Priest, Patriot, Prisoner of War, and Prelate: Petro Kamenetsky (1891–1973)
In the Vatican Archives, Nunciature in Canada series, there is a fascicle containing correspondence from the Vernon internment camp to the Apostolic Delegate in Ottawa, dated April and May 1919. I was surprised to find that one of the documents in the file had been notarised by Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest, Reverend Petro Kamenetsky, “himself a prisoner of war in this camp.” Although he was not the only Ukrainian Catholic priest arrested in Canada, during the First World War, Kamenetsky appears to have been the only one to have been interned. For this reason alone, aside from the fact that he was the first Ukrainian Catholic priest ordained in Canada, his life-story deserves to be explored as we mark the centenary of the First World War.
Hitherto biographical entries have provided only general outlines of Petro Kamenetsky’s life and none mention his internment. His personal files in Winnipeg and Toronto are sparse or incomplete, and his Vatican file is virtually empty. In various publications and sources his name variably appears as Peter Kamenecky or Kamenetzky. This article is an attempt to provide a more complete biography by piecing together data from Roman and Canadian archives, as well as recent research on Ukrainian Canadians and First World War Internment. Hopefully this will serve as an impetus for further research on Kamenetsky and other little-known or forgotten Ukrainian church and civic leaders.
Petro and his twin brother Pavlo were born on 26 June 1891 to Yosyf Kamenetsky and Pavlyna Yanitska in the village of Vikno in the Skalat district (present-day Husiatyn Province of western Ukraine). Their father, Yosyf, was a teacher-cantor at the church of the Dormition. Pavlo died at the tender age of 5 in 1896. Two years later, another brother, Volodymyr, was born and then a sister Sophia, followed by a third brother, Ivan. Petro began elementary school in Postolivka in 1897, and was sent to Ternopil for high school (gymnasium) in 1903. Their mother died on 16 June 1910, while Petro was completing gymnasium.
A the turn of the twentieth century Vikno was inside the ecclesiastical boundaries of the vast Greek-Catholic Archeparchy of Lviv-Halych. In 1910, at the age of 19, Kamenetsky was accepted as a seminarian for thr archeparchy by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, and he began his priestly studies at the Lviv Greek-Catholic Major Seminary. One of the four student prefects at the seminary was Father Nykyta Budka, who was soon to be named bishop for the Ukrainians in Canada.
Bishop Budka began his Canadian mission with an enthusiastic new approach. Hitherto the local Roman Catholic bishops, who had turned away married Ukrainian clergy, had been unsuccessful in providing sufficient pastoral ministration to the Ukrainian immigrants. Proselytised by every religious and political faction, many Ukrainians were leaving the Greek-Catholic fold.
In order to salvage what he could, Budka sought to quickly obtain as many native Ukrainian missionaries as possible. This alarmed his fellow Canadian bishops, who feared that he would introduce married clergy into Canada. In response to the bishops’ concerns the Apostolic See issued a decree entitled Fidelibus Ruthenis, in August 1913. The decree’s stringent regulations not only forbade married clergy, it also required prior Vatican approval for each prospective missionary. The bishop was further instructed to establish a seminary as soon as possible, in order to prepare Canadian Ukrainians as celibate clergy.
In order to augment the number of missionaries and to set-up a seminary, Bishop Budka sought recruits from among his former seminarians in Lviv. In August 1913, eight second-year seminarians obtained permission to volunteer for the Canadian mission. One of these was Petro Kamenetsky. Accompanied by Father Lev Sembratovych, the first group of five seminarians departed for Canada on the Canadian Pacific ship “Ruthenia.” On 28 September 1913, they arrived in Canada at the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The bishop went personally to welcome his new recruits and bring them to St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto The five young men spent six months at St. Augustine’s, taking part in certain lectures (some of which were in Latin) and learning the English language.
A Ukrainian professor, Doctor Amvrozii Redkevych, taught material specific to the Greek-Catholic Church. Pending Redkevych’s arrival, Bishop Budka, who had been a seminary professor only the previous year, gave the lectures himself. Because they arrived as seminarians, they did not require the stringent clearance required by Fidelibus Ruthenis of priests, only a “dimissorial letter” from their eparchy of origin. When Budka received these testimonials, even though they had only been six months in their new land, he ordained the first three seminarians. From his hands, they received the minor orders on 7 March, and the diaconate on 8 March 1914, in St. Augustine’s Seminary chapel.
On 22 March 1914, Atanazii Cherepaniak, Yosyf Fylyma and Petro Kamenetsky were the first Greek-Catholic priests to be ordained in Canada. The ordination took place at the Italian parish of St. Helen’s. Kamenetsky was destined to be only one his class who chose to serve out his days in his new country. Sifton, Manitoba, was one of the most populous Ukrainian settlements in Canada at the turn of the twentieth century. It was also one of the most proselytised by Presbyterians, Russian Orthodox, and the Seraphimite sect. The first Greek-Catholic churches were established in the area as early as 1900.
Archbishop Langevin had obtained permission for a group of French-Canadian secular priests to serve in the Byzantine Rite and, in 1910 he sent them to the troublesome district. In addition to administering the church, the Fathers also established an apostolic missionary school for Ukrainian children. The school project obtained mixed reviews. Although the institution educated several future Ukrainian priests, professionals, and civic leaders, many Ukrainians distrusted the motives of the good-willed ‘foreigners’, and they demanded their own native clergy At the beginning of his mission in Canada, Bishop Budka did not have enough clergy to heed these calls.
Also, upon closer inspection, the Franco-Canadian clergy’s ministration was not as detrimental as some were making out. As a compromise, in November 1913 he restricted the mission of the French-Canadian Fathers to the apostolic school. This meant that, for three months, the Sifton church remained without a priest. Budka was only able to provide one after he had ordained his first set of priests. Thus, on 1 April 1914, he named newly-ordained Father Kamenetsky as pastor of the churches in the Sifton and Ethelbert districts. Before taking up his charge, he celebrated his first solemn Divine Liturgy at Saint Nicholas Church in Winnipeg, on 7 April.
During Kamenetsky’s term in Sifton-Ethelbert, the bishop sent a number of Ukrainian priests and laymen to teach at the apostolic school, and sent prospective seminarians to apprentice, prior to beginning their formal training. Bishop Budka charged Kamenetsky to teach the Ukrainian language at the school and, in 1915, named him spiritual director to Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, resident in Sifton. Despite such measures to Ukrainianize the school, the Sifton community remained rebellious and, encouraged by radical nationalists, refused to incorporate the church as a Greek-Catholic parish.
The Ukrainian National Home also became a point of contention and Father Petro sought to bring it under Catholic influence by urging his parishioners, who represented the majority of the Ukrainian community, to join it en masse. When the Government of Manitoba abolished bilingual public education in 1916, Ukrainians of various parties united to form student residences and other educational institutions. In December of that year, Father Kamenetsky, who had been transferred to Rosburn, Manitoba, became embroiled in a heated conflict with a radical politician Nicholas Hryhorczuk (reeve from 1917 and later MLA for Ethelbert) over religious instruction and prayers in public schools. The following year, Bishop Budka transferred Kamenetsky to Saskatoon.
Extant records to not indicate whether this conflict, or the one over the national home, had been factors leading to the transfer. In August 1916 a convention of Ukrainian Canadians of all parties established a student residence in Saskatoon. Named for Kyivan Orthodox Metropolitan Petro Mohyla, the institution immediately became the bone of contention between Bishop Budka and a group of young radical nationalists who sought to lead the Ukrainian-Canadian community along secular lines. It was in this atmosphere of contention, in 1917, that Father Kamenetsky was assigned to the city.
Seeking to strengthen the faith community, he and his committee sold two properties purchased in 1912, then acquired old St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. Re-christened St. George’s, this church was destined to become the cathedral church of the Saskatoon exarchate (later eparchy) in 1948. Father Petro also advised his flock to become more active in combating the secularist element. In the meantime, the nationalist radicals had broken with Bishop Budka and formed the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada, which was organised along nationalist and democratic lines. Conflicts with its supporters and those of the Mohyla Institute led to the arrest, on trumped up charges, of the bishop and Belgian Redemptorist Van den Bosche (known as “Father Bosky” by the Ukrainians).
The charges were immediately withdrawn and Budka and Bosky were released. The circumstances leading to Kamenetsky’s arrest still need to be clarified. Only two Ukrainian Catholic archival sources make reference to it. The first is an entry in the ledger, called the Ordinariate Book, which listed all official correspondence by the Greek-Catholic bishopric. On page 11 number 15, an undated entry (the previous one was dated 24 August and the subsequent entry 25 September 1918) contains the following short phrase: “Father Kamenetsky interned.” The second source is a letter from Budka to Metropolitan Sheptytsky dated 22 November 1918. The relevant passage reads as follows: “This last year the student Swystun founded a new Orthodox faith in Saskatoon for Presbyterians and atheists and is making terrible trouble. On the back of the Presbyterians he had me and two priests arrested, of whom, Father Kamenetsky, is still interned until this day.”
Budka associated the new church with Presbyterians because several of its leaders had been educated at Presbyterian institutions, and because its democratic organisation seemed to resemble a Protestant rather than a traditional Orthodox Church. Bearing in mind this clarification, it appears that Kamenetsky’s arrest was related to the conflict between Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox in Saskatoon. Earlier in the war, two other Ukrainian priests, Father Mykola Shumsky of Calgary and Father Atanazii Fylipiv of Winnipeg, had also been arrested but were immediately set free. Bishop Budka lobbied for Shumsky’s release with the federal justice minister via the Apostolic Delegate in Canada. Two Winnipeg lawyers testified for Fylypiv. To the Apostolic Delegate Budka wrote: “it is a serious thing, if Catholic priests are so easily put in jail.”
And commenting on the accusations against Shumsky, the Bishop argued that: “he is unable to commit treason to Canada, because he is ordained here for Canada and has a Canadian orientation.” This argument applied equally to Kamenetsky, except that, while he and Shumsky were Canadian according to Church law, in civil law they were still Austrian subjects, having arrived in Canada only a year before the the war; (Fylypiv had become a naturalised British subject over seven years previously). According to a bill passed by the Canadian Parliament on 18 August 1914, “enemy aliens” (foreign nationals of countries at war with Britain), could be arrested and interned if they were deemed suspicious or caused any sort of disturbance. Although a paper trail exists regarding the Catholic Church’s response to Shumsky’s arrest, no analogous documentation has yet come to light on Kamenetsky’s case. His personal file, located in the Archives of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg, does not contain a single record from 1917 to 1922. Nevertheless, government records reveal that arrested between August and September 1918, as the result of a denunciation to Canadian authorities from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI accused Kamenetsky of suspicious activities while performing missionary work in Cuba. It seems unlikely that he could have travelled to Cuba during his short time in Canada. Accusations might have been made in the context of “red scare” fears of Communist conspiracies, since Kamenetsky had become embroiled in the Catholic-Orthodox conflict in Saskatoon. Further research is required to determine if informants invented the accusations (as they had done in the case of Bishop Budka) to implicate and eliminate him from ministry in Saskatoon. Father Kamenetsky became prisoner number 980 and was interned at the camp at Vernon, British Columbia. An entry in the Greek-Catholic Ordinariate book, under the date 13 February 1919, records that Bishop Budka sent a certificate to the internment camp, testifying that he had ordained Kamenetsky to the priesthood. This document was probably requested by camp officials, in order to permit Father Petro to minister to his fellow inmates. A curriculum vitae from his personal file in the Toronto Eparchial Archives states that Kamenetsky acted as “chaplain” to this camp and established a small congregation there.
Fellow prisoners turned to Kamenetsky for assistance in other matters, besides spiritual ones. A Croatian inmate, Ivan Tomich (prisoner 493), initially interned at Mara Lake, BC in December 1916, was subsequently transferred to Vernon. Having been arrested for spousal violence, Tomich was seeking a photograph of his two children. In September 1918, Swiss consular authorities informed him that the children were being looked after by the Sisters of Providence Orphanage, New Westminster, BC. Tomich wrote to the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Vancouver in February and again in March 1919, requesting a photo. Finally, on 14 April, an angry response arrived signed by a J.S. Foran, stating that the Society had no time for requests from people like Tomich. Foran went on to lay moral blame on Ukrainians for some alleged actions by Austria and Germany during the war: “I know enough of the care and attention given to the prisoners taken by your people in the late war and there has not any of them ever will forget the brutal customs practised on our men whilst under the care of Germany and Austria, whilst we were striving to feed and care for their children and yours, giving to all, like treatment. I trust that our government will deport you to the country from which you came as an undesirable and in this way rid ourselves of undesirable company. Your wife has the children [...] but I will do what I can to have the whole lot deported out of this country to where you came from and to the only place that fits people of your makeup. Whatever crimes Tomich himself had committed, such a reply from a representative of the Catholic Aid Society was so shocking for its un-Christian tone and crass prejudice, that Tomich’s fellow prisoners urged him to take the matter further. On the same day that Tomich received the letter, Father Kamenetsky signed an “affidavit” stating that Tomich had indeed received the reply. And on 3 May 1919, the committee which represented German and Austrian prisoners in Vernon replied to Foran, on Tomich’s behalf.
They accusing him of hypocrisy and blamed their own interment on the kind of prejudice that Foran had expressed: “... it is men of your type who have caused the thousands of us, who have settled in this country upon the invitation of your Government, an endless amount of worry, persecution and unhappiness during the long and painful years of war, through their hysterical attitude towards us and through their ignorance of our peaceful aims and aspirations. It is men of your type, who make us yearn impatiently for the moment when we may turn our backs to a country that has broken faith with us in such a flagrant manner. Is men of your type, who prevent those in authority to permit the few amongst us, who have their families and properties in this country, to return to them, and who have made them long in vain since months for the moment when they will be reunited with their dear ones. It is men of your type, who will not permit ill-feeling and hatred to abate and who are presenting mankind with a gift far deadlier than war itself.” On 6 May 1919, the prisoners’ committee sent copies of the correspondence to the Apostolic Delegate in Ottawa, noting that they had been witnessed by Kamenetsky.
The papal delegate, Archbishop Pietro Di Maria, replied on 20 May, assuring the committee that he had “carefully taken cognisance” of the correspondence. But the delegation’s file does not indicate whether or not the matter was taken any further. Petro’s father, Yosyf Kamenetsky, who had imigrated to Canada in 1912, sent numerous petitions to the Minister of Justice and General Otter, begging for the release of his two sons, Petro and Ivan. Father Petro was discharged on on 1 November 1919, upon the intervention of Father Redkevych, Bishop Budka’s liaison with the government. The Vernon internment Camp was closed down on 20 February 1920. Following his release, Petro Kamenetsky returned to parish ministry. Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, his pastoral work in Saskatchewan and Manitoba proved difficult and discouraging. In 1921 Bishop Budka assigned him to Canora and Norquay, Saskatchewan. When the Allied Powers had placed Eastern Galicia under Polish administration, the Western Ukrainian National Republic (ZUNR) launched an campaign for the international community to support its independence. The ZUNR sent representatives to Canada and sought support from among the clergy. Ukrainian Orthodox leader, Wasyl Swystun, ran for federal parliament in December 1922.
Many Greek-Catholics supported his campaign, hoping that a Ukrainian in parliament would increase support for the independence of their homeland. Perhaps the wiser from his earlier conflict in Saskatoon, rather than opposing the candidacy, Kamenetsky openly supported it. Even the Ukrainian Catholic newspaper Kanadiiskyi ukrainets observed tacit neutrality toward the campaign. Bishop Budka, however, was unhappy at such open support for his arch-rival, Swystun, and decided to transfer Kamenetsky to Fort William, Ontario, in February 1922. This caused not a little dissatisfaction among the Canora faithful. The following month Kamenetsky convinced the bishop to let him continue to serve in the countryside, because he felt that the rural faithful appreciated him more. Perhaps He was still scarred from his experience in Saskatoon. In hindsight, such apprehensions appear ironic, considering the success and popularity that Father Petro would enjoy in the urban centres of Sudbury and Toronto.
Bishop Budka heeded his request and assigned Kamenetsky to Arran and, the following year, to Rosthern and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. In 1924 he was transferred to Hafford, Saskatchewan and, at the beginning of 1925, he to Vita, Manitoba. Petro Kamenetsky had emerged from captivity a changed man. During his internment at the Vermon camp he had contracted serious rheumatism. When he had arrived in Canada nine years previously, he was young and fit, with a full head of wavy hair. Yet, by the winter of 1923, a photo of the Ukrainian secular clergy shows that he had become bald and overweight. Like a number of his confreres, he had become discouraged by the divisions and lack of support from the faithful and told Bishop Budka that he was thinking of returning to his native Lviv Archeparchy. By 1925, Kamenetsky’s health had deteriorated futher and he asked the bishop for a two-month sick leave. Following this convalescence, he was assigned to Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, from where he was also to serve and Transcona, Janow, and Kenora, Ontario.
In the Fall of 1926 Bishop Budka transferred Father Petro to Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Ethelbert, where he was to remain for seven years. He was also responsible for serving the communities of in Mink Creek, Roblin, Garland, Pine River, Sclater, Cowan, Winnipegosis, Ashville, as well as the smaller settlements at Venlau, Kulish, Zalissia, Dry River, Ukraina, South Bay, Cowan, and Valley River. Budka told him reside in Sifton, in order to teach and hear the confessions of the children. Following the closing of the Apostolic Missionary School in 1917, the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate took over the building and established their own school, but they had been forced to leave in 1924 after the building burnt down. Kamenetsky’s efforts for their return, came to fruition in 1933.
The Ethelbert faithful were sorely in need of religious instruction and Father Petro observed that they had little understanding of the teachings of their faith. His efforts to catechise and to remind them of their moral duties led to numerous complaints. The new Ukrainian bishop, Vasylii Ladyka (appointed in 1929), considered moving Kamenetsky back to Canora, or to Fort William, Ontario, where he had been originally destined in 1922. Kamenetsky’s father and two siblings had preceding him to Canada in 1912. His brother Volodymyr had entered the Basilian Order in 1918 and assumed the monastic name Vasylii. Ordained a priest in 1926, Father Vasylii arrived in Canada in January 1930 to begin forty years of missionary work. During his Winnipeg (1935–1937) and Edmonton (1943–1949) pastorships, he oversaw two major projects: the purchase of Holy Family Cemetery near Winnipeg, in 1937, and the completion of Edmonton’s St. Josaphat’s Cathedral, in 1948. In Ethelbert, Father Petro went to live with his sister, her husband, and their aged father, who had become senile. At the time, Father Petro was himself receiving electro-therapy for rheumatism, was sick all throughout the month of June 1931. While hospitalised he was glad to receive a rare visit from his brother, Father Vasylii. When making weekly visits to Dauphin for treatment, Father Petro did not neglect to minister the sick and dying in the local hospital. On the way he also stopped to visit Ukrainians congregations in Roblin, Merridale, Shortdale and Shell River, Manitoba. Despite his pastoral zeal, during a pastoral visitation of April 1932, Bishop Ladyka found a divided Ethelbert Parish, with some favouring and some opposed to their pastor.
Ladyka delayed any transfer due to old Yosyf Kamenetsky’s condition, but by the end of 1933, Father Petro himself was ready for a change. He requested and was granted an “audience” with his bishop on 1 November 1933. This meeting would prove to be providential for, exactly two weeks later, Bishop Ladyka transferred him from the prairies to Ontario, where he was to serve for the rest of his life with great zeal and success. On 14 November 1933 Bishop Ladyka notified Father Petro that he was appointed parish priest of Sudbury, Ontario, as of St. Michael’s Day (22 November according to the Julian Calendar). Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church (St. Mary’s) was a poor church building and Kamenetsky soon began to improve both its interior and its exterior. In his first month he established an Apostleship of Prayer group to improve the spiritual state of the community. The local nickel mining provided employment for many Ukrainians. Bur despite their relative financial comfort, they did not sufficiently support their church or their pastor. The parish priest had to live in a single room above the church sacristy and took his meals at the local Catholic hospital, where French-Canadian sisters took pity on him. The parish had only sixteen registered families and, of these, only six were fulfilling their duties. Despite such hardships, some parishioners lobbied to have Kamenetsky’s monthly remuneration reduced from 80 to 60 dollars. Father Petro exhibited much zeal in serving the surrounding communities.
The church in Conniston burnt down in 1934 but, the following year, the congregation bought a Communist hall and converted it into a chapel. In 1935 Kamenetsky made four visits to the impoverished community in Sault Ste. Marie. He also advised the bishop to establish congregations in Kirkland Lake, Timmins, Shumacher, Ontario and Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, areas of large but scattered and unorganised Ukrainian settlements. The Ukrainian community in Sudbury was very politically divided, and political divisions had a divisive effect on St. Mary’s Parish. The three main political groups were Communists, the Ukrainian Hetmanite Organization (UHO) and the Ukrainian Nationalist Home (USH). The Communists were the most numerous and did not associate with the church. The Hetmanites had enjoyed the support of Bishop Budka, who saw the conservative movement and its Sich sporting clubs as a bulwark against nationalist radicals and Orthodox. The previous parish priest had also supported them, but Kamenetsky was wary of the movement because, he observed, it put “the nation first and God second.” He sought to win back the sixty USH families who had abandoned the church after their hall opened in 1934. This angered members of the Sich, who complained to the bishop of the new pastor’s nationalist proclivities. Ladyka advised Kamenetsky to concentrate his energies on the remaining families.
Kamenetsky, ignored this advice and worked tirelessly for the return of the lost sheep. Over a period of ten months the USH members were won over. They returned to the parish and continued to sent their children to Catholic schools and the number of Confessions and Holy Communions doubled. Parish membership increased from 16 families in 1933 to 200 in 1935. Father Petro thus explained his position to the congregation: “the future of our church does not rest on any political party, it depends on the number of good church members who consciously fulfil their religious obligations. As their pastor he is obliged him to treat them all equally, honestly and sympathetically.” The return of the USH to the parish infuriated the Sich-Hetmanites because the latter had been seeking a political monopoly in the Greek-Catholic community. UHO members stopped frequenting the Sacraments, refused to pay their parish dues, and advised people not to contribute toward the church debt. By winter 1939 the Sudbury Sich had severed its ties with the parish altogether. Despite the exit of the Hetmanites, Kamenetsky had successfully revived the parish and paid off the mortgage in full. In 1936 he reported a one-hundred percent increase in the number of Easter Confessions. On 4 September 1937 Bishop Ladyka transferred Petro Kamenetsky to Toronto.
The city already had an established parish, St. Josaphat’s but, with the arrival of new immigrants throughout the 1920s and 30s, it was in dire need of more churches. Father Petro’s assignment would be to serve at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and in the East Toronto area. In 1928 and old Protestant church had been purchased on 276 Bathhurst Street, through a bequest from the late Archbishop McNeil. In 1935 Basilian missionary Father Andrii Trukh founded a religious brotherhood at the church. Our Lady of Perpetual Help was formally established as a separate parish on 8 October 1937, with Father Kamenetsky as its first parish priest. In his first years, the new pastor founded brotherhoods, sisterhoods, a youth group, and a school. Bishop Ladyka made a canonical visitation in May 1939 and, this time, he was very pleased with what he saw. The following year, as Father Petro celebrated his silver jubilee of priestly ordination, Ladyka conferred upon him the dignity of honorary canon. Undoubtedly a reward for his long and faithful service, this was also a sign that the bishop considered him one of his best priests.
During the Second World War, Canadian authorities sought to avoid the internal tensions that had occurred during the previous war. The government encouraged Canadians of Ukrainian origin to form a committee, which was to work closely with federal authorities to ensure a united patriotic front within their community. The Toronto branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee was founded on 21 February 1941, and Canon Kamenetsky was elected its honorary president. Representation from both Catholics and Orthodox helped bring the committee to foster a sense of unity to the Ukrainian community of Toronto. Kamenetsky’s role also cleared him of any suspicion, especially since, in the previous year, his name had published in suspicious journal without his knowledge or consent. This incident caused him great anguish because of what had happened to him during the previous war. Kamenetsky enthusiastically defended the Committee before the lacklustre support of some of the Ukrainian-Canadian clergy. As he had done in Sifton many years previously, Canon Kamenetsky continued his support for and served as long-time to the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. Over the years he contributed many religious articles to the Ukrainian Canadian press. In August 1942, he travelled to Winnipeg to represent Eastern Canada at the celebrations of Bishop Ladyka’s 30th priestly anniversary. Although hospitalised with pneumonia in January 1943, he nevertheeless made a complete recovery. He helped establish a Ukrainian Catholic Students Institute in September 1945 and made pastoral visitations to the soldiers who had returned from the war but were housed far away from the church.
After many years of planning, in 1948, the Roman Apostolic See finally divided the single Canadian Greek-Catholic diocese into three apostolic exarchates. Rome selected two prominent priests from Ontario to fill the new charges: Isidore Boretsky was named bishop for Eastern Canada, and Andrii Roberetsky was named auxiliary bishop to Ladyka, who had been elevated to the rank of Archbishop. Although he had been the senior cleric in Eastern Canada, Kamenetsky was passed over. It would be interesting to know if his nationalist reputation or, in the words of Roberetsky, his “record from the last war” (arrest and internment) had any bearing on him not having been episcopabile.
During the inauguration of the Toronto exarchate, on 27 May 1948, Kamenetsky was chosen to read a Ukrainian version of the papal bull establishing the diocese. One of Bishop Boretsky’s first acts was to name Kamenetsky as first consulter of his priestly council, in recognition of his senior status. The following year Kamenetsky was transferred to Scarborough, Ontario. In 1950, he functioned as exarchal administrator, during Bishop Boretsky’s Holy Year pilgrimage to Rome. On 20 January 1959 he was granted the dignity of domestic prelate of His Holiness, which carried the courtesy title of Monsignor. He received the distinction together with Basil Filevich, future bishop of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Saskatoon.
In 1960, Bishop Boretsky entrusted Kamenetsky with yet another foundational project: the construction Protection of the Mother of God parish in Toronto. The corner stone was laid on 2 September 1960 and the church was completed on 18 August 1963. Kamenetsky served as its first parish priest from 1963 to 1964. On 30 December 1964, a banquet and concert to honour Kamenetsky’s 50 years of priestly service. Monsignor Kamenetsky’s name spread beyond the Ukrainian community and he became well-known in Catholic circles across Canada. Though he developed heart disease as early as 1947, he did not enter into his final illness until 1968. In 1969 Cardinal Yosyf Slipyi, Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church worldwide, elevated him to the rank of mitred archpriest. When asked to describe his priestly journey, he replied: “твердий але утішний (harsh but full of consolations).” Petro Kamenetsky died on 31 January 1973 in Toronto, and was buried on 3 February at Mount Hope Cemetery. He was predeceased by his father, Yosyf, in 1938. His brother Ivan was killed accidentally in 1949, and his sister Sophia had died in 1960. His youngest brother, Basilian Father Vasylii, died in Mundare, Alberta, in 1970. An obituary printed in the Brandon (Manitoba) Sun, noted that Monsignor Petro had ministered as a “priest for 58 of his 81 years.”