“I’m not sure why your readers would want to read about me,” said the young priest. “I’m pro-life and pro-family, but I don’t lead any big movement. I’ve never written a best-selling book on the topic. I’m just a farm boy from the Ukraine who became a pastor of a small church.”
Father Jaroslaw “Jerry” Lazoryk is well-known to Catholic pro-lifers in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. He is the chaplain for Knights of Columbus Superior Council 932, where he often encourages Grand Knight Bill Murphy to support pro-life and pro-family causes. He understands the value of life not only spiritually and intellectually, but emotionally as a cancer survivor.
Lazoryk first came to Canada as a seminarian over 10 years ago. He had finished his master’s degree in moral theology from the Catholic University of Lublin. He was ordained a priest for the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and appointed pastor of St. Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, the church where many Catholics in Sault Ste. Marie – the present author included – pick up their copies of The Interimeach month.
Making bulk subscriptions of The Interimavailable to his parishioners is just one of the many small ways in which Lazoryk supports the pro-life movement as a parish priest. “TheInterimis a newspaper that speaks about the truth,” Lazoryk shares. “It provides us with real information about what’s going on with pro-life issues around the country. It presents both the positive and the negative. The newspaper has been well-received by our parishioners.”
Recognizing that Canada is in great need of pro-life and pro-family apostles, Lazoryk finds it difficult not get involved. “I feel that in Canada, marriage is in serious danger,” he states. “What we are presented with in the media through advertising and commercialism does not help marriage to grow spiritually and as a unit.”
He explains that he feels he should do more; thus, he promotes life and family values through his preaching, his teaching and his one-on-one interaction with people in the community. “I have a very positive approach to these issues,” Lazoryk states. “I try and show people the benefits of following church teaching and having a good family life.” For example, one of his recent homilies stressed the importance of keeping marriages together and raising children in stable, two-parent families.
He states that it is important for society to protect life and that clergy can help protect life by speaking to their parishioners, their friends and the people God brings across their paths in everyday life. “The interaction and speaking on a parish level – sharing ideas that come from the Gospel – fills people with positive inspiration,” he states. “Good, strong, family values come from a strong spiritual life. It’s very crucial that clergy and laity share knowledge of life and family values in the parish, so that people can bring them home and practise them with their family.”
Yet Lazoryk is clear that Christ is the source of this inspiration. “When the people are with the priest celebrating the Eucharist, this is absolutely the summit of our spiritual life,” he says. Speaking directly to his fellow Catholics, he notes that Catholics believe the Eucharist to be Jesus Christ and that Christ and the Eucharist are all about celebrating life.
Nevertheless, he warns that there are some people who try and form Christ in their own image. We must be careful to avoid falsifying our image of Christ – especially when such false images distort the church’s moral teaching on life and family.
“Christ is about life. He is pro-life. He is all about creation and love. His message is that ‘I care about you as human beings and I want to protect you.’” This is the message that the liturgy imparts, Lazoryk explains, and those who experience are then called to live it in their day-to-day lives. As a priest and a pastor, Lazoryk takes seriously his responsibility to guide people in a pro-life and pro-family direction.