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Full Obituary for Sister Mary Bernarda Arkatin, OSBM

August 13, 2019
Posted in: News, Obituaries


On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, Sister Mary Bernarda died at the Basilian monastery in Fox Chase, Pennsylvania,. Sister had suffered a stroke on July 4, 2019, and was treated at Holy Redeemer Hospital. On July 8, 2019 she returned to the Basilian Motherhouse in Fox Chase. She departed this earth surrounded by the love, support and care of Sisters at the Motherhouse, friends and colleagues with whom she had shared a home, a spiritual life, work, meals, and leisure time for many years.

Sister Mary Bernarda was born on December 23, 1922, in Chesapeake City, Maryland, to Mary and Gregory Arkatin. The family consisted of twelve children, seven girls and five boys, two of whom became Sisters of the Order of St. Basil the Great: Sister Mary Bernarda Arkatin, OSBM, and Sister Sophia Tharsilla Arkatin, OSBM, who predeceased her. Sister Mary Bernarda’s sole surviving sibling is Stephanie Mican, the youngest of the Arkatin siblings. Sister Mary Bernarda and her family were members of St. Basil Church in Chesapeake City.

Sister Mary Bernarda graduated from St. Basil Academy in 1938 and entered the Order of the Sisters of St. Basil the Great on June 13,1940, pronouncing her Final Profession on August 23, 1949, with Rev. Basil Wawryk, presiding. From the start, Sister’s commitment was to give herself wholly and entirely to God without looking back. After entering the Basilian Community, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Seton Hall University and a Bachelor’s in Music from De Paul University in Chicago. Trained and prepared to teach music and other subjects, Sister began teaching at St. John the Baptist School in Newark, N.J.. She subsequently taught at Immaculate Conception School in Hamtramck, Michigan; St. Nicholas School in Chicago, Illinois; and St. Nicholas School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sister Mary Bernarda’s work in education began in 1934 and ended in 2014, During these nine decades Sister also held leadership positions as a Provincial Councilor within the Fox Chase Basilian Community and as school principal. She also organized an outstanding orchestra at almost every educational institution in which she worked—teaching her students to play a wide assortment of instruments, composing variations of original masterpieces and presenting them at parish concerts. She encouraged her students to embrace their liturgical and ethnic culture.

Sister was also assigned to serve as promoter for the cause of the Beatification of Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky in 1993 and continued this ministry until 2000. Traveling year round she spoke on this matter at various churches and before various organizations throughout the United States and Ukraine, extolling Metropolitan Sheptytsky’s saintly life, his ecumenical endeavors and dynamic leadership skills in his dealings with God’s people. As the daughter of an orphaned father, Sister Mary Bernarda also committed herself to loving and supporting and negotiating care for the poorest of the poor in Ukraine, her parents’ homeland.

Sister Mary Bernarda’s life was a living testimony, witness to the love of Christ. During her 75 years as a Sister of St. Basil the Great, she honored this commitment, thanking God each day for the blessings He granted her and for the privilege of serving Him. Having experienced the love of Christ in her own life, she shared that wondrous experience of Christ’s love with thousands of orphans, invalids, mentally handicapped and marginalized people, her actions always speaking louder than words. She lived and witnessed a resurrected life of extreme joy, peace and hope. She exemplified the spiritual philosophy that while the physical body brings pain or suffering, there is an everlasting, eternal life that will never die. As one who lived by this philosophy, she has imprinted its meaning and expression on far more people than anyone can imagine.

The Parastas for nuns was celebrated by the Most Rev. Borys Gudziak, Metropolitan-Archbishop of Philadelphia; Msgr. Peter Waslo and Rev. John Ciurpita on July 12, 2019.  On July 13, 2019, the Most Rev. Andriy Rabiy officiated at the Divine Liturgy and burial service. Rev. John Ciurpita and Rev. Edward Higgins assisted. Sister Mary Bernarda Arkatin’s mortal remains now rest beside those of the other Sisters who have already left this world, at the Sister’s cemetery adjacent to the Basilian Motherhouse in Fox Chase.