Colloquium of European parishes: live communication, exchange of experience and an opportunity to know each other
The XXX Colloquium of European Parishes in Lviv brought together representatives of the laity movement of different countries to reflect on the collective and personal responsibility of each, to seek answers to the challenges of our time.
The present time poses many challenges to Christians, but it also gives many opportunities. It gives opportunities for communication, both through the latest technologies and in person, through meetings, as well as opportunities to be active in one's environment, and above all in one's parish. Participants of the XXX Colloquium of European parishes gathered in Lviv to exchange experience and get to know each other better. At the previous meeting in Barcelona in 2017, it was decided that the next time the participants of this European Christian movement would gather in Lviv. Therefore, the preparation had lasted for two years, and on July 27 the 30th anniversary Colloquium began in Lviv.
As the Chairman of the organizing committee of the current Colloquium Ulyana Shchurko said, the organizers decided to move away from the usual rhythm of meetings and start with a cultural program to set people to work. Guests had the opportunity to hear about our Church, and perhaps even feel its history in Univ Holy Dormition Lavra, to see what Ukraine is, how it lives.
"While planning the work of the meeting, we wanted to open our parish life for Europeans, to show what achievements and challenges we have, how alive our parishes are, perhaps, to borrow something from their experience to prevent those negative things that they have already faced. Besides, we want to inspire our guests to revive their parishes, because now many of our parishes have quite an active life and there are enough youth and middle-aged people, but Europeans already have much more difficulties with it.
The exchange of pastoral and parish experience was our priority. Therefore, the most valuable and interesting thing in each meeting is a visit to the parishes.
On Tuesday, July 30, we dedicated four hours for this purpose. The participants visited 11 parishes. The parishes were preparing to present their experience and show their activities and practices.
Nine of them are in Lviv, two more outside the city – in Shchyrets and in Trybokivtsi village. At the request of the praesidium, we chose the parishes outside the city. The guests wanted to see life on the outskirts. One parish - the sons of Divine Providence - were receiving young people. By the way, young people aged 18 - 29 years constituted about a quarter of all participants, 12 of them came from abroad, and young people representing the German delegation are the most numerous group", - says Ulyana Shchurko.
Participants are interested in cultural programme too. They happily welcomed the brass band of the Lviv Theological Seminary of the Holy Spirit, it gave a wonderful concert with Ukrainian melodies and songs from around the world.
"There is musical ensemble Virly in the program, at the Party of Nations we will present our songs and dances, other groups will be able to present their culture as well. The final point of the program is a visit to Zhovkva as a historical centre and Krekhiv as a religious one," says Ulyana Shchurko.
According to her, no one will be surprised by the respected reports, but both Ukrainians and foreigners are very interested in the work of small groups. The last expressed a wish that in each group there were Ukrainians that it was possible to learn more in direct conversation. After all, the Colloquium itself is a conversation: this is how this word is translated into Ukrainian.
This is the movement which was started in Austria, Germany, France in the early 60s of the last century because rectors noticed that even though the war was over, there was no love and respect between the French Christians and the German ones. "Therefore, they began to gather for meetings in order to have an exchange of thoughts, so that the peace that comes from Jesus Christ helped to rise above past conflicts and wars that were between these peoples," says Father Mykhailo Dymyd, a participant of previous meetings, and now a representative of the organizing committee. These meetings were held in different countries, which were involved in this "conversation". Every two years the Colloquium was organized in another country. After a while, laity joined these meetings. Since 2005, the Ukrainian delegation has taken part in them.
"The main thing about them is personal contacts and exchange of experience so that people can hear and see what is being done in different countries in order to revive their parishes. To do this, it is necessary that there be a core – faith in God and love for one's neighbour, and that this causes holy courage, which is characterized not with words, but with a concrete deed for the benefit of all, and above all for the neediest, regardless of whether they are Christians or not. Jesus Christ, when he has been on this earth, gathered people and talked to them, provoked them and contributed to the dialogue between people, mutual assistance, so that they both glorified God and helped themselves. That is the idea of Christianity. The Church should imitate this social activity of Jesus Christ. Various meetings help to exchange experience, and this should help to hear each other and help each other," - said Father Mykhailo Dymyd.
"I was amazed the most by the generosity of the European Christians who are members of this movement – people sacrifice their time, their money to go to another country every two years and talk about how to revive life in the parish. This shows that it is a value for them, and the value must always be paid, it is necessary to sacrifice. It is not sporadic Christianity, it is Christianity that involves effort. They are not afraid of questions about their faith, they ask questions and seek answers to them. This means that they are becoming mature Christians. We have a lot of believers, a lot of people go on pilgrimages, but not everyone asks what is the purpose of their faith, what faith requires from them, what are the rights and duties of a Christian in the modern world, what it means to be a Christian and dialogue with modern society, which not necessarily views God as an authority.
We invited many delegates from Ukraine to hear and see, to feel this spirit, the need for our Christianity to live not only by faith but also to have reason. The topics of the Colloquium contribute to it as well. The main topic is "How to be Christians in modern Europe", that is postmodern Europe, where there is no authority that has a monopoly on the truth. Previously, these were either the Church or a government or a party. How must we as Christians, for whom the truth is not only a thing but also a person of Jesus Christ, treat this post-truth, the erosion of values.
We also touch upon the topic of escape from responsibility. People are afraid of responsibility, and although they do not recognize it, at the political, social levels they vote not for parties that have ideas, but for populists. This is what happened here, and this is not only a European but also a global trend. Here we will look for the answer to the question -Why is it so?
I am convinced that the main mission of the Church is not to talk about values, but about human dignity because values can change. Therefore, we should not moralize, but emphasize human dignity, and then there will be common values. And in order to honour the dignity of a person, there must be a core, which is Jesus Christ and his example of relationships with people of all categories – sinners, rulers, apostles, among whom were apostates, poor, rich, corrupt..."- says the priest and the theologian. These are the things that he spoke about in his report.
In addition, there were two more reports. Paul Zulener, the professor at the University of Vienna, spoke of Pope Francis' example as a driving force for the Christian idea in the world. That the Pope is not so focused on talking about dogmatics, but on how to create vertical bridges between God and people, and horizontal bridges between people, and very different ones.
A teacher of Ukrainian Catholic University, UCU, Halyna Tesliuk invited participants to rethink The Parable of the Prodigal Son. In particular, to see in the image of the elder son, who considered himself righteous, our realia: convinced of our righteousness, we close the door to the Church to people who are considered to be sinful.
A masterclass of the icon painting on glass was undoubtedly the highlight of this meeting. At the request of the organizers, it was held by Ulyana Krekhovets, head of projects and programs of icon painting school "Radruzh" UCU.
Lesia Krypiakevich suggested that the participants of the program make an icon on glass as a souvenir from Ukraine, and everyone was happy to accept this idea.
Paying attention to the internal and external situation in Ukraine, during the war, we decided to offer the guests to paint an icon of the patron Saint of our city – St. George. Among the icons on glass, there are many his images. However, we understood that time was limited, so we performed the first stage of work with volunteers – prepared glass and drew the contours of the image. Each of the participants should make this icon come alive – add colour. The icon on the glass evokes a feeling of joy through open tones, open colours, and it is very simple, but at the same time sincere, in a good sense naive, folk art," says Ulyana Krekhovets.
"In my experience, this is the most massive masterclass on the icon on glass. It was necessary to consider that all the people had everything necessary, that there were enough volunteers who would help and who would know languages: after all, participants from different countries gathered here. This is a very cool challenge. It seems to me that people are happy, the opening remarks has not yet ended, as people have already begun to draw," the interlocutor continues.
Actually, in the opening remarks, the participants of the masterclass were told about the phenomenon of the Ukrainian icon on glass. "In Europe, there was also painting on glass, but it was secular images – still lives, landscapes etc. And in Ukraine, it was solely an icon, which was painted as a talisman for a house. The icon on glass almost was never found in churches, but it was present in every Hutsul house, the inhabitants of one of the Carpathian regions. And it was created mainly by people who did not have an art education. Although there are references to artists who were engaged in this professionally. Eventually, such an education was not needed – it was not necessary to create a story and come up with something, because the cardboard could be bought on the market, they applied glass, it was then blown and very fragile. Only a father worked on a painting, a mother mixed paints, made colours. And children sat near a house and looked at the recently painted icon, so that no animals - chickens, cats, or other - run on the icon. The children had the most responsible task – to give the icon time to dry out so that it remained the same as it was created by parents," the interlocutor said.
She noted that she is very proud that she is involved to such work, to such an event. After all, a hundred Europeans who have written their icon-talisman, will carry a small piece of Ukraine in their environment, and talk about it, about this kind of art to their relatives and friends.
The seminar will last until August 1, so they will have a lot of impressions.
Ihor Matushevskyi, Chairman of the St. Volodymyr Foundation, co-organizer of the Colloquium.
- This movement is created to help exchange experiences of parish life. From a small initiative, it has grown into an all-European movement. Every two years it is held in different countries. In 2005, our delegation of the St. Volodymyr Foundation took part for the first time in such an event, which we now host with honour and joy. It is at the same time a great responsibility to represent Ukraine because a significant part of the participants has arrived for the first time in Ukraine. From our guests, I have learned that for the first time they have faced with things that have become realia for us, things that are clear for Ukrainians. For example, they were surprised that in Soviet times it was impossible to go freely to socialist states. From us, they hear firsthand information about the situation in Ukraine. Even the fact that there is the war in Ukraine surprises them, they say they do not talk about it in their countries. Live communication cannot be replaced. When you look into each other's eyes, when you experience emotions, these things are impossible to convey via the Internet, via social networks.
From the very beginning, our ministry of the St. Volodymyr Foundation is carried out in three areas: educational, social service, public and political activities. Using different opportunities, we try to hold various meetings. This is an opportunity to talk about Ukraine and take advantage of the experience of others, to get a living example of how various laity organizations work in other countries. Their laity life is much less numerous but it is very effective. They have already gained some experience. On the other hand, our laity movement is activating, but it is quite spontaneous. Over time, this work will be regulated and more systematic, and such events provide an opportunity to adopt the best practices. For example, in Malta, priests cordially invite to work a variety of laity organizations, provide facilities, equipment - you should only work. Parishes organize their choir, their orchestra. Laity organizations have complete freedom to be active.