Metropolitan Constantine, Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA fell asleep in the Lord on Monday 21 May 2012. The Metropolitan led the Church since 1993, having succeeded the late Metropolitan Mstyslav (Skrypnyk). He was a life-long resident of his native Pittsburgh, PA, except for a number of years serving on parish or hierarchal assignments in Chicago, IL and Troy, NY. But, wherever he was he served as an unofficial ambassador and promoter of his home town and all of Western Pennsylvania. Constantine was the Metropolitan's monastic name. In the secular world he was Theodore Buggan and was born to parents Stanley and Catherine Buggan on 29 July 1936. His family home a prayerful one in which he witnessed the Love of God in action on a daily basis - from caring for the needy of the community to assisting new immigrants from Ukraine seeking a better life than they had known under atheistic regimes in their homeland. That Love spread beyond the confines of his home into the life of his beloved church - St. Vladimir Parish, just across the street from the family home - where his spiritual nurturing and inspiration were further developed. From the earliest days of his life he heard the priests assigned to his parish, such as his mentor Fr. Theodore Bilecky, pray during Divine services that our Lord would call forth young men to serve His Holy Church and His faithful people and his heart and soul opened up to the Lord's call. He knew from a tender age that his would be the responsibility to serve at our Lord's command. Following his high school education he enrolled in 1955 at St. Andrew College, the Seminary of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, the only Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary in the free world at the time.
He found himself facing an enormous challenge, especially so far from home and immersed in a completely new and unfamiliar surroundings, where only the Ukrainian language was spoken and utilized in classroom instruction and daily life. He quickly adapted to this new situation and successfully completed the entire course of studies with some of the most renowned Ukrainian Orthodox scholars and theologians in the world. In particular, he was awed by Metropolitan Ilarion (Ohienko) one of the most respected Orthodox theologians in the world, who had a profound influence on young Theodore's life and entire priestly service. Metropolitan Ilarion was so often quoted by Theodore - Father and Bishop Constantine - that many who heard him felt that they knew the great Metropolitan themselves.
After completing studies at St. Andrew College in 1959, Theodore chose to continue his education by enrolling at St. Vladimir Seminary in New York, where he once again was exposed to some of the greatest of Orthodox theologians who were confounded by the abilities and talents of this young Ukrainian student and the certainty of his belief that he would one day be a bishop of Christ's Holy Church. In fact, there were three students at the seminary at the time who eventually became Metropolitans - our own Constantine and two others from the Orthodox Church in America - Theodosius and Vladimir.
Theodore decided to continue his graduate education at Duquesne University, just across the river from his home in downtown Pittsburgh, earning his Bachelor's Degree in 1965. He was able here to remain close with his family and began his association with the Ukrainian Orthodox League of the USA and was eventually ordained as a Subdeacon by Metropolitan John (Theodorovich) the first Metropolitan of our Holy Church. During this time Theodore also began his ten year long chairmanship of the Clergy Candidate Commission of the Ukrainian Orthodox League of the USA, which administers the Metropolitan John Scholarship awarding scholarships to theology students from our Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Finally, on 23 July 1967, Theodore was ordained to the Holy Priesthood in his home parish of St. Vladimir in Pittsburgh by Metropolitan John (Theodorovich). He was immediately assigned as assistant pastor to his mentor - Fr. Theodore Bilecky - who was then pastor of St. Vladimir Cathedral, Chicago, IL. He spent nearly two years learning at the feet of a man he dearly loved along with Matushka Nina, wife of Fr. Bilecky, who was just as influential as her husband on the newly ordained priest.
Fr. Theodore worked closely with the youth of the parish, establishing a chapter of the Ukrainian Orthodox League and a developing the parish's weekly radio broadcast to the thousands of Ukrainian Orthodox faithful in Chicagoland. All those young people remained his "kids" and "students" throughout their and his lives - even though many of them were very close to him in age. St. Nicholas parish in Troy, NY was Fr. Theodore's first parish assignment in 1968 as a pastor on his own. This was a match made in heaven and his relationship with the faithful entrusted to his care was a loving one, which sustained him throughout not only his priestly life, but all through his hierarchal service to our Lord. Here he also spent enormous amounts of time with the youth of the parish, educating them and through them, their parents, thus completely changing the spiritual character of the parish family. He was beloved by the parish board of administration, the sisterhood, the church choir, the church school, which molded his character more completely - convincing him of the necessity of reaching out to people when and where they needed it - even when they sometimes thought that they did not need it. His parish life caused him to begin questioning what he thought was his path to consecration as a bishop. His humility grew and he felt that he could be happy and content to nourish this family forever. Stop and ask the youth what interests them so far about Metropolitan Constantine's journey. As we move forward, you may have to stop and ask if the participants know what all of the referenced places and occasions mean.
Such was not the Will of God, however, and Fr. Theodore was called by our hierarchs Metropolitan John and Archbishop Mstyslav and the Sobor (General Council) of our Church to candidacy for the holy episcopate. He was tonsured as a monastic in his parish in 1971 and given the name Constantine, by his tonsuring bishop, Archbishop Mstyslav. On 7 May 1972, Monk Constantine was consecrated in St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, Philadelphia, PA as the first American born bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. It was an enormous step in the life of our Church, which proved to be most positive when the young Bishop Constantine won the hearts and love of those who had resisted the idea of electing a third generation American Ukrainian individual as bishop.
His Grace, Bishop Constantine, became the Bishop of Chicago and found himself once again united with his life-long mentor, Protopresbyter Theodore Bilecky, but now as Fr. Theodore's superior. The Bishop set out to build the Chicago See and to unite all Ukrainian Orthodox Christians in true commitment to our Lord and faithful in their desire to not only preserve our specific Ukrainian Orthodox spirituality, but to enhance it and pass it on intact to successive generations. The Bishop's work was not confined to the Chicago area. He visited parishes throughout the USA, Europe, Australia and South America representing our church well and encouraging the faithful in all places - always concentrating on the youth and their role in the future of the Church. In addition to all this, Bishop Constantine conducted retreats for youth and young adults throughout the USA - especially involving the Education Commission of the Ukrainian Orthodox League. He was instrumental in the establishment of St. Sophia Seminary, which opened its doors in 1975 and the UOL effort to purchase campgrounds in Western PA in 1977 to conduct our own youth and young adult encampments. For his devoted service, Bishop Constantine was elevated to the rank of Archbishop in 1987.
In 1989 the world changed when the Soviet Union collapsed and in 1990 Ukraine declared independence. Archbishop Constantine traveled to Ukraine on numerous occasions working tirelessly for the unity of the Church there and developing the relationship with our Church here in the USA. He was elevated to the rank of Metropolitan - nominated by then Primate, Metropolitan Mstyslav, at the Church's regular Sobor in 1992. In 1993, following the death of then Metropolitan Mstyslav, who also served in his final years as Patriarch of a reborn Church in independent Ukraine, Constantine was elected as Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. In 1994 the Metropolitan was invited, along with Archbishop Antony, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to discuss the renewal of the more than one thousand year old relationship to the Patriarchate, from where Ukraine received and was baptized into Orthodox Christianity in 988. These discussions resulted in the reception of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA as a jurisdiction under the omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarch, thus returning Ukrainian Orthodoxy to its rightful place in world Orthodoxy. Pause and allow time for questions or discussion.
In 1996, he presided over the final and long awaited unification of the two Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions in the USA - the UOC in America and the UOC of USA into our Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. He served as Primate of our Church on SCOBA - the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America - from 1995 through 2010, when SCOBA evolved into the new Assembly of Bishops, which includes all Orthodox hierarchs, rather than just the heads of churches. In addition to his responsibilities as Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Constantine served for 25 years as Rector and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of St. Sophia Seminary and lectured at the Seminary and various retreats several times a year. He participated in the youth and young adult encampments at All Saints Camp, Emlenton, PA, since its inception 30 years ago. He was directly responsible through his efforts to find a sponsor for the long awaited construction of St. Thomas Chapel at All Saints Camp which he consecrated with his brother hierarchs in the summer of 2008 on All Saints Sunday, the thirtieth anniversary of the camp's existence. He served as the Spiritual Father of the Ukrainian Orthodox League of the USA for 35 years and as Chairman of the Commission on Liturgy for the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America since its inception in 2010.
Metropolitan Constantine will be remembered above all for his love for the youth. Throughout his 45 years of priesthood, he continually reminded the adults of the need to pay attention to their children and to bear the responsibility as parents of raising them up in the faith, serving as loving examples for them.