By Anthony Barich
The young Ukrainian Catholic priest who accompanied the relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati to Sydney for veneration during World Youth Day 2008 has died from what is understood to have been cardiac arrest.
Fr Adrian Ckuj, a celibate priest who turned 39 on February 11, died at 3.30am on February 22 Eastern Standard Time having been in a chemically induced coma after suffering for weeks from pulmonary bronchitis.
A Requiem Divine Liturgy will be held in Rome and his body transported to Melbourne for burial after a funeral Mass at the Cathedral of Ss Peter and Paul in North Melbourne, where he was ordained on December 13, 1997 by Bishop Peter Stasiuk, Eparch of Australia’s Ukrainian Catholics.
Bishop Stasiuk told The Record that the Ukrainian Church in Europe, Australia and around the world was in shock over the loss of Fr Ckuj, who, in the absence of a local bishop, had acted as an administrator for the Ukrainian Church in Italy, organising chaplaincy for Ukrainian migrants in the country.
The prelate said that when news came out, “I never saw so many people mourning in the cathedral in Melbourne, and I got a call from a priest in Hobart telling me of similar sentiments in his own diocese. It seems the whole country was united in shock”.
Fr Ckuj had served in Melbourne and Sydney before being sent for further study in Rome, where he became “very influential”, and was a personal friend of Cardinal Pell, Bishop Stasiuk said.
“It’s all so sudden,” Bishop Stasiuk told The Record last week. “It’s a sad day for the Eparch.”
Fr Ckuj completed his licentiate in Dogmatic Theology at the Gregorian University in 2001 and a licentiate in Canon Law at the Papal University of the Holy Cross in 2004. That year he was appointed chancellor of the Apostolic Visitator for Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Italy, and was elected secretary of the Santa Sofia Brotherhood in Rome in February 2005. He served as its president from 2006 to 2008.
Born in Melbourne, Fr Ckuj’s brother Simon is parish priest of St Andrew’s Ukrainian Church in Lidcombe, NSW.
Their parents Nick and Orysia are based in Melbourne.
Fr Ckuj served as an altar boy at the Cathedral of Ss Peter and Paul, attended the parish Ukrainian Satuday School, was a member of CYM, the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s youth ministry, and attended St Bernard’s College.
After completing the journey from Turin with Blessed Frassati’s relics to Sydney for World Youth Day in July 2008, Fr Ckuj described the experience as “particularly prayerful” for him alongside the body of such a young saint so widely venerated by Catholics.
“His smile, positive attitude, intellect and pastoral guidance will be sadly missed,” said a February 22 statement from St Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.