Despite serious health problems that put Metropolitan Constantine Buggan in the hospital several weeks ago, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA didn’t want to disappoint the people planning to attend last weekend’s celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of his consecration. Archbishop Antony Scharba of South Bound Brook NJ, who heads the church’s Eastern Diocese, said, “We talked to him about postponing the events for a while, but he wanted to go through with it because so many people would be coming to Pittsburgh from around the US and several countries. He told me that we should go through with it because he didn’t know if he’d be around in a month or two. I believe he had a premonition of what was going to happen and saw it as an opportunity to say goodbye to all the people he knew”.
On Monday, Metropolitan Constantine Buggan of the South Side, whose secular name was Theodore Buggan, died from congestive heart failure. He was 75. A native of the South Side, he grew up across the street from St Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Parish on Sidney Street. Constantine graduated from the Ukrainian Orthodox seminary at the College of St Andrew, in Winnipeg MN (affiliated with the University of Manitoba) in Canada, from which he graduated in 1959. He also studied at St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers NY and Duquesne University, receiving a doctorate in philosophy from the latter. He became a priest in 1967, serving parishes in Chicago IL and Troy NY. In 1972, he became the first American-born bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. Constantine served as Bishop of Chicago until 1993, when he became the First Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. According to church officials, they have nearly 10,000 parishioners in 14 Western PA and Ohio parishes.
Fr Timothy Tomson, who was ordained by the Metropolitan and played host to one of the anniversary celebrations at St Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks PA, where he is pastor, said, “Constantine had a certain local charm that easily won people over”. Tomson said he and his family are “still a little bit numb” from the news of Constantine’s death, saying, “Every life has an exit, and our job is to help people prepare for that exit. But it’s a little difficult to realise that last Saturday we were celebrating his life in ministry, and this Saturday we’ll be placing him in the ground. Life is truly but a shadow and a dream”.
Archbishop Antony, who was ordained by Constantine in 1972, said that whilst the Metropolitan had a variety of interests, his main focus was encouraging young people to carry on the traditions of the faith, saying, “He searched for every opportunity to motivate our youth to not only participate within the walls of the church, but to go out and get involved in their communities”, noting that Constantine played a critical role in establishing All Saints (youth) Camp in Emlenton PA in Venango County. Archbishop Antony further noted, “Reaching out to the young people was at the core of his soul, and I believe were truly the most joyous days of his life”. Funeral services will be on Friday and Saturday at St Vladimir parish, 1810 Sidney Street, on the South Side.
22 May 2012