Ottawa, before beginning studies at University of Saskatchewan. Outside of school hours, she was engaged in parish work: catechetics and Ukrainian classes in Saturday schools, leading Children of Mary and Sodality groups, sacristan duties, visiting the sick and other related works.
Sister Frances received her BA at USask, in 1956, majoring in English Literature and Slavistics. She then taught at Sacred Heart Academy in Yorkton. She was also appointed as local superior, in Saskatoon, and then in Yorkton. In 1960, she was appointed Directress of Novices, in Ancaster, at the time of the peak of vocations in Canada. She held this post until 1964, and then was given an opportunity to study Theology and Scripture in Rome, at Regina Mundi.
In 1965, she was elected Provincial Superior for Canada, and held this position until 1971. In the turbulent years after the Second Vatican Council, she led the Congregation through significant changes. With the loss of a number of young Sisters, (common to all congregations at this time,) she encouraged the Sisters to deeper reflection of their call, introducing them to the 30-day Ignatian retreats. She also encouraged the Sisters to upgrade their professional training, in new teaching and health care methods and policies, and initiating new ministries. During her term of office, Sisters began to teach at the University level.
In response to Vatican II, and the call of the Superior General, Sister Jerome Chimy, for renewal, she engaged all the Sisters to study the Constitution of the SSMI, contributing greatly to its revision at the following General Chapter in 1968. She also called for an experimental redesigning of the traditional habit to a modified habit.
During her Provincial term, the celebration of the 75th Jubilee of the founding of the Congregation took place; she saw to the organizing of a memorable gala concert for this occasion, involving Sisters, clergy and laity in new musical compositions for choir and string orchestra, recitation of poetry and dance, honouring the Mother of God, and recounting the founding and mission of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. She assured that our Canadian history would be recorded, commissioning Sister Claudia Popowich to write a book, which was given the title, To Serve is to Love.
She also oversaw several building projects: a second major addition at Sacred Heart High School, in Yorkton; a new addition at Holy Family Nursing Home; and the construction of an entirely new 70-bed facility of St. Paul’s Senior Home in Dauphin. At Holy Family, Mr. Jack Kisil was hired as the first lay administrator in a Sisters’ institution. New homes were bought in Ottawa, Hamilton, Edmonton, Regina, Calgary. The childcare mission in Mundare was relinquished, due to Government regulations, and St. Joseph’s Home was renovated for senior Sisters. And in Ancaster, accommodations were built for a caretaker.
Following her term as Provincial, Sister Frances continued on Provincial Council and acted as Provincial Secretary, for a time. For two years, she was a Byzantine consultant for the National Office for Religious Education, under the CCCB, contributing to the Roman Catholic catechism program of that time. She again taught at Sacred Heart Academy in Yorkton, and was guidance counsellor; later, she taught at Mount Mary Immaculate Academy, in Ancaster, where she was also principal.
In 1974, Sister Frances was elected to General Council, and appointed General Bursar, for six years. During these years, she often travelled as a companion on General Visitation, and so, became familiar with the situation of the Ukrainian people, wherever the Sisters Servants were missioned, including behind the Iron Curtain.
In 1980, she was elected Superior General, a post she held for thirteen years. As well as conducting her own clandestine visitation, Sister Frances also saw the emergence of Ukraine from the underground. With the blessing of His Beatitude Myroslav Ivan Lubachivskyj, she initiated a program of catechetics for the people of Ukraine, hungry for God, sending SSMI from Canada and Brazil, and assigning Sister Luiza Ciupa, SSMI, of Brazil, to co-ordinate their efforts. Hundreds of people enrolled annually, including journalists and the merely curious, many of whom converted. Sister Luiza later headed a successful Catechetical Commission, which became an integral part of the Ukrainian Catholic University.
Sister Frances witnessed the transfer of the relics of Foundress Josaphata Hordashevska, at the initiative of Dr. Jan Kuczma, of Poland. She, herself, accompanied the relics to Rome in the final stage. She assigned Sister Dominic Slawuta the position of postulator of the cause of Blessed Josaphata, who was beatified in 2001 by Saint Pope John Paul II.
After her two terms as Superior General, Sister Frances returned to Toronto, where she continued to be a liaison for various charitable works in Ukraine. She also acted as Provincial Archivist, and with SSMI publications distribution. For a time, she was assigned as local superior in Toronto, and also gave many keynote addresses on Blessed Josaphata, and did translation work.
In an assignment, titled, The Administrator, which Sister Frances wrote for her degree, she highlighted the interpersonal skills needed to motivate a group of people under one’s leadership. The very skills she described she demonstrated in her own life. She was people-focused; her interest in the whole person was evident. In her presence, one knew her attention was on them. She welcomed the candid gaze of children, confirming that curiosity should never be denied them. She encouraged the young in her family and in her Congregation. She encouraged their gifts, and took pride in her relationships with them, and in their accomplishments.
Sister Frances loved her family deeply, and treasured her visits, even with the youngest generations, and was pleased to share her family with her SSMI Sisters. A highlight of her life was her visit to Lycivka, Ukraine, in 1995, where she met members of both her parents’ families, and visited the church which her parents attended as children. After Divine Liturgy, the pastor invited her to speak to the congregation; everyone was deeply moved at this encounter of deep family bonds.
With declining health, she retired at Bethany Home, in Winnipeg, where she could still maintain her mission of correspondence for a time. The Lord called her home to Him, after a return of cancer, having been in remission for close to 50 years.
Sister Frances was predeceased by her parents, John and Pauline, brother Anthony, and sisters Anastasia, Magdalene, in infancy; brothers Michael (and wife Sophie), Basil, Father Demetrius CSsR, and Nicholas; and sisters Mary (Sr. Mechtilde), Anne, Olga (and Metro) Maykut and Theresa (and Basil) Herrick. She will be missed by sister-in-law Bernice (Nicholas), numerous nieces and nephews and their families, and her sisters of the Congregation of Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, in Canada and world-wide.
May the memory of Sister Frances be eternal – Вічна ій пам’ять!