Sister Emellia (Mildred) Prokopik, OSBM 1920–2015
After a brief illness Sister Emellia Prokopik, OSBM, fell asleep in the Lord at 11:30 a.m. on December 17, 2015. Her health and strength had been declining steadily since Thanksgiving, and the Sisters at the monastery in Fox Chase kept vigil at her bedside praying and speaking with her. Among the many who came to visit Sister Emellia at this time were His Beatitude Sviataslav Shevchuk and His Grace, Metropolitan Archbishop Stefan Soroka. The loving devotion of the Sisters who served with her and the visits from distinguished leaders of the Church attest to the special qualities this humble and hard-working servant of Christ possessed.
Sister Emellia was born in Arnold, Pennsylvania. She, her parents, and her seven siblings were parishioners at St. Vladimir’s Church. Emellia entered the Order of Saint Basil the Great on July 23, 1936. She made her first profession on August 27, 1939, and professed her final vows before the Most Reverend Constantine Bohachewsky on August 27, 1945.
After entering the Order, Sister Emellia finished her high school education at Saint Basil Academy. Her teachers at the academy and her superiors at the convent quickly recognized Sister Emellia’s potential and decided that she was meant for higher education at a time when few women were even permitted to walk through the doors of a university. Higher education suited Sister Emellia well, contributing to her God-given ability to solve complex problems and work efficiently at intricate tasks. Sister earned her BA with a major in Latin from Catholic University in Washington, DC and her MA in Latin from Villanova University. She completed courses toward her PhD in school administration at Fordham University.
As a Sister of the Order of Saint Basil the Great, Sister Emellia wore many hats and was known by many titles. She served as principal of Saint Basil Academy, St. Nicholas School in Chicago, St. George Elementary School and St. George Academy in New York, and Immaculate Conception in Hamtramck, Michigan. She also served as Academic Dean at Manor College.
Sister Emellia later served the Order as provincial councilor, Mother General, and General Councilor, working diligently at all tasks these positions entailed while serving as a mentor to others. A leader and a pathfinder, Sister Emellia reached above and beyond the edges that others were often too timid to test. In the 1950s, when the Order was centralized in Rome she played a very important role. As Province Historian her tireless efforts in researching the history of the Province yielded a wonderful book entitled Keepers of the Flame, which told the history of the Basilian Sisters in America from 1911 through 2001.
In 1971, Sister Emellia was elected Superior General in Rome, Italy. She served in this position at a very promising but difficult time in religious life. Charged by the Church with overseeing and directing the renewal of religious life, she led each of the Basilian provinces in following the guidelines set forth by Vatican II, thus shaping the future of the Order and the Constitution that defines its principles. In her role as Superior General (a position she held until 1983), Sister Emellia visited Basilian Sisters throughout the world.
Sister Emellia went on to serve as General Councilor in Rome from 1983 to 1989. It was during this time that she worked diligently and devotedly to maintain contact with Basilian Sisters behind the Iron Curtain. And when that Iron Curtain finally came down, Sister Emellia was appointed Special Delegate to the Basilian Province in Ukraine.
Upon Sister Emellia’s return to the United States in 1995, then Archbishop Stephen Sulyk commissioned her to work as promoter for the Beatification of Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky. Sister Emellia worked tirelessly for this cause; after many years and much effort, the Holy See has at last approved the beatification of the Ukrainian Metropolitan, a decision made shortly before Sister Emellia’s spirit left her body and returned to the Lord.
Parastas was celebrated on December 20, 2015 by His Grace, the Most Reverend Stefan Soroka, Very Reverend Philip Sandrick, OSBM, Monsignor Peter Waslo and Reverend Edward Higgins. Celebrants at the Divine Liturgy and burial on December 21, 2015 were the Sister’s chaplain Monsignor Peter Waslo, Very Reverend Philip Sandrick, OSBM, Reverend Leo Goldade, OSBM and Reverend Eugene Khomyn, OSBM.
Sister Emellia will be missed by family members, by Sisters of Saint Basil the Great throughout the world, by her dearest friend Sister Bohdanna, and by hundreds of students who sat and learned in her classes. May her memory be eternal!