UD. 5 March 2016.  

Last week we sadly bade farewell to a very close and loyal friend of the Ukrainian community in this country, Rev. Dr. Ivan Muzyczka, who passed away in Rome on 22 February aged 94. 

Born in the village of Pukiv, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, he was influenced from an early age by his local parish priest’s inspirational sermons and enthusiasm for church music. After completing High School he became a primary school teacher in 1941, whilst also studying music and learning to play the violin in Rohatyn.

In 1943 he joined the “Halychyna” Division and was assigned to its orchestra but was later transferred to the medical corps where he also acted as an interpreter.

At the end of the Second World War, he was interned as a Ukrainian military prisoner in Rimini, Italy. However, in the autumn of 1945, he was one of a group of 20 who were permitted to travel to Rome to study for the priesthood. Ordained in 1951 he remained in Rome for a further two years, obtaining a PhD, before being assigned to serve as parish priest for Ukrainian Catholics in Wolverhampton and the West Midlands.

In the 1970’s, during the bitter struggle over the issue of the recognition of Cardinal Josyf Slipyj as Patriarch, Fr. Muzyczka defied the local Ukrainian bishop and the Vatican by supporting the cause of the Patriarchate. During this period he provided solid leadership, not only to his parishes but to the whole Ukrainian community. 

Returning to Rome in 1975 at the request of Patriarch Josyf, Fr. Muzyczka served as one of his most trusted advisors. A year later he also became the first parish priest of the church of ss. Sergius and Bacchus in Rome and after Ukraine gained her independence he added Ukrainian Catholics living in Naples to his list of parishioners. 

He served everyone with equal dedication and attention while simultaneously (and constantly) quietly working away on a multitude of various projects and issues, including extensive contributions to various publications.

Although times and circumstances were difficult, he declined the episcopacy with characteristic modesty. 

His wisdom, kindheartedness and compassion touched everyone he met. He had time for everyone, young and old and was a true shepherd to his flock. And he always spoke of the Ukrainian community in this country in the warmest and kindest terms. 

Comments on social media on the news of his death show how much he was loved, and stand as a heartfelt epitaph for a life dedicated to God and Ukraine.

“He was an intelligent, open and kind man, who carried out his pastoral duties with love, dedication and humility, even though his intellect suggested he deserved greater recognition and a different position… He also loved music and organized and conducted the local Ukrainian choir. My fondest memories of him are discussing as a teenager with this enlightened priest existentialism and especially the theistic existentialism of Teilhard de Chardin.” Bohdan Nahaylo

“The best priest ever. He was gentle, kind, understanding and he loved our small community in Stoke on Trent. His RE lessons at Ukrainian School were the best. A “£1000 jackpot” when you got an answer right! My reference for teaching came from him in Rome and the interviewer said he couldn’t refuse me a place as my reference had come from Rome. I attended confession with him when I was a new teacher and he chatted to me for so long after confession that my dad questioned me as to what my sins were!! A wonderful man and priest. May the angels speed him to paradise. I hope dad is there to meet him!” Anna Beisty

“My dad too! What an inspiration this man was. I thought his ‘jackpot’ was worth a million! I went out of my way to see him in Rome whilst inter-railing as an 18 year old. He truly was like a family member to anyone who was privileged enough to know him.” Ann Chomanicz

“Lovely priest and tutor. He married my parents in Coventry in the early 1960’s and they spoke about him a lot. He will be sadly missed.” Anna Matwijiwskij

“Very sad news indeed. Father Muzyczka was a family friend and I have some of my fondest childhood memories thanks to him.” Greg Kowalczuk

A true legend, who touched many of our lives and was loved and cherished by all. Stefan Polatajko

“Great parish priest and a lovely, compassionate man.” Ray Gresko

“Very sad news... he is the reason I still have my faith to this day.” Anna Kuszta.


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