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Written by Catholic News Service 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012 10:53


 Ukrainian Catholic bishops from four continents gathered on Sept. 16 to close their weeklong Synod of Bishops in Winnipeg. - CNS photo/David Lipnowski


          WINNIPEG - Ukrainian Catholic bishops from four continents gathered for a final celebration Sept. 16 as they closed their weeklong Synod of Bishops.

          One of their emphases was on the role of the laity, and the final "gala," as it was billed, included the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus, an honour guard and the Selo Ukrainian Dancers.

          Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, the elected head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, challenged his audience of 800 to live Christian life to the fullest and not as "lukewarm, nominal Christians."

          "If we allow ourselves to be overcome so we don't pray or enter into liturgy, we will cease to be a Church," Shevchuk said. "We are called to be people of prayer, gasping for the air of the Holy Spirit.

          "Sometimes our churches are more like Ukrainian museums. We need vibrant parishes, a place to encounter the living Christ. May our encounter today fill us with new faith, energy and perseverance."

          Reinvigorating Ukrainian parishes is part of Vision 2020, the long-range pastoral plan for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was suppressed for decades under Soviet rule.

          After an opening Divine Liturgy in Winnipeg Sept. 9, the 38 bishops in attendance moved to Portage La Prairie, a city of about 13,000 west of Winnipeg. Focusing on the theme "The Role of the Laity in the Life and Mission of the Church," they heard presentations and reports before breaking into smaller thematic groups.

          A statement issued at the end of the synod said the bishops acknowledged the role of the laity in preserving the faith when the Church was suppressed in the 20th century, and they issued a pastoral letter to the laity; it was not immediately available in English.

          "The laity must be collaborators with the bishops and priests in pastoral work and, with their giftedness and by their talents, contribute toward the building up of the body of Christ," the statement said.

          The bishops proclaimed a patron of Ukrainian Catholic laity: Blessed Volodymyr Pryjma, a choir director from the parish of Stradch, Ukraine, who in 1941 was tortured and murdered by Soviet paramilitary agents in a forest after taking Communion to a sick woman with his priest.

          They also pledged to support Ukrainians who have emigrated from their home country.

          Bishop Borys Gudziak was newly named bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Gudziak was one of four bishops elected to the permanent synod for the next five years. Others were Archbishop Volodymyr Vijtyshyn Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine; Bishop Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, B.C.; and Bishop Jaroslav Pryriz of Sambir-Drohobych, Ukraine.

          The participants were all the Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from around world. They have never convened in Canada before and may never do so again. Since Ukraine gained independence twenty one years ago, they almost invariably meet in Ukraine. However, they chose to come this year to commemorate the centenary of the appointment of the first Ukrainian Bishop to Canada. Bishop Nykyta Budka arrived in Winnipeg in 1912 to serve as the sole bishop for Ukrainian immigrants from coast to coast. He is titled “Blessed”, because he was beatified as one of the 27 new martyrs recognized by Pope John Paul in 2001. After serving fifteen years as bishop in Canada, Blessed Nykyta returned to Ukraine only to later suffer arrest and martyrdom under the Soviet regime. Canada acknowledges his legacy this year.

          Next year's general Synod of Bishops will be Aug. 11-13 in Kiev, Ukraine, and will have as its theme the new evangelization.


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