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Ukrainian Orthodox leader kept close to followers

Tony LaRussa
| Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 3:44 p.m.
Metropolitan Constantine
Metropolitan Constantine

Despite serious health problems that put Metropolitan Constantine in the hospital several weeks ago, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA did not want to disappoint the people planning to attend last weekend's celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of his consecration.

"We talked to him about postponing the events for a while, but he wanted to go through with it because so many people would be coming to Pittsburgh from around the U.S. and several countries," said Archbishop Antony of South Bound Brook, N.J., who heads the church's Eastern Eparchy.

"He told me that we should go through with it because he didn't know if he would be around in a month or two," Antony said. "I believe he had a premonition of what was going to happen and saw it as an opportunity to say goodbye to all the people he knew."

Metropolitan Constantine of the South Side, whose secular name was Theodore Buggan, died from congestive heart failure on Monday. He was 75.

A native of the South Side, he grew up across the street from St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Parish on Sidney Street.

Constantine graduated from the Ukrainian Orthodox seminary at St. Andrew College in

the first American-born bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, which has about 100,000 followers in 100 parishes in the United States.

There are nearly 10,000 devotees in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio in 14 parishes, according to church officials.

Constantine served as bishop of Chicago until 1993, when he was elected Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

"Constantine had a certain local charm that easily won people over," said the Rev. Timothy Tomson, who was ordained by the Metropolitan and played host to one of the anniversary celebrations at St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church in McKees Rocks, where he is pastor.

Tomson said he and his family are "still a little bit numb" from the news of Constantine's death.

"Every life has an exit, and our job is to help people prepare for that exit," Tomson said. "But it is a little difficult to realize that last Saturday we were celebrating his life in ministry, and this Saturday we will be placing him in the ground. Life is truly but a shadow and a dream."

Antony, who was ordained by Constantine in 1972, said while the Metropolitan had a variety of interests, his main focus was encouraging young people to carry on the traditions of the faith.

"He searched for every opportunity to motivate our youth to not only participate within the walls of the church but to go out and get involved in their communities," said Antony, noting that Constantine played a critical role in establishing the All Saints (youth) Camp in Emlenton in Venango County.

"Reaching out to the young people was at the core of his soul, and I believe were truly the most joyous days of his life," Antony said.

Funeral services will be conducted on Friday and Saturday at St. Vladimir Parish, 1810 Sidney St., in the South Side.

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