Father Walter Werbicki, 91, died Monday morning March 8, 2021.
Father Walter Werbicki was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on February 12, 1930, to Marian (Michael) Werbicki and Kalyna (Kuczera) Werbicki.
At a very early age, Father Walter expressed his desire to become a priest. His pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church so inspired him that he began his journey in faith. Father Walter studied at the Seminaire de Philosophie and the Grand Seminare in Montreal, Canada, completing his studies at St. Augustine Seminary in Toronto Canada. He was ordained on June 30, 1957. He served in various parishes in Canada.
He was assigned in 1971 as Chaplain at St. Pius IX High School in Montreal. It was at this school that Father Walter was gifted with the Russian Amethyst ring which is quite large. He was often referred to as “Father Big Ring”.
The summer of 1973 he was asked to assist at a Byzantine parish in Houston, Texas. The two-month assignment turned into eight years. He then accepted a position in Rochester, N.Y., before moving on to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lackawanna and St. Basil Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lancaster, N.Y., in July 1983.
He met Father Frank Barone (now deceased) who was pastor of St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in Lackawanna, N.Y. This led to Father Walter seeking biritual faculties in 1985 as Father Barone asked Father Walter to assist him at St. Anthony’s.
Father Barone was a full-time prison chaplain at Wende Correctional Facility and he invited Father Walter to assist him with pastoral needs at the prison. It became a labor of love as Father Walter became the full-time prison chaplain at Lakeview Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in November 1992.
Never imagining he’d ever be a prison chaplain, he thanked the Lord for this call to ministry. He treasured being chaplain and always stressed he was chaplain for the employees and the inmates.
He loved that ministry. The drive from Lackawanna was very challenging during the winter months and Father Walter searched for a parish residence closer to the Brocton prison.
The Lord led him to Father Thomas Wopperer, then pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church in Dunkirk. He moved into the rectory on March 19, 1994. His 27 years as priest in residence have been years filled with many, many blessings. He loved the parishioners, praying daily for those who worshiped at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, as well as the surrounding parishes where he assisted. Members of Blessed Mary Angela, St. Joseph’s and St. Anthony’s introduced him to so many caring and devoted Catholics.
A humble and spirit-filled man, Father Walter always extended his gratitude for even the smallest act of kindness. He had a dedication and devotion to those who surrounded him. He had an aura that affected the spirit of others and always embraced his time in Dunkirk-Fredonia enthusiastically by participating in many community events while representing the church.
Father Walter is survived by two sisters: Mary Kmit and Stella Werbicki; his nephew, Stephen Kmit; (Lynn) and two nieces: Valerie Boychuk (John) and Laura Sheremeta (Andrew) and their children.
Longtime friends Ed and Maureen Stegle and Leo and Sandy Bain have been family and caretakers to him. Father Walter’s legacy will live on through the spirit of close friends and parishioners far too many to name, but especially through Deacon Michael Lemieux, for whom he held great honor and gratitude.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated Friday, March 12, at 11 a.m. in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. Visiting hours will be held at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church Thursday, March 11, from 3-7 p.m. and Friday, March 12, from 10-11 a.m..
Burial will be at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Dunkirk. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Northern Chautauqua Catholic School or St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 328 Washington Ave., Dunkirk, NY 14048. Or you may make a donation to a charity of your choice.
Arrangements are by the McGraw-Kowal Funeral Home.