To extend the sentiments of last week’s post about the Martyrs of Uganda, Father Richard Myhalyk, S.S.E. reflects on the mural this week. He said historians still heavily debate the reasons behind the Ugandan persecutions and that political factors certainly played a part as well. Those killed included minor chiefs, some of whom were the victims of particular grudges by their seniors—those in power, Father Myhalyk explained. “They were jealous that these up and coming young men would soon be ousting them from their powerful positions,” he said.
This preoccupation with maintaining control reminds Father Myhalyk of the Civil Rights struggle and the Black youth of the 1960s who were determined to make things better. “They were youth filled with enormous hope and driven by a commitment to their Christian faith,” he said. “Hopefully, the Edmundite Center of Hope and the Selma parish sustain that hope and faith today just as a Center of Concern continues to sustain Catholic Social Outreach in Gadsden and Anniston where Edmundites once served.”
In 1965, Edmundite Father Maurice Ouellet spoke to the students of Saint Michael’s College, and Father Myhalyk was there. “His words described the horror of Bloody Sunday earlier that year—words that deeply impacted me as a Junior Chemistry major.”
“They were very unsettling words—words that certainly did not encourage me to head straight for Selma immediately after graduation," Father Myhalyk said.
He was conscious, however, that some members of his SMC Class of 1966 did head south while they were still students. They participated in the Elizabeth City Tutorial Project that helped prepare Black youth to enter college and succeed. Black Edmundites Moses Anderson and James Robinson, in many ways, pioneered what later became Volunteer Corps in other religious congregations. Father Myhalyk began ministering in Alabama in the 1970s.
Today Father Myhalyk serves in Selma in one of the only truly integrated churches. There are more than 200 Christian churches in Dallas County but Our Lady Queen of Peace is where Blacks and Whites worship and work together. “But the needs of Selma are great—perhaps greater today than in 1937 when Edmundites first arrived,” Father Myhalyk said.
Father Myhalyk provides pastoral care for Catholics in Selma and Orrville, Alabama and until recently at two women's prisons and two men's prisons. He still works closely with a pastoral team who enter Julia Tutwiler Prison and the Montgomery Women's Facility when priests in Montgomery are not available. He does provide a weekly mailing to prisoners who want to reflect upon the Sunday scriptures. His previous involvement with Vermont Dismas House prepared him for this special ministry.
He also ministers to the cadets at Marion Military Institute, which prepares many to enter the USA military academies. Last year's Campus Ministry at Marion Military Institute included a weekly Wednesday evening RCIA series in which two cadets, Gabe Downing and Elliott Mello as well as their sponsor, Joe Daniel, II, participated. Gabe and Elliott were received into the Catholic faith at last year's Easter Vigil. This year Gabe, Elliott and Joe are at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.
Having served in many posts since his ordination, he said he has been committed to each assignment and Selma is no exception. “Each assignment has been a response to being sent by the Society of St. Edmund to use my gifts and talents,” he said. “I pronounced my final vows on May 1, 1970 which is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. I was also ordained an Edmundite priest on that feast day a year later with fellow Edmundite Father Marcel Rainville.”
For Father Myhalyk, ministry is about fulfilling both religious vows in keeping with the charism and mission of the Edmundites and responding to the mandates given by the church at his ordination to the diaconate and priesthood by Bishop Robert Joyce, he said. These mandates are posted on his bulletin board in his office as a daily reminder:
“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach.” (Mandate to deacons)
“Accept from the holy people of God the gifts to be offered to him. Know what you are doing. Imitate the mystery you celebrate. Model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.” (Mandate to priests)
The ordination mandates mesh well with the Society of St. Edmund’s mission of evangelization. Regardless of the particular ministry Edmundites are assigned to, they are about the task of drawing others into great Paschal mystery and proclaiming the gospel by what they say and do.
The Edmundite Mission of Evangelization says:
~ YOU are an integral part of the Church and her mission.
~ YOUR participation is vital to the Church and her mission.
~ YOUR gifts and talents are needed to build that mission.
~ YOU are called from being a stranger and alien to be a full partner.
Father Myhalyk said he is often drawn back to these words in the Early Edmundite Rule:
~Seek to serve as Jesus did.
~Make known the love of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart.
~Make charity your primary virtue.
~Be solicitous for showing hospitality.
~Give priority to those most in need of your charity: The needy, the poor, the ignorant and sinners should share your love more than others
We live in troublesome times, Father Myhalyk said. “It is often difficult to see things in a positive light, but I find myself going back to words found in the Early Edmundite Rule. The founders recognized that the Society of St. Edmund in general and individual Edmundites in particular ought to reflect the four marks of the Church.”
Four marks of the Church:
~ONE – strive for unity in goals, governance, and vision; create a unified vision.
~HOLY – strive to grow in perfection, in the likeness of Christ (the divine model), and in witnessing his holiness; living the Word speaks more convincingly than our preaching and teaching.
~CATHOLIC – strive to be universal rather than parochial in your thinking and theology by merciful (adaptive) rather than rigid.
~APOSTOLIC – strive to acquire the heart and the mind of an apostle whose preeminent virtue is zeal. Know who you are (an apostle) and whose you are (God’s and the church’s representative.
“Imagine if our cities, our nation and our world were one and had a common vision. Imagine if each of us were more Christlike and willing and able to let go of our rigidly held positions and more focused on reaching out. Living the marks of the Church would surely make a real difference,” Father Myhalyk said.
The heart of the Society of Saint Edmund’s mission is serving where the need is greatest, a credo that has led us to four core ministries: Social Justice, Education, Spiritual Renewal and Pastoral Ministry. It is through these core ministries that we live out a faith-based life of service and make a real difference in people’s lives by bringing them closer to God.