A Greek Catholic Bishop Comes to America
To restore ecclesiastical order and to stem the tide of defections to Orthodoxy, the Holy See finally relented and decided to appoint a Greek Catholic bishop for the Church in America.  Thus, on March 4, 1907, the Holy See announced the appointment of the Reverend Soter Stephen Ortinsky, a Basilian monk from Galicia, as the Bishop of all Greek Catholics in the United States. 


Ortinsky’s appointment as bishop, however, still did not put to an end to the bitter and divisive ecclesiastical and national disputes which threatened the unity of the Greek Catholic Church in America. Two problems immediately hampered Bishop Ortinsky’s administration.  First, Ortinsky’s Ukrainian origin and appointment of an exclusively Ukrainian corps of advisors reopened the old wound of ethnic factionalism among the faithful.  Second, Bishop Ortinsky was given very limited episcopal authority.  According to an apostolic letter known as “Ea Semper,” issued on June 14, 1907, Bishop Ortinsky was forced  to obtain the approval of each local Latin Rite bishop in whose diocese a Greek Catholic parish was located before he could exercise any authority over that particular parish. In effect, Ortinsky functioned as a vicar general for all Greek Catholics in the various Latin Rite dioceses in America. Lacking the necessary authority, Bishop Ortinsky was unable to impose the ecclesiastical discipline over both clergy and laity needed to bring order to the contentious, but still growing, Greek Catholic community  in America.

Finally, after six long years of continuous in-fighting, ethnic rivalries and threats of schism, the Holy See at Rome established an Apostolic Exarchate or missionary diocese “for all the clergy and the people of the Ruthenian Rite in the United States of America” and granted full episcopal jurisdiction to Bishop Ortinsky on May 13, 1913.  More than anything else, this decisive action on the part of Rome brought about peace and canonical unity to the Greek Catholic Church in America, which had now grown to 152 parishes, 43 mission churches, 154 priests and an estimated half million people of both Carpatho-Rusyn and Ukrainian descent.

  Unfortunately, the new found harmony and unity of the Greek Catholic Church of America would prove to be short-lived. Bishop Ortinsky suddenly and unexpectedly died of pneumonia on March 24, 1916.  Upon Ortinsky’s death, a papal decree divided the Church along nationality lines, with a Ukrainian branch and a Carpatho-Rusyn branch. Each branch of the Church was headed not by a bishop, but by an administrator: Father Peter Poniatyshyn for the Ukrainians and Father Gabriel Martyak for the Carpatho-Rusyns. Each administrator lacked full episcopal authority and functioned more like a vicar general for the American Latin Rite bishops to the Greek Catholic parishes in their respective dioceses.  In effect, the Greek Catholic faithful were relegated to the status quo ante: an inferior status among American Catholics lacking an organizational identity and any authoritative leadership.

Despite the absence of a bishop, the period of Father Martyak’s administration  nevertheless marked a period of relative stability and  continued growth in the Carpatho-Rusyn branch of the Greek Catholic Church in the United States.  An additional twenty-one parishes and for mission churches were established during this period.  Moreover, the administration of Father Martyak witnessed the establishment of the first religious order for women in the Carpatho-Rusyn branch of the Greek Catholic Church in America. 

With the approval of the Apostolic Delegate, Father Martyak received Mother M. Macrina and two other sisters from the Order of St. Basil the Great under his jurisdiction.  On January 19, 1921, the sisters opened their first convent at Holy Ghost parish in Cleveland.  In April of that year, the novitiate for the new foundation of the Basilian Order was opened with the admission of five postulants.  In 1923, the new foundation moved their mother house and novitiate to Elmhurst, near Scranton, Pennsylvania.  At Elmhurst, the sisters began their ministry of service to the Church by assuming the administration of the newly constructed St. Nicholas Orphanage.