Sister Georgina died on 11 March, 2019, at Bethany Home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, at 90 years of age and in her 75th year of religious life.
Sister Georgina (Victoria) was born in Roblin, MB, on 4 August, 1928, the daughter of John Yakimishyn and Emily (nee Borody), and baptized at St. Michael’s Church in Roblin. Her father had immigrated from Ukraine to Brazil, and then later to Canada. Her mother immigrated to Canada from Husiatyn, in the Ternopil region of Ukraine.
She attended Glen Eden School for her elementary education, and St. Michael’s School in Brandon, MB, for junior high. When Victoria was in her early teens, the family suffered a great tragedy. Her father was killed in a car accident. Her mother was left to raise and provide for four children. Victoria’s older sister Olga had just begun her teaching career.
Her mother then enrolled Victoria at Sacred Heart Academy, in Yorkton, SK, for grade XI. Her sister Olga had graduated from the Academy in 1942.
Victoria was called by the Lord to follow Him as a Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate during her year at Sacred Heart Academy. She responded “Yes” to the call, and continued her studies at the Academy. She was received as a postulant on 11 May, 1944, in Yorkton. Due to medical reasons, she continued her postulancy in Yorkton until she was completely healed. She arrived at the Mundare Novitiate to continue her formation on 9 September, 1944.
She became a novice on 12 November, 1944, receiving the name Gorgonia, and later becoming known as Sister Georgina. Her final month in the Novitiate was spent in Ancaster, ON, where the Novitiate was transferred from Mundare, AB, in October, 1946.
She professed first vows on 13 November, 1946, and perpetual vows on 15 August, 1953. She was the first of two vocations to the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in her family. Her older sister, Olga (Sister Ruth), entered the Congregation in 1955, having seen all her younger siblings established in life.
Sister Georgina was missioned to teach from her earliest years in the Congregation. She taught at the elementary level for the first ten years of religious life, mostly in the USA, which at that time was part of the Canadian Province. In those years, she taught in Shamokin, PA, Detroit, MI, and Rochester, NY, and in Canada – Montreal, QC and Winnipeg, MB.
From 1959-1967, she was missioned to Sacred Heart Academy, this time to be prefect for the resident students, teach at the high school level, where she specialized in Music, and served as guidance counsellor.
In 1967, she completed Teachers’ College, in Toronto. Later, she had the opportunity to pursue a BEd at the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon, completing her studies in 1971 at McMaster University, in Hamilton.
She was missioned to teach for two years in Toronto, and two years in Ancaster at Mount Mary Immaculate Academy. Then she returned to Yorkton to teach at Sacred Heart High School until 1985. Music remained her specialty throughout these years. She took unique pride in her Swing Choir and Concert Choir at Sacred Heart, and everyone eagerly awaited the spectacular musicals she would help organize with the staff and students.
All those years, her summers were never idle! If she was not teaching summer catechism in rural parishes, she would be taking some specialized studies – Music workshops at the Peace Gardens, or Oneonta, NY.
Having retired from teaching, she still held young people in her heart. She was missioned in Winnipeg for three years, where she became involved in campus ministry at the University of Manitoba. It was in these years that she and a core of other Sisters involved in youth ministry organized Ukrainian Youth for Christ rallies in Ancaster, Winnipeg and Saskatoon.
Of course, her love and enthusiasm for music did not diminish. In Winnipeg, Calgary, at Mount Mary Retreat Centre in Ancaster, and overseas in Lourdes, France, her apostolate revolved around the Liturgical music ministry. In Calgary, she inaugurated the singing of Liturgical responses in English at Assumption parish. In Lourdes, she did the same for English pilgrims who came to the Sisters’ mission home there. At Mount Mary Retreat Centre, she animated the singing for the services of all Ukrainian retreat groups, even as she hosted other groups in other ways.
Sister Georgina was gifted in other ways. In the parishes, she taught Ukrainian and catechism at all age levels. She served on the SSMI Sisters’ writing team of the First Communion Catechism program, We are Children of Light, composing several of the teaching songs, still favourites in many classrooms. With Sister Frances Byblow, she composed a hymn to Blessed Josaphata.
Sister Georgina inherited a deep love for the Mother of God from her own mother, a love she also shared with her sister, Sister Ruth, and her other siblings. In 1975, she had an opportunity to visit Lourdes and Fatima, along with Rome and the Holy Land. Twenty years later, she was missioned for two years in Lourdes, which she considered a particular privilege. During her time there, she made her annual retreats in Rome, and visited SSMI mission homes in Mackwiller, France, and Munich and New Ulm, in Germany. She spent a sabbatical year of Scripture study in the Holy Land, in 1988-89, an unforgettable experience!
In her retirement years at Bethany Home, her health became progressively frail. Her once-strong, vibrant singing voice became a whisper. But her love for her community never flagged. As her energy allowed, she took interest in the sharings around the table, and was particularly touched by the personal greetings of guests, and the gentle attention of her health care aides.
Sister Georgina was predeceased by her parents, sisters Alma (in infancy) and Sr. Ruth, brothers Walter, Michael and sister-in-law Doris. She was survived by her sister, Marie and brother-in-law Jean-Paul Patenaude, brother Nicholas, nieces and nephews and their families, and cousins. Her brother Nicholas passed away on 17 March 2019, the Sunday following her own passing.
Funeral services began Thursday evening, 21 March 2019, at the chapel of Bethany Home. Sister Georgina’s body arrived at 6:30 pm, to the singing of Святий Боже by her co-Sisters. After an opportunity for the viewing, the Sisters prayed the Rosary, with each decade led by different Sisters.
Parastas followed, celebrated by His Grace, Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak, OSBM, concelebrated by Fr Dmytro Dnistrian, CSsR, Rev. Volodymyr Bashutskyj, Msgr. Michael Buyachok, Rev. Larry Kondra, CSsR, Rev. Michael Kwiatkowski, and Rev. Djura Maljik, with Rev. John Sianchuk, CSsR leading responses. Many of the care giving staff joined the Sisters for both the rosary and Parastas.
Rev. Larry Kondra, CSsR, Provincial Superior, gave an address, speaking on his relationship with Sister Georgina over the years, and of the profound experience he had, when anointing her, this past fall. Sister Christina Syrotynsky, Provincial Superior, delivered the eulogy. Refreshments were offered in the Sisters’ dining room. Sister Georgina’s body lay in state in the Sisters’ chapel overnight.
On Friday morning, 22 March 2019, the Sisters gathered in the chapel to pray, singing the Community Hymn, Слава слава and the Magnificat. Then Sister Georgina’s coffin was processed out, to the singing of Святий Боже. All Sisters able to attend, and the pallbearers were taken to St. Joseph’s Church, 250 Jefferson Ave., by a shuttle bus provided by Cropo Funeral Home. At 10:00 am, Rosary was led by Doreen Prokopchuk, SSMI Associate, and other Associates.
The Funeral Divine Liturgy began at 10:30 am, with His Grace Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak, OSBM as main celebrant. Concelebrating were Frs. Larry Kondra and Dmytro Dnistrian, CSsR, Msgr. Michael Buyachok, Rev., Rev. Michael Krochak, Rev. Andrew Wach, Rev. Djura Maljik, Fr Emilyan Nychak, OSBM, and Rev. Alan Wizinsky. Lesia Sianchuk led responses. Rev. Frank Szadiak, CSsR and Deacons Gordon Mendres and Victor Humniski were present among the congregation. Rev. Eugene Maximiuk, pastor of Holy Transfiguration Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral was also present. He had been a student of Sister Georgina, at Sacred Heart High School in Yorkton.
She was interred at Holy Family Cemetery, following the Divine Liturgy. Pall bearers were Walter Skakun, who had taken part in musicals, organized by Sister Georgina at Sacred Heart High in Yorkton; and Martin Pasciezska, Rick Pidsadney, Ken Charlson, Brad Black and Taras Veryha, who had all been members of Youth for Christ or Obnova, youth and campus ministries in which Sister Georgina was involved. Several other former students and Youth for Christ members also came to pay their respects to Sister Georgina, who was special to all of them.
A dinner was provided at the Holy Family Home auditorium. Sister Darlene Pelechaty, local superior, was mistress of ceremonies. At the dinner, Sister Georgina’s cousin Michael Yakimishyn shared moving memories of their growing years in Roblin, particularly of the sad loss of Sister Georgina’s father, early in her life, and the challenges that followed, for her family. Rev. Eugene Maximiuk also spoke, as a former student. Also present were Rev. Klysh, a retired Orthodox priest, and his wife, who was a cousin to Sister Georgina. Over 80 people were in attendance at the services.
Donations in Sr. Georgina’s memory may be made to Lubov SSMI Foundation.