Henry B. Syvinski, O.S.A.

1919 – 1999 (December 9)

Henry Bronislaw Syvinski (Czerwinski) was born on July 10, 1919, to Bronislaw Czerwinski and Antonina Zachara, in Amesbury, Massachusetts. He was baptized in the church of St. Joseph, Amesbury, on July 16, 1919, and received his early education at St. Joseph Parish School and St. James High School, Haverhill, MA. While at St. James, he was president of the freshman class, played the violin in the school orchestra and participated in the language and art clubs. In September 1937, he began his third year of high school as a postulant at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York. On September 9, 1939, he entered Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, NY, professed simple vows on September 10, 1940, and made solemn profession on September 10, 1943. In 1944, he received a BA degree from Villanova College, then began theology at Augustinian College, Washington, DC. On June 10, 1947, he was ordained to the priesthood at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. He continued studies at the Catholic University, Washington, DC, and in 1948, he earned an M.A. degree in Fine Arts.

On August 6, 1948, Father Syvinski received his first assignment as assistant pastor at the parish of St. James in Carthage, New York. He also served as administrator of that parish for a period of four months. In January 1950, he was assigned to St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish, Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1951, he became an assistant at St. Augustine Parish, Andover, MA., where he remained for seven years. While in Andover, he re-organized the Sacred Heart Sodality, began a boy’s and adult choir, established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and headed The Church Unity Program. On January 29, 1958, he was assigned to St. Thomas Monastery and became a professor at Villanova University. Over the years he taught Apologetics, Christology, Sacramentology and Fine Arts & Religion. He was moderator of extra-curricular activities; namely, Glee Club, Swimming Team, University Band, Student Art Club and Intra-Murals.

Father Syvinski was a gifted artist whose works were displayed in locations on the east coast. For many years he taught a course in painting for the friars at St. Thomas Monastery, where he designed and carved wooden images of Augustinian Saints for altars in the monastery. He designed mosaics for four altars in St. Mary’s Hall and the seal of the Province for the Villanova University library. Among his 16 wood carvings was the crucifix that hung over the main altar at Augustinian College, Washington, D.C..

Father Syvinski was a member of the Philadelphia Art Alliance. In 1969, he received the Freedom’s Foundation George Washington Medal for his sermon on patriotism. As a linguist he spoke and read Polish, Russian, Czecho, Slovak, Ukranian and Croatian. With a love for parish ministries he assisted at several parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Recognizing others’ talents, Father Syvinski offered the following affirmation to an Augustinian, “As an artist I want to say, ‘Do not be discouraged. Continue in your concern for aesthetics within the Order…. Having done some research and having written on the artistic phase of St. Thomas of Villanova, I notice that what you are doing now is very much similar to what he did centuries ago.”

Father Syvinski died in St. Thomas Monastery on December 9, 1999. The Mass of the Resurrection was celebrated in St. Thomas Church on the campus of Villanova University. Interment followed at Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, PA.