Bishop Michal Rusnak, C.Ss.R.
First Eparch for the Slovak Byzantine Catholic Eparchy
of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Canada


Bishop Michal Rusnak was born on August 21, 1921 in Beaverdale, Pennsylvania to Slovak parents, Andrej and Maria (nee Sotak). During the 1920's, his family returned to Slovakia. Michal Rusnak was accepted into the Redemptorist novitiate and made his religious profession as a Redemptorist in August of 1942. He pursued his philosophical and theological studies at the Theological Faculty of SS. Cyril & Methodius at the Slovak University of Bratislava and in Oboriste, Bohemia. On July 4, 1949, Michael Rusnak was ordained a Redemptorist priest in Presov, by the beatified Blessed Paul Gojdic, OSBM. After his ordination, Fr. Rusnak, C.Ss.R., was arrested and put into a concentration camp with other Slovak Byzantine and Latin Rite Catholic priests who refused to collaborate with the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. He escaped 14 months later. An American by birth, he obtained a passport from the US Embassy in Prague, and fled his homeland. He came to Canada in 1951 following a short stay in the US. He was one of the first priests to leave Slovakia due to religious persecution by the Communists. In so doing, he laid a new foundation for the Slovak Byzantine Catholic Church in Canada. Together with Fr. Ludovit Minya, C.Ss.R., he established parishes in Toronto, Hamilton, Oshawa, Montreal and Welland. In 1953, Fr. Rusnak, C.Ss.R., founded the Canadian Slovak Byzantine Catholic publication, "Maria". He also published a collection of religious songs, "Chvalite Hospoda" - "Praise the Lord". In 1957, Fr. Michal Rusnak, C.Ss.R., was named Dean of Slovak parishes of the Byzantine Rite in the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto. On October 7, 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed him Titular Bishop of the ancient Diocese of Cernik, Auxiliary Bishop to the Ukrainian Eparch of Toronto, and Apostolic Visitator for the Slovaks of the Byzantine Rite in Canada. He was ordained Bishop on January 2, 1965, in St. Michael's Cathedral, Toronto. With the establishment of the first Slovak Byzantine Catholic Eparchy in North America by Pope John Paul II, - the Eparchy of SS. Cyril and Methodius - Bishop Michal Rusnak, C.Ss.R., was enthroned as the First Eparch (Bishop) on February 28, 1981. In 1984 he was privledged to have Pope John Paul II visit Canada and bless the cornerstone and plaques of the Slovak Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Markham, Ontario.

Bishop Michal Rusnak, C.Ss.R., was a member of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, serving on the CCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Inter-ritual Discipline from 1968 until 1970 and he was a member of CCCB Episcopal Commission for Christian Education from 1973 until 1983. At the Vatican, he was a member of the Congregation for Oriental Churches from 1968 until 1975 and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Reform of the Oriental Code of Canon Law from 1973 until 1978. He passed away after a long illness on January 16, 2003. Parastas services were held in the Nativity of the Mother of God, Slovak Byzantine Church in Toronto and in the Slovak Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Markham. And the Funeral Divine Liturgy was held at the Slovak Cathedral where it was attended by a large continguent of Byzantine and Roman Catholic archbishops, bishops, priests, family members and lay people from the Eparchy and from the Slovak community as a whole. His interment took place at Holy Cross Cemetery in Thornhill, Ontario.