Fr. Vasyl Mutka, the new pastor at St. Irene Parish in North Portland, stands with his family in front of the church’s iconostasis. (Photo courtesy Sam Schroetke)
Fr. Vasyl Mutka, the new pastor at St. Irene Parish in North Portland, stands with his family in front of the church’s iconostasis. (Photo courtesy Sam Schroetke)

St. Irene Byzantine Catholic Church in Portland has a new priest — Father Vasyl Mutka. Born in Drohobych, Ukraine, Father Mutka came of age when the Ukrainian Catholic Church was considered the largest illegal church in the world because it was banned by the Soviet Union. Father Mutka recalls celebrating Divine Liturgies at midnight and praying with hushed voices in order to avoid detection by Soviet controlled police. He also remembers receiving severe punishments. After the collapse of communism, the Catholic Church was legalized, came out of the shadows, and men could once again be openly ordained.

Father Mutka recalls that he was blessed by his mother the day he was born. She placed him upon her chest, looked up to God and asked for him to become a priest. He tried entering a monastery at 15 years old. But the prefect said he was too young. He enrolled at vocational school to study electro mechanics. Intrepid, he entered the seminary at age 19 and spent five years earning a master’s degree. In 2007, while still in seminary, Father Mutka married Pani Oresta, who at that time had earned a doctorate in pharmacology. They were married in the Monastery of Peter and Paul in Drohobych. (The Ukrainian Catholic Church ordains married men).

Father Mutka was ordained a priest in the Ukrainian Catholic Church on July 15, 2008. His first assignment was as pastor of Holy Spirit Byzantine Church in Potelych, Ukraine, which is the oldest wooden church in Ukraine, erected in 1502. Holy Spirit was closed under the communists, but after communism fell, Father Mutka was the first priest in the reopened church.

In 2009, the bishop transferred Father Mutka to St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church in Manhattan, where he assisted until 2014.  That year, Father Mutka chose to transfer to the Ruthenian Catholic Church, a smaller and poorer Byzantine Catholic Church also with roots in Ukraine, because he saw a greater need in that church and an opportunity to follow Jesus’ example of serving the poorest of the poor. He was then assigned to St. George’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Olympia, Washington, where he served until 2019. 

In August of this year, Father Mutka, his wife, and his two sons — Markiyan (11) and Benjamin (2) — moved to Portland so that Father Mutka could pastor the only Byzantine Catholic Church in the area. St. Irene’s is the poorest Byzantine Catholic Church within the eparchy (the Byzantine Catholic equivalent of a diocese), thus allowing Father Mutka to continue his God-given mission of serving those who are poor.