Open Letter to Father Seminak

March 15, 1974
1079 E. Sandy Ridge Rd.

Doylestown, Pa. I890I
Dear Father Seminack,

By way of introduction, my name is Michael M. Naydan and I have been a member of St. Anne’s Parish along with my parents since its inception. Presently I am a Teaching Fellow at the American University in the Department of Language and Foreign Studies and have been spending the majority of my time in Washington, D.C., having completed my undergraduate work in December of this past year.

Because of my studies I have for the past four years been occasional participant of your Mass on Sunday.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in your celebration of Christ’s gift to man, the mass, and I was appalled at the manner in which you approached its presentation. As you know, our church’s official title is “Ukrainian Catholic Church.” I am sure you are aware through your theological studies that the Uniate Church was established by papal decree in order to accommodate Ukrainians – allowing them to celebrate the Mass in their vernacular.

It struck me odd while I was home over Christmas vacation, that during mirovanya you would say “Xristos rozdaetsya” to my parents and myself and “Christ is born” to the children of the parish. It appeared as if you were attempting to “appease an “older” generation of Ukrainian speaking people and destroying the foundation of the culture for which the language is of prime importance. I personally cannot see why you could not speak to the children in Ukrainian, teach them a few of the key words in the vernacular of a beautifully written Mass. Instead you persist in destroying a unifying cultural bond, the language, which strengthens an individual’s cultural identity. In a time when cultural and individual identity is at an ebo, you insist on suppressing it even more.

I am very sad that I speak Ukrainian as poorly as I do. The fault is really no one’s but my own. I do plan on perfecting my limited knowledge of Ukrainian while studying for a doctorate in Slavic Studies. My parents early in my life moved from an urban Ukrainian community to a rural area free of city’s smog, dust and other perversions of nature, but also deprived of the opportunity to intermingle with the people of my own cultural background. The church remained the singular means for me to practice” my parents’ native tongue and I have grown to love the Ukrainian mass. I can really identify with it spiritually and culturally, and find a comfort in its melody, the reenactment of God’s greatest gift to man the giving of his only son.

But you seem to be set on following the path of total repression of the Ukrainian language and the culture inherent in it, in the name of some perverted form of ecumenism, which seems directed at fusing all religions into an amorphous mass incapable of propounding the belief in anything. An individual cannot be aware of an all too ephemeral identity without accepting his heritage. Culture and identity are conceptually closely tied.

It would be very easy to instill at least a small part of this identity through the simple teaching of a few words to very impressionable children. I cannot understand why you continually teach the children segments of the mass in English – e.g., “Lord have mercy” instead of “Hospody pomiluj” and “Our Father” instead of “Otche Nash”.

How difficult would it be for you to teach them the meaning in English and words in Ukrainian? You are following the same path of the former pastor of St. Anne’s, who I am ashamed to say, on a number of occasions began singing in English “Many happy years instead of “Mnohaya Lita”. How difficult is it for one to say “Mnohaya Lita” and learn the meaning regardless of age or native language. It is a hymn which in essence lacks translation; its beauty is in its originality.

My parents and 1 for the past number of years have not been hoping for miracles – just little movements toward the teaching of some of the heritage of our Ukrainian Church and language to the people of the parish.

If you continue in this manner of Anglicizing our rite what will differentiate St. Anne from any Roman Catholic Church?

If we wanted to go to a Roman Catholic Church with no true tangible cultural heritage, we could easily go to Mt. Carmel in Doylestown, which is much shorter a distance from our home than St. Anne’s.

But we prefer to be a part of our Ukrainian Catholic Church with our own rite and mass, guaranteed by Papal decree and supported by the Vatican Council.

I have no argument against your having a mass totally in English and one mixed with English and Ukrainian, if it is not mixed with the intent of methodically eliminating Ukrainian from the mass. It would seem logical that if these two types of masse exist, there should be one completely in Ukrainian, in order for the people to have the opportunity to hear the mass in its beautifully traditional form and to teach those who wish to learn a few traditional hymns instead of teaching them distorted English versions. How can you as a priest of the Ukrainian Catholic Church create this double standard in dealing with the people? I can only see your motive, along with your superiors in Philadelphia, as one of complete Anglicization of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, destroying at first its cultural heritage by eliminating its language-base, and then melding’s with a ecumenical uniform mass which does not respect individual or cultural differences.

I wish you would merely look in retrospect and notice what you are doing. We have a tremendous spiritual leader in Cardinal Slipyj, who as Patriarch could guide the Ukrainian Catholic Church to a spiritual harmony – and then allow this one united entity to work within the framework of the Catholic Church to strengthen, not splinter the faith of Ukrainians throughout the world. All that is needed is a little cooperation, kindness and truth. Yet you and your superiors in Philadelphia seem to only reject all that Cardinal Slipyj stands for. You seem to only hope to fragment the church, divide the members to argue among themselves. You are helping to create a church; based on untruths, misdirection and false dual-system. You seem to keep forgetting that; ours is an Ukrainian Catholic Church. I have no respect for an individual who has no pride in his heritage. I have no respect for anyone who is ashamed of singing “Bozhe Velikij” as your predecessor often refused to sing during mass, replacing it with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

I hope you take the time to read this letter and think for a few moments. I am seeding copies of this to Cardinal Slipyj, Metrepolitan Ambrose Senyshyn, the Svoboda and the “Voice of the Ukrainian Community” radio program in the hope that at least someone will listen. I hope only that Ukrainian stop bickering among themselves and realize that the unification of the Ukrainian Church and people is a common goal. A man or a church is incapable of assisting anyone else unless his own house is in order. The proverb is old; its meaning however is never obsolete.

Thank you for your time, Michael M. Naydan

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