Joseph A. Zuk was the first Ukrainian Orthodox bishop in America, but little has been written about his life. I don’t know a lot, but from the sources I’ve collected, we can piece together a brief biographical sketch. This isn’t much, but I thought it might be worthwhile to get the very basics out there, so we can begin filling in the gaps.
Zuk was born in Eastern Galicia in the early 1870s. He graduated from the University of Lemberg, and then earned a Doctorate of Divinity at the Theological Seminary at Innesbruck. At 33, he became the seminary rector. Later, he was elevated to the rank of mitred prelate, and Pope Pius X appointed him a papal delegate and administrator in Bosnia.
In 1922, Zuk came to America. Six years later, in 1928, he and other Ukrainian Catholic clergy left Rome to join the Orthodox Church. As a priest, Zuk served in Syracuse, NY; Passaic, NJ; Allentown, PA; and McAdoo, PA. He became affiliated with the American Orthodox Catholic Church of Archbishop Aftimios Ofiesh, and in 1932 Zuk was consecrated a bishop by Ofiesh and Bishop Sophronios Bishara in New York City. According to Fr. Seraphim Surrency in The Quest for Orthodox Unity in America, Zuk had about half a dozen parishes in his jurisdiction.
Zuk presided over the first Ukrainian diocese in America for just 17 months. On February 23, 1934, Zuk died in St. Petersburg, Florida, “after an illness since the time he was consecrated bishop” (Syracuse Herald, 2/28/1934). He was reported to be about 60 years old.
By 1934, Ofiesh had married a young girl and the AOCC was functionally dead. Archbishop Athenagoras Spyrou of the Greek Archdiocese presided at Zuk’s funeral, which took place in Carteret, NJ. Zuk was buried in Perth Amboy, NJ. Two years later, the Ukrainian diocese formally joined the Ecumenical Patriarchate — an affiliation which continues to this day.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.