Updated: Mar 11, 2021
In 1965, Edmundite Father Maurice Ouellet spoke to the students of Saint Michael’s College, and Father Richard Myhalyk was there. Father Ouellet’s words described the horror of Bloody Sunday earlier that year—words that deeply impacted this young Chemistry major. Father Myhalyk said the message was unsettling—words that certainly did not encourage him to head straight for Selma immediately after graduation. Father Myhalyk remembers 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. He served in one of the only truly integrated churches, Our Lady Queen of Peace in Selma.
The needs of Selma are great—perhaps greater today than in 1937 when Edmundites first arrived, Father Myhalyk said. Having served in many posts since his ordination, he said he has been committed to each assignment. “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 the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1970. 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.