As Darryl Tymchuk brought this year’s Sister Anne Honig Award up to the chapel altar at Newman Theological College, he had no idea that his own name was engraved on it.
“I brought up my own award,” Tymchuk said, laughing.
Tymchuk was given the award on April 3, after a unanimous vote by his fellow students. The Sister Anne Honig Award is presented to students who show exemplary leadership and community spirit. It is named after a Newman Theological College student who died in a car crash shortly after graduation.
“I feel blessed, and the words that the students said about me are still resonating with me,” said Tymchuk, 39, who is in his third and final year of a master of divinity degree program.
Tymchuk’s academic career at the college hasn’t always been easy. The father of 11 daughters, Tymchuk pursued his degree part-time two years ago, until he and his wife mortgaged their home so he could attend classes full-time.
Although he knew juggling his responsibilities would be difficult, Tymchuk explains that he had to commit fully to his course work if he was ever going to receive his degree.
“I realized what I have to do is I have to really get done as much as I can, prepare for crisis — especially with 11 girls, you never know what’s going to happen — and just continue on,” said Tymchuk.
The Tymchuks live in Holden, Alta., southeast of Edmonton, and Darryl makes the hour-long trip every day to attend classes at Newman.
At Newman, Tymchuk served on the student council for two years and as the college sacristan, preparing the chapel for Mass every day. He started a faith sharing circle and he organized student visits to the Edmonton Remand Centre and Christmas carolling at the Marian Centre.
However, finding the balance between family life and school work has been challenging.
“It’s been tough on my family this year, especially as the last year of the degree you’re preparing for your synthesis (paper) and comprehensive (exam),” Tymchuk said. “I think as long as you really apply yourself, you’ll still be able to do family. I’m really looking forward to having the degree done.”
The winner of this year’s Sister Anne Honig Award winner was kept secret until the ceremony. With tears of joy, Tymchuk accepted the award and the $1,000 in financial aid that comes with it.
“Darryl is very deserving of the award,” said fellow student Belinda Halbach. “To see someone who has so many responsibilities still take time for other people, it’s something that isn’t in everyone.”
Past recipients of the Sister Anne Honig award include Father Dean Dowle, the chaplain for the Edmonton Catholic School District; Father Jim Corrigan, the pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Edmonton, and Franciscan Brother Michael Perras, who received the award last year.
“To know your peers have nominated you, and support you, and look at you and see Christian witness in you is a humbling experience,” said Perras, saying that Tymchuk was the perfect choice this year.
“Darryl is a very humble and gracious man and he is always looking out for other people. He always makes someone feel welcome or included, and that’s a huge part of what the Sister Anne Honig Award is about.”
After graduation, Tymchuk hopes to become a military, hospital or prison chaplain. He also encourages anyone interested in growing in their faith to consider attending Newman Theological College.
“You won’t regret it,” he said.