May 13, 1956 – Mothers’ Day – was a special day for more than one reason. That’s the day that Fr. John Fetsco, C.Ss.R., was ordained to the holy priesthood. Most people stay in their job a few years, then try something else. They move from place to place wherever their career takes them. Fr. John has moved from place to place a few times but his career stayed the same: he “is a priest forever, according to the order of Melchisedek”, as we read in the Bible.
To celebrate this joyous occasion, May 10th was decided upon. In the early afternoon, guests started to congregate in the beautifully decorated Slovak Cathedral of Transfiguration. This being Fr. John’s golden jubilee, the church was full of greenery with yellow blooms. Fr. John and his sister Margie Fetsco, from Pringle, Pennsylvania, wore yellow corsages with gold ribbons.
At 3pm, fourteen priests and 2 Bishops, led by three altar servers, processed down the centre isle to the altar. Fr. John, accompanied by his long-time friend, Rt. Reverend John Tataryn, preceded the two bishops: H.E. John Pazak, C.Ss.R. and H.E. Cornelius Pasichny, O.S.B.M.
What a beautiful sight: at the altar, Fr. John was the main celebrant at the beginning, then H.E. Bishop Pazak took over as the main celebrant and had Fr. John on his right and H.E. Bishop Pasichny on his left. All around the altar, was a sea of white, gold, and light blue vestments. On the left side, there were Rt. Rev. John Tataryn, Fr. John Girhiny, Fr. Yaroslaw Dybka, Fr. Peter Pidskalny, Fr. Ron Comeau, Fr. Leslie Tamas, and Fr. Stephen Williams concelebrating. On the right side there were: Fr. Pavol Dolinsky, Fr. Stanislav Takac, Fr. Miroslav Vercimak, Fr. Jozef Mucha, Fr. Andrew Kormanik, Fr. Mark Zazula and the rector of the cathedral, Fr. Miroslav Cajka.
Following the liturgy, the bishops and most of the clergy, along with several guests, proceeded to the other half of the celebration. It was held at the Premiere Ballroom and Convention Centre in Richmond Hill. The guests arrived to a beautifully decorated hall with blue napkins (Fr. John’s favourite colour!) and tying in with the decorations at the cathedral, the centrepieces were yellow tulips in vases tied with gold ribbon. As the guests started arriving, they were all treated to hors d’heurves and punch and they had a chance to socialize, congratulate Fr. John and just enjoy each others’ company. Among those who attended, we had Fr. John’s sister Margie and Fr. John’s Redemptorist confreres from Winnipeg and Saskatchewan. We also had the pleasure of having with us Fr. Stanislav Takac, from the Archdiocese of Kosice in Slovakia, who is visiting his cousin. Mr. Jozef Breda, from Michalovce, Slovakia, who is here visiting his sister, was also one of the guests.
Following a short welcome, blessing and a toast to Fr. John by H.E. Bishop Pazak, and a tasty meal, the head table guests were introduced, as well as other distinguished guests sitting at individual tables. We were all reminded of Fr. John’s life and his achievements. As a wonderful tribute to him, there were many greetings. The most cherished greeting came in a form of an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Benedict XVI – a gift from the Cathedral Ladies’ Guild. Then there was a greeting from H.G. Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio in Canada. Greetings from the Redemptorist Provincial of Yorkton Province, Fr. John Sianchuk, C.Ss.R., were read by Fr. Peter Pidskalny, C.Ss.R.. Fr. John is a member of that Province. The MC read the rest of the greetings from Bishop Hrynchyshyn in France, Msgr. Sinal in Montreal, Bishop Kuchmiak, C.Ss.R., in Newark, NJ (he was ordained together with Fr. John and the late Fr. Perejda, C.Ss.R.), Fr. Sandor, H.G. Archbishop Schott, OFM and H.E. Bishop Chmilar. Greetings from Vladyka Jan Babjak, SJ and Vladyka Jan Hirka from Slovakia, arrived the next day.
Fr. John then thanked all those who came to celebrate with him, and all those who organized the celebration and worked hard to make it a special day. H.E. Bishop Cornelius concluded the celebration by having all guests join him in reading the “Thou art a priest forever” prayer on the back of the programs. Fr. John cut his special anniversary cake and distributed it to everyone. The guests were then free to sign the guest book, congratulate Fr. John and have pictures taken with him.
Thank you to Bishop Pazak for his direction, to the concelebrating priests for taking time to be here, to all those volunteers who cleaned the church, decorated it and helped out wherever necessary. And thank you to all those who showed respect and support for Fr. John and his 50 years (most of them spent here among us in Canada) by being part of the liturgy in the afternoon and the banquet in the evening. You are the reason that although he was very tired, there was a constant smile on Fr. John’s face all day long!
May God keep you among us in good health for “many, blessed years!” Mnohaja lit, Fr. John! A job well done!
By Mary Siroky-Snell
Photo credits: Mary Siroky - Snell.
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