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U.S. News
Carnegie priest named bishop in Chicago

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

By Ann Rodgers-Melnick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The Rev. Richard Seminack, a Catholic priest from Carnegie, was named bishop of Chicago yesterday -- but still answered his own phone.

The Rev. Richard Seminack, 61, pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Carnegie, has been named Ukrainian Catholic bishop of Chicago. "I don't want to change anything that isn't absolutely necessary. I just want to listen." (Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette)

"I'm sort of a one-man band here" he said of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church, a growing 800-member parish where he has been pastor for 18 years.

His new diocese is the Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago for Ukrainians, whose 10,000 members could fit into one large parish of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. But its geographical size is larger than many nations. Seminack, 61, will oversee 36 parishes and seven missions scattered from Michigan to Texas and out to Hawaii.

He plans to take his time to get to know his new post.

"I don't want to change anything that isn't absolutely necessary. I just want to listen. I want to try to calculate the needs of the people and be a servant," he said.

That is what he has done in Carnegie, where Holy Trinity has grown due to Ukrainian immigration and young adults returning to the faith.

"He has a very gentle way of listening and understanding and passing on God's love and forgiveness," said Eleanor Patross, a parishioner.

"He is loved by everyone. We are honored that this has happened to our parish and especially to Monsignor. There will always be a place in our hearts for his endeavors."

Born in Philadelphia, Seminack is the grandson of immigrants and learned to speak Ukrainian fluently in seminary.

Although he studied canon law in Rome and in the United States, his expertise is religious education.

Ukrainian Catholics are among the Eastern churches that follow the rituals and practices of Orthodoxy but give their allegiance to the pope. As with many Eastern Catholics in the United States, Ukrainian Catholics answer to a patriarchate in the motherland.

Seminack's commitment to responsible church government predates the sexual abuse scandals that engulfed the American church last year, he said.

"My ministry has always been one of openness and accountability. I have said from the first day that I was ordained that I have lived in Macy's window. Everybody's problem was my problem and my problem was everybody else's problem," he said.

His priorities as bishop will include evangelization and encouraging a renewal of Eastern traditions, he said. Both present challenges in his new diocese, which lacks the priests to start new parishes.

Only about one-third of its parishes have a resident pastor. According to The Official Catholic Directory there are just 16 active diocesan priests, but there are 19 priests from outside the diocese, many of whom he believes are probably married priests from Ukraine.

Eastern Catholics in Europe and Asia have always ordained married men. In the 1920s, Rome forbade Eastern Catholics in America to do so. Since Catholicism has re-emerged in post-communist Ukraine, however, many married priests from Ukraine have come to the United States. Seminack has one as an assistant in Carnegie.

"He has worked out very well. So the problem of introducing married clergy to our dioceses and eparchies is nothing radically new," he said.

Eastern Catholics in the United States have recovered many lost traditions over the past decade, he said. Seminack wants to share many of those traditions with the wider Catholic church.

"The greatest need right now is for the Eastern church to begin to shine forth in many of its theological concepts, which have been buried for years," he said. "There is a reason to educate not only Eastern Catholics, but also Roman Catholics about the treasures and the wealth of the Eastern Churches."

Seminack is unsure when he will take up residence in Chicago. He goes there next week for a preliminary meeting with the priest who has run the diocese since its last bishop was transferred more than two years ago. He hopes it will be possible to celebrate his ordination and installation on the Feast of Ascension, May 29.


Ann Rodgers-Melnick can be reached at arodgersmelnick-@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416.


Correction/Clarification: (Published March 30, 2003) All parishes of the Diocese of St. Nicholas in Chicago for Ukrainians now have resident priests. The diocese is not administered by a priest but by its former bishop, who commutes from his new diocese in Canada. A March 26 story about Bishop-elect Richard Seminack of the diocese had incorrect information.

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