Mother Marie as I know her

For the benefit of our non-Ukrainian guests, I shall talk about Dr. Mother Marie Dolzycka, OSBM, in English. This «little» nun loved so deeply by those who personally know her has been honored this evening by the worldwide Ukrainian diaspora for achievements in her educational and organizational career in the service of the Ukrainian nation and its Church. It is no exaggeration to claim that the distinction bestowed upon her tonight is worldwide because she received her honorary degree in philosophy from St. Clement Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome which has branches in Washington, Philadelphia, Toronto, and London and its roots of origin in Lviv — the capital of Western Ukraine and the Metropolitan Seat of Kievska-Halycka Rus. This honor has been conferred upon her by non other than His Holiness Patriarch Joseph Cardinal Slipyj of the Pomisna Particular Ukrainian Catholic Church. No greater recognition can be achieved in the Ukrainian community.

I knew about Mother Marie from my high school days. Attending a public high school in Jersey City, I closely followed her endeavors to establish the St. Basil’s Academy at Fox Chase, Pa., and regretted that I did not have the opportunity to attend such a school. The Academy quickly made great progress, and it could not have been otherwise because as I learned from my personal association with Mother Marie, she had special aptitudes as an educator. In Ukraine in her first position upon completion of her university training, in only three years she achieved full accreditation for the seminary (teacher’s training school) in Yavoriv, which before she came to that institution faced liquidation by school authorities. Then she went to Yugoslavia to organize Ukrainian schools for the Ukrainians who emigrated there. In the United States I watched her develop the Academy at the same time she was founding a whole series of parochial schools in various communities throughout the United States. In 1947 she became cofounder of the Manor Junior College and in September of that year took office as its President which she held until 1950.

What made Mother Marie the successful educator she was?

I attribute her success as much to her pioneer spirit and the courage of her convictions as to her high scholastic training. She does not know the meaning of fear or an inferiority complex. Life for Ukrainians in Galicia was difficult, they faced great discrimination. It was even more difficult for anyone coming from a family of a mixed marriage but she had the courage to take a position in a Ukrainian school confronted with many problems. She not only conquered them all but was so impressed with the struggle of these nuns in the service of their Church and People that she entered the convent which conducted the school in which she taught. She did this after she had completed her doctorate when she could have had her choice of positions in the existing political establishment. She was not dazzled by the brilliant prospects facing her but chose to serve the under-privileged and discriminated Ukrainians. She never submitted to pressures to abrogate the rights of her Church and People. She is a nun who adheres to the traditions of her Church and the rules of her Monastic Order but one who in the effort to preserve this heritage does not hesitate to venture along new paths which to some might seem drastic.

I say this on the basis of my personal association with Mother Marie which dates back to 1936. Standing at the speakers’ podium as President of the Ukrainian Catholic Youth League, I saw her enter into our conference room at the Empire Hotel in New York City with three of her high school students to participate in the deliberations. Today, such an entrance would be nothing unusual but at that time nuns and students of Catholic high schools just did not participate in con­ferences sponsored by laity, but Mother Marie and her students did — After that I frequently visited the Academy while she was principal and at times witnessed some interesting scenes. I saw her pull up the skirt of her long habit to just a bit higher than her ankles to show the girls some intricate steps in Ukrainian folk dancing which they failed to perfect under the instruction of a lay instructor. She had a good Ukrainian dancing ensemble which toured the New York-Philadelphia Metropolitan area. She has musical talent and to this day plays the piano and zither. At the Academy she organized a 40-member orchestra and I saw her take up a baton and by her directing inspire the girls to play brilliantly. She also led a girls ‘a cappella choir which achieved wide acclaim. She did all this in addition to teaching German and mathematics, acting as principal of the school, serving as mistress of the novices, and assisting Mother Josaphat Teodorovych in the administration of the convent. Fund raising was an important aspect of her duties.

Upon retirement from teaching and administrative duties, Mother Marie took it upon herself to do whatever possible to assist the Sisters of St. Basil in Yugoslavia, Poland, and Ukraine. She raised funds, transmitted money, and sent parcels to the most needy of them. In 1963 at the age of 75, she dared to go to Poland to visit the Sisters there and see for herself in what situation they lived. She was the first Ukrainian nun to go to a country behind the Iron Curtain. In 1977, at the age of 89, she ventured to visit Lviv, the city of her birth, in the monastic garb in which she left it for the United States. She was the first and so far the only Ukrainian nun who dared to do so. The impact this had on those who saw her is indescribable.

Educational accomplishments and relief programs do not constitute the sum total of Mother Marie’s achievements. We are all familiar with her efforts in the defense of the rights of the Ukrainian Pomisna (Particular) Church. She did not hesitate to join the protest lines when the rights of our Church were violated. With her wrists shackled in chains in symbolic portrayal of the fate of her Church, she marched adding prestige to the protest lines yet tempering the potential inclination to take any inappropriate steps and the world press carried her photographs with appropriate reports.

At the risk of sounding trite, I conclude by saying that this little nun in her long and unmodified habit is a reservoir of inspiration and strength to all who meet her. She is a nun for all seasons.

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