Sister Aloysia Safranovich, a Sister Servant of Mary Immaculate, died on 1 June, 2019, at the Mary Immaculate Long Term Care, Mundare, AB at 106 years of age, with 90 years in religious life.
Anastasia, known to her family as Nancy, was born to Michael and Anastasia (nee Wasieczko) on 17 February, 1913, in Chipman, AB. In 1896, her father immigrated from Sovchi, Jaroslava, in western Ukraine, homesteading in the north-western region of Alberta. Later, he met Anastasia in Edmonton, and they were married with 25 other couples at a mass wedding, by a Roman Catholic priest. Nancy was the ninth of thirteen children born to Michael and Anastasia. She had four brothers and eight sisters.
Sister Aloysia’s parents were very active at St. Mary’s Parish in Chipman. Michael helped build the church, and the local National Hall, and served for many years as sacristan. His wife was an “elder sister”, tending to the church linens and general cleanliness, including hauling water to the church to scrub wooden floors. She also saved money to purchase church linens and a golden chalice for the church. Nancy and her siblings were raised in such an atmosphere of active love and involvement in their church.
At the age of 15, on 2 September, 1928, Nancy entered the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, with a grade 7 education. She began her novitiate on 3 March, 1929, taking the name Sister Aloysia. She pronounced her first vows on 3 September, 1930, and final vows on 4 October, 1936. She remained in Mundare until 1934, completing her High School education. After receiving her diploma in Edmonton, she was given permission to begin Normal School (Teachers’ College) in Montreal. In 1936, she received her Diploma for Primary Teaching in Quebec Catholic Schools. The following year, she received her Superior Diploma of Pedagogy, for all levels of education in Quebec, in both French and English schools, and a First Class Honours standing in her Certificate of Teaching Ability from the University of Montreal.
In 1939, she was sent with a handful of Sisters Servants to the United States, in response to the request of the Metropolitan of the USA, for Sisters to open parochial schools. From 1939–1950, she served in six centers: Chester, Shamokin, Wilkes-Barr and Minersville, PA, and Rochester and Sloatsburg, NY. While in the USA, in 1947, she became a naturalized citizen. She returned to Montreal from 1950-56, and then was assigned to the USA again, until 1967, serving in Philadelphia and Minersville, PA, Youngstown and Cleveland, OH and Passaic, NY.
While continuing to teach, she also continued studies. In 1949, she received an Elementary Teaching Diploma at the Nazareth Normal School, Rochester, NY, and took additional pedagogy courses during the summers until 1960, receiving her BScEd (Bachelor of Sciences in Education) at that institution. During the interim years in Montreal, she earned a Superior Diploma of Pedagogy at the Institut Pedagogique (English Section) in Montreal. In 1961, she received a Certificate for Teachers, Administrators or Supervisors of Non-tax Supported Schools for the State of Ohio. From 1965-69, during the summers, she pursued courses towards a Master of Library Sciences from St. John’s University (Jamaica, NY) and Duquesne University, which she did not complete; she was short by seven credits. As she pursued studies in this new field, she set up libraries in the parochial schools in which she worked, according to the Dewey Decimal System. In 1972, she received her Permanent Professional Certificate for Grades 1-12, for Public Schools of Alberta.
In 1966, at 53 years of age, she was missioned to a children’s camp in Mackwiller, France, for three months. While in Europe, she visited the General Superior in Rome, and requested permission to apply for reinstatement as a Canadian citizen, so she could be closer to family, teach in her home country while still able, and to end her life in the land of her birth. Permission was granted, and in 1970, she resumed her Canadian citizenship, at 57 years of age.
She was missioned in Canada, in Winnipeg and Montreal, while awaiting her Canadian citizenship; she returned to the USA only to take summer courses. Having received it, she was permanently missioned in Canada thereafter, serving Vegreville, Edmonton, Calgary and Mundare, AB; New Westminster, BC, Windsor, ON, Montreal QC, and Ituna, SK.
Sister Aloysia taught for a total 43 years in the school systems of Canada and the USA, but she also taught Ukrainian school and catechetics at the parishes, during the school year, and summer catechisms and camps, when not taking summer courses. Many of her earlier summers were spent teaching in several towns and villages of Alberta and Manitoba. She continued during her “retirement” years, in Saskatchewan villages and in Montreal.
In 1978-79, she took a sabbatical in Spokane, WA, (“Credo” program), earning a Certificate in Religious Studies. With that, she began a new phase of ministerial life for the next 20 years. Her first post after sabbatical was in New Westminster, BC, where the Sisters began a catechetical mission for the newly formed Eparchy. There, the Sisters ran an itinerant program of catechetics and pastoral visits in 14 centers across the province of British Columbia. Some of these did not have an established parish, but had Ukrainian Catholic people to whom they could offer this outreach. Their work included catechetics for children and adults, family-oriented programming, renewal programs, parish workshops, youth retreats, and visiting the sick in their homes and hospitals. Sister Aloysia was missioned there for three years.
Besides these various teaching missions, she also conducted Children of Mary and Altar Boys groups, and led prayer groups of the Ukrainian Catholic Womens’ League, and SSMI Associates meetings. She also cared for the beauty of the parish churches where she served, preparing altar breads, looking after the linens, decorating the churches, especially for holy days, and offering her musical skills as a cantor. She also was superior for 11 years at various missions.
In 2001, Sister Aloysia retired to St. Joseph’s Convent in Mundare, AB, at the age of 88. She was still able to help with some light domestic duties, and a more focused ministry of prayer. She was known well for her light-hearted joy of living. Reaching 100 years, she was asked by a local reporter to what she owed her longevity. Her response: “My love of potatoes!” At 105, she celebrated 90 years of service to Our Lord, an achievement not shared by many.
In 2017, her frailty required that she take up residence at the Mary Immaculate Long Term Care facility. Though she missed community life with her Sisters, she still took active interest in those with whom she now lived – the staff and other residents at the Care Centre – and was for them a source of inspiration.
Throughout her years of ministry, she was known for her dedication and her deep understanding of human interaction, which she was able to apply to her ministry. Her young students were captivated by the creativity of her lessons, and were fully engaged in participation. She was commended for her good relations with staff members, and for her personal discipline, which was reflected in the learning of the students. In 1964, she was chosen “Teacher of the Year” at the Byzantine Composite School in Youngstown, OH, where she also served as Lay-teachers’ Inservice Advisor for five years, under Bishop James W. Malone. Her assistance in setting up libraries in various schools was also appreciated.
Sister Aloysia was predeceased by her parents, Michael and Anastasia, all her brothers: John, Bill, Steven and Peter; and sisters: Mary Widynoski, Catherine Prusak, Anne Ewasiuk, Martha Krezanoski, Olga Shavchook, Susan Saffrin, Helen Hrabec, and Thais (Tinnie) Starko. She is survived by many nephews and nieces.
Funeral services were held Thursday, 06 June 2019, at the chapel of St. Joseph’s Convent. Rev. Ireneus Prystajeckyj celebrated Divine Liturgy, in the presence of Superior General Sister Sofija Lebedowicz, who was conducting canonical visitation during this time, the Sisters and about 75 members of her family and friends.
Interment followed at Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church Cemetery. Pall bearers were all family members: Harold Brossart, Cary Falez, Clarence Kitura, Kim Perry, Brenda Spence and Robert Widynowski.
Dinner was served for about 50 people. Mother General Sofija Lebedowicz spoke on behalf of the Sisters. Niece, Audrey Kitura, gave the eulogy. Sister Laura Prokop, superior, expressed her sincere thanks to all present.