Lawyer Michael Pucylo began to be drawn toward the permanent diaconate with the opening of St. Benedict's Chapel in Edmonton's City Centre Mall


Lawyer Michael Pucylo began to be drawn toward the permanent diaconate with the opening of St. Benedict's Chapel in Edmonton's City Centre Mall

June 27, 2016

As a child, they had to take him to church kicking and screaming. Now they can't keep him away from church.

Michael Pucylo, a 50-year-old injury lawyer with Miller Thomson for more than two decades, will be ordained a permanent deacon July 9. He is expected to serve at St. Agnes-St. Anthony's Parish, where he has been an active member for 10 years.

"I felt I was being called by God," he explains in an interview at his downtown office.

So, he enrolled in the Diaconate Formation Program in 2012. He was admitted to the program shortly before his mother died. He told his mother the news while she was in intensive care hooked up to a ventilator and other machines.

"She couldn't speak but I remember her squeezing my hand when I told her. I think she would have been happy."

Liz Stolee, who passed over to Pucylo the job of coordinator of altar servers in the southside parish, thinks Pucylo will be an excellent deacon.

"I'm impressed by his level of spirituality and his dedication," she said. "People make jokes about lawyers but Michael is a different kind of a lawyer. He is fair-minded and certainly non-confrontational."

Stolee also says Pucylo has a "mediating-approach. He always approaches people with a smile."

Pucylo and his two younger brothers grew up Ukrainian Catholic and attended St. Basil's Church most of their lives.

"My parents brought us every Sunday to Mass," he recalls. "I wouldn't say we were all that happy about it at the time. I can remember being forced to go to Mass kicking and screaming."

Nevertheless, all three brothers became altar boys at St. Basil's.

A decade ago, Pucylo left St. Basil's and joined St. Agnes Parish. He also started attending morning Mass at St. Benedict Chapel at Edmonton City Centre Mall.

"I didn't speak Ukrainian so I felt more comfortable going to the Roman Catholic service which was in English." In fact, no one in his home spoke Ukrainian after his grandma died when he was still a young boy.

Growing up, Pucylo never considered the priesthood or religious life as an option. "From an early age I knew I wanted to be a lawyer and that's sort of what I ended up doing."


To be sure, his call to the diaconate was not accompanied with thunder and lightning. "It was a growth process. It started with the opening of St. Benedict Chapel" in late 2006.

Pucylo started attending the 7:15 a.m. Mass at St. Benedict's and liked the inspiring homilies of Father Paul Moret and the persistence of Father Patrick Baska, who got him into serving.

He gave Baska several excuses for not becoming an altar server, including that he wasn't Roman Catholic. "He didn't think that was a stumbling block."

When Pucylo said he had never done it before, Baska said he would train him. "So he was the one who got me into serving."


Also important in terms of Pucylo's spiritual development was the late Sylvia D'hulster, the sacristan for morning Mass at St. Benedict's. "She was almost completely blind and had a whole bunch of health issues, but definitely she was a woman of faith."

Initially, D'hulster just had Pucylo help her by lighting the candles before Mass, "which I was happy to do, especially since you don't want a blind lady lighting candles and setting the place on fire."

But as time progressed, he started helping her set up before Mass and put things away after Mass. They did Bible studies together and took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2010.

Over time, because of health issues, D'hulster wasn't able to continue at the chapel. So Pucylo became the sacristan for the 7:15 a.m. Mass, and he has been doing that ever since.

"Sylvia always prayed I would be ordained a priest. I don't know if she would be happy I'm being ordained a deacon." D'hulster died about three years ago.


At the same time, Pucylo started to get involved in St. Agnes, first as an adult server and lector. Sometimes, he was an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.

About six years ago, Pucylo took over as the parish's coordinator for adult servers. For the last three years, he has been the liturgy committee chair for both St. Agnes and St. Anthony.

Pucylo believes God has called him to the diaconate. During his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, while overlooking the Sea of Galilee, a priest whispered in his ear that God was calling him. That made a big impression on Pucylo.

Deacon Guy Germaine at St. Agnes also encouraged him. "So I have the advantage of observing Deacon Guy at the parish and seeing was he was doing as a deacon. I thought that would be something that I could give as my service to the parish and to God."