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Sister M. Cornelia Shevchuk, OSBM

Born Julia Mary Shevchuk in New York City on January 18, 1921, Sister Cornelia was the daughter of the late Stephen and Julia Paranczuk Shevchuk. One of eight siblings, including a twin sister, she was a parishioner of St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church. In 1938, at the age of 17, young Julia Maria entered Basilian Order; she professed her final vows on August 26, 1947.

Sister Cornelia earned a B.S. in Education from Duquesne University and an M.Ed. from Villanova University. She pursued other undergraduate and graduate studies at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., taking numerous classes that would keep her abreast of innovations in teaching methodology. She very quickly became an integral part of the far-flung network of parish elementary schools and high schools founded by the Basilian Sisters in America. Her assignments took her to Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and New Jersey, where she served as teacher, councilor, principal, and superior. Sister also served her Church and community as chancery secretary at St. Nicholas Eparchy in Chicago, as prefect of students at St. Basil Academy, and in various endeavors at the Motherhouse in Fox Chase. It was here that Sr. Cornelia passed away on August 2, 2012, just a few days shy of her 65th anniversary as a nun.

Parastas was held on August 6 at Holy Trinity Chapel, with Father Dan Troyan and Father Edward Higgins officiating. Sister Cornelia’s funeral was held on August 7, 2012, with Father Troyan celebrating Requiem Liturgy. Sister was interred at the Sister’s cemetery adjacent to the Motherhouse where she had spent the last years of her life. Sister Cornelia is predeceased by her twin, Justine Semenko, and her other siblings, Alice Welch, Anna Barth, Nicholas Shevchuk, William Shevchuk, Olga Lesnick, and Mary Loesch. She is survived by numerous in-laws, nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephews, many of whom attended the funeral service and the dinner celebrating Sister Cornelia’s journey as a member of the Community of Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great.

In her eulogy honoring Sr. Cornelia, Provincial Superior Sister Dorothy Ann Busowsky, OSBM, related the story of a life spanning nine decades of history, a life touched and shaped by several wars, the Great Depression, and numerous social and civic changes, including suffrage for women and the right of women to excel professionally. As Sr. Dorothy Ann noted, Sr. Cornelia was in the vanguard of this movement, part of a legion of intrepid religious women who built schools, hospitals, and social networks long before many of their lay sisters even thought of pursuing college degrees. But, she added, Sr. Cornelia’s true gift was serenity: She faced hardships and challenges by remaining focused on God’s plan and was at peace in all that she experienced. It was this determined and constant focus that enable her to lead a long and productive life and then accept the illness that made most tasks impossible, when "it became difficult for her to lift her drooping hands and strengthen her weak knees" (Heb. 12:12, Is. 35:3). Rather than losing heart and focusing on the unwelcome and constant pain, Sr. Cornelia embraced a new ministry . . . the ministry of praying for others with a fierce and personal intensity: "She caressed us with her prayers that were downright personal. She never just said she would pray for someone . . . but always wanted to know the person’s name so that she could form a relationship . . . it was her, the person, and God."

In closing, Sr. Dorothy Ann, addressed Julia and Wayne, the niece and nephew who had faithfully and frequently visited their aunt, thanking them for their devotion and comforting them in their great loss. But her final words were addressed to Sr. Cornelia: "You had a special devotion to the Mother of God and you were instrumental in bringing the Sisters together each day to pray the rosary . . . so we commend you into the loving gentle care of the Mother of God who will lead you to her Son where you will be embraced with all the heavenly delights that await you."

Article was written by Tamara Stadnychenko

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