Church in Canada Anticipates First Visit of Patriarch Sviatoslav and Synod of Bishops of UGCC
According to a report of the newspaper Way, this coming September, Canada will experience a series of subtle events that will be of great historic and spiritual significance to Canada as well as of global importance for millions of Eastern Christians and their neighbours. In 2012, Canada commemorates the centenary of the arrival of the first Ukrainian Catholic Bishop in Canada. Nykyta Budka, a young prelate from Ukraine arrived in Winnipeg in the middle of winter in December of 1912. He served as the sole hierarch for the vast Eastern European immigrant population throughout the entire Dominion for fifteen years.
According to the author of the article, a representative of the Winnipeg Synod Committee, Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski, during his service, Nykyta Budka “experienced extraordinary successes in organizing his flock and he experienced mind-numbing crises from lack of support and even fierce opposition. He was recalled to Ukraine where he served for another eighteen years as a bishop before his arrest by the Soviet regime and death as a martyr in 1949.”
This year, Canadians, especially those of Ukrainian heritage, remember this figure who is seen at the same time as heroic, controversial, enigmatic and saintly. Due to the important centenary celebration, the Archbishop of Winnipeg, Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak, invited the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to hold their now annual convocation at the historic see of Winnipeg. They accepted the invitation. This gathering of Ukrainian Catholic bishops from four continents in Canada is unprecedented in itself. No synod has ever been convened in Canada before and, in fact, very seldom has one occurred outside of Ukraine (or Rome in the Soviet period).
According to the report, the Synod did meet in Philadelphia, USA in 2007 for the same occasion of the centenary of the arrival of the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop to that country. They also met in Curitiba Brazil in 2011 as that country was hosting the 5th ‘Patriarchal Council of the Ukrainian Catholic Church’ that dealt with the theme of ‘consecrated life’. Such gatherings of all the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from around the world were unthinkable only several years ago during the Soviet years. In 2012, besides various liturgical and administrative matters, the bishops will further develop their goal of a complete revitalization of the Church that has already been set into motion. By following a carefully crafted, but ambitious strategy, referred to as “Vision 2020”, the bishops intend to see an increase in membership in a Church that is truly relevant to twenty-first Century society.
“Of course, one of the great highlights of these events is the very first pastoral visit to Canada of Patriarch Sviatoslav – the “father and head”of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Patriarch Sviatoslav was elected by the Synod of Bishops at a special convocation for this purpose in March of 2011after his predecessor Lubomyr decided to step down for reasons of health. Enthusiasm for Sviatoslav - the spiritual, if
not yet canonical - “Patriarch” of his people, has swept the Church because of the amazing energy and perceptiveness that he brings to the position, as well as his youth (he was 41 years old when elected). His bold, yet unassuming ecumenism has raised eyebrows throughout the Christian world. Foremost in the plans for his visit to Canada are encounters with youth, young families and those most in contact with them. He will also meet will the elderly, women religious and clergy. He in particular wants to meet with the faithful in parish settings as the first phase of the “Vision 2020” revitalization of the Church begins with a renewal of the parish community.
The significance of these events cannot be overestimated for Canadians of Ukrainian heritage, now numbered at well over a million. These events are also of great importance to all Canadians who value the nation-building legacy of immigration to this country. This is the marking of a milestone of a people that have made an exceptional contribution to Canada. These events are of great significance to people of faith who are invited to celebrate the f o r w a r d - m o v i n g momentum of this Christian community that has survived bloody persecution in Europe, hardships in their new land, and now continues to strive for a better world for their own people and for the societies in which they live,” stressed Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski.
The visit of Patriarch Sviatoslav to Winnipeg and Manitoba will take place from September 5-18, 2012. The Synod proper, which will be held primarily in camera, will take place from Sunday, Sept. 9 to Saturday Sept. 15. His Beatitude and several of the other Bishops of the Synod will make visits to other cities in Canada prior to and following the principal events in Winnipeg.