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VATICAN CITY - More than a century after he first set foot in North America, the story of a little-known Canadian blessed and martyr of the Soviet regime is starting to come out of the shadows.

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Toronto - Bishop Roman Danylak, retired bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy of Toronto, was remembered for never turning away a person in need.

"He was very much a pastor," said his sister Olga Danylak. "He was very much a people person."

The bishop passed away at age 81 on Oct. 7. He was laid to rest at St. Volodymyr Cemetery in Oakville, Ont., on Oct. 11 following a funeral service at St. Jospahat's the same day.

Danylak, who kept her maiden name after marrying, would frequently be asked if she was Bishop Danylak's sister. When people found out she was, many would share with her "how he affected their lives, what he'd done for them, how he brought them to the faith or how he had helped them."

The bishop had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother, she said, recalling a trip the siblings made to Germany years ago. Danylak had just finished university and was heading to Europe to study, and the bishop was going to Rome.

"We were travelling a little bit before he dropped me off in Belgium before he went on," Danylak said, recalling one hectic trip to the airport.

"We'd just got the electrical train, we'd just got the bus, we'd just got to the airport," she said. "So when we were finally on the plane flying to Brussels, I said, you know Roman, weren't you concerned that we would lose our flight? And his answer, and he said this very matter-of-factly, (was) 'I placed our trip in the hands of the Blessed Mother, and she's looking after us.' ”

Bishop Danylak was born in Toronto in 1930 and ordained to the priesthood in 1957 at St. Josaphat's Seminary Chapel in Rome. He was a Doctor of Canon Law.

Bishop Stephen Chmilar, of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada, recalled to mourners that 50 years ago the then Fr. Danylak was present at the Second Vatican Council in Rome.

After completing his studies, Bishop Danylak returned home and became pastor at St. Jospahat's, as well as chancellor of the Toronto eparchy for 25 years. In 1992 he was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada and ordained as Titular Bishop of Nyssa in 1993 at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto. He returned to Rome in 1998.

He fulfilled “his commitment to the portion of the flock of Jesus Christ entrusted to him,” said Archeparch Lawrence Huculak.

When his health began to fail, "Bishop Roman returned to his native Toronto. During this time, although unable to dedicate himself to active ministry due to health reasons, he developed the apostolate of prayer at his home," Chmilar said.

Bishop Danylak's sister owned and lived in a sixplex and gave her brother an apartment downstairs.

"We set up one of his rooms, when he came back, as a chapel," she said. "He had Mass there everyday, and there were always people coming for Mass."

She recalls her brother’s talent for listening and for reaching out to youth.

“I’m a social worker by profession. I didn’t listen the same way he did,” she said. “He never tried to force anything down anybody. He just knew how to reach them.”

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA