Conference highlights six key efforts
By Darlene Polachic, The Starphoenix July 13, 2013
The Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada held a national clergy conference in Saskatoon recently to discuss a number of topics related to renewing and revitalizing the denomination’s ministry.
The Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Church is comprised of five eparchies (diocese) across the country including the Eparchy of Saskatoon, which takes in the whole province of Saskatchewan and was the event’s hosting body.
The conference began with gathered clergy examining the legacy of Bishop Nytyta Budka who pioneered the establishment of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada.
Bishop Ken Nowakowski unpacked Vision 2020, a forward-looking plan for evangelization and revitalization of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Bishop Bryan Bayda, of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, says, “Part of the challenge facing the Ukrainian Catholic Church is getting everyone on the same page. While there is a well-developed structure in Ukrainian Catholic churches
in Canada, the U.S., Australia and parts of Europe, many parishes in Ukraine are still learning about these structures because they only emerged from the underground church little more than 20 years ago.”
In an effort to address this inequity, a pastoral letter was issued by the denomination’s patriarch, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, on the topic “The Vibrant Parish – a place to encounter the living Christ.” The letter was one of the main topics for study at the conference.
“For local churches in Canada, the challenge is to revitalize our efforts to be evangelized and to evangelize others,” Bayda says. “This takes shape in six key components as outlined in the pastoral letter.”
The first component is the Word of God. Writes Shevchuk, “The word of God should bear visible fruit in our everyday lives because only those who keep this word – that is, obey it – will be called ‘blessed in the Lord.’ In our parishes there should not be a single family which does not own a Bible. I encourage all our faithful to read the sacred scriptures on a daily basis; this is done ideally through participation in parish Bible-study groups or through prayerful reading at home.”
Regarding the second key, the Holy Mysteries (sacraments) and prayer, he says: “Gathered at the divine liturgy, the parish community unites with its invisiblehead, Christ, and with all the saints and angels, thus enacting a mystical union between Heaven and earth, between time and eternity.
“Sunday, the holy day of our Lord, should be honoured by every Christian, and participation in the divine liturgy should be considered not an obligation imposed by the church, but it should be received as a gift from our Lord. ‘We cannot live without Sunday!’ was the motto of the early Christians of the first centuries …
This motto we Christians of the 21st century must make our own and we should persistently guard the holiness and inviolability of the Lord’s day.”
On the subject of service, the letter speaks of diakonia or “serving in love and performing charitable activities.” This, Shevchuk says, flows from rootedness in Christ. “Active love of neighbour is the vocation and task of each Christian without exception.”
The fourth key, leadership,he says, is not the fulfilment of a particular administrative office, but first of all service to God and neighbour. “Each parish should be an organized community in which, under the care of their pastor and in co-operation with him, members serve one another according to the gifts which they received from the Lord.” Koinonia conveys the idea of unity and harmony, and is something all Christians should practice.
In his final point,Shevchuk explains how a vibrant parish has a missionary spirit. “A church community, renewed in the Holy Spirit, by its very life becomes a living sermon of Christ and His presence.”
Even the role of technology found its way into the discussion of vibrant parishes at the conference.
“The Vatican has repeatedly urged the whole church to use technology for evangelization and collaboration in order to more effectively spread the Kingdom of God,” Sviatoslav said in his letter. “(North Americans) have come to expect that anything worth investigating must have an Internet presence. If we are to spread the good news of Christ to the people around us, then we need to speak the language of the people.” To that end, Bayda says, the Eparchy of Saskatoon has initiated a survey of all its parishes through Survey Monkey. “We’re surveying our people and looking for input on how we can communicate and fulfil the guidelines of the vibrant parish letter.”
The conference ended with a banquet at which The Most Reverend Lawrence Huculak, Metropolitan-Archbishop of Winnipeg, was the keynote speaker.
Following Episcopal Divine Liturgy at St. George’s Cathedral, the final activity for conference participants was a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Blessed Nun Martyrs Olympia and Laurentia.
Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak Keynote Address
Historian Rev. Athanasius MacVay speaks on Nykyta Budka: Bishop and Martyr