EDMONTON (CCN) — Bishop David Motiuk remembers clearly when he first met Michael Bombak.
It was a summer day at the beach with the children at Camp Oselia when Bombak approached then-Father Motiuk, and said, “I’m thinking of being a priest.”
Motiuk was impressed. He had known many young men in relation to the priesthood and young women considering religious life, but few acted upon that call.
“He just felt so comfortable talking about God and things of faith. It was a rather natural fit for him,” said Motiuk. “He was very open, ‘Here I am Lord.’ ”
Bombak, 32, born and raised in Edmonton, said “Yes” to the Lord in the sacred ordination of priesthood on Jan. 1.
The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton celebrated his ordination on New Year’s Day at St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral.
Married with four young children, Bombak is preceded by two priests in his family. His great uncle, a priest, brought the family to Canada when he was transferred from Ukraine.
Bombak’s journey to the priesthood began even earlier than his encounter with the future bishop at summer camp.
He recalls a moment while serving as an altar boy at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Parish, when he looked down at his hands and said, “‘Maybe these are the hands that the Lord wants to use in his priesthood.’
“I had this joyful feeling that I just can’t describe,” said Bombak.
He likened that feeling to what it might have been like for the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “Their hearts were burning within them. It was joyful but peaceful at the same time.”
Despite his zeal, Bombak was encouraged by his father to go to university and get a degree before pursuing his vocation.
In university, his faith was completely challenged. Foundations that he thought were strong were washed away. He stopped attending church and lived a secular lifestyle. He questioned his faith.
“Why should I believe in the resurrection? Why should I believe that we’ve been visited by the Lord as a man and as God? Why should I believe that?” he thought.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but the Lord was really working, even though he felt so far away,” said Bombak.
He started looking in the right places, reading the right books by authors such as C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft, and his faith started to grow.
He became an Edmonton Catholic Schools teacher and soon after he met Kim, who would become his wife. Baptized Anglican but not raised in a strong faith environment, Kim was discovering the Christian faith for the first time and Michael was coming back into his faith in a much more fervent way when they began discerning marriage.
Michael and Kim married in 2007.
Bombak was loving his seven-year career as a teacher, and the couple had just bought a condo when a visit to the Ukrainian Church seminary in Ottawa abruptly changed the course of their lives.
While praying in the chapel, Bombak heard the still voice of the Lord, and he knew it was time to go.
In keeping with the tradition of the Eastern Catholic churches, being married was not an impediment to Bombak’s call to the priesthood.
The couple sold their condo, packed their belongings and, with three small children in tow, moved to Ottawa.
From 2012 to 2015, Bombak studied and received formation at Holy Spirit Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Ottawa.
His journey to priesthood has been a family affair.
“It’s a complete sacrifice of one’s life in order to glorify the Lord and to bring people to the Lord and within a married cleric’s life, that’s a family affair,” he said.
“It’s the witness of a family. It’s the witness of a wife and children, and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a difficult thing, but it’s a beautiful thing.”
At seminary, the Bombaks learned the difference between being called to be true Christians and being called to serve.
Kim said the seminary experience was like “spiritual bootcamp.”
“You learn how to be a clergy family. It definitely stretches you,” she said. “Our family got strengthened.”
With Michael’s long days and only one day off per month, the family learned how to be strong when apart. “We learned this new dynamic and how to stay connected,” Kim said.
Motiuk said Bombak is a people person and his skills with people and pastoral approach will serve him well in his priesthood.
“Already, as a relatively young man he’s able to integrate what he’s learned in the seminary, his own faith journey, and to meet the people where they are. Not to have preconceived ideas or to be judgmental,” said Motiuk.
Bombak has been assigned as assistant priest at the cathedral, where he also did his pastoral internship.
In his free time, Bombak enjoys doing taekwondo with his son Tobias, 7, and spending time with his daughters Miriam, 6, Georgia, 4, and Philomena, three months.