"I wish all scouts of Ukraine to be courageous on their path to sanctity."
An interview with Fr. Serhii KRUTOVSKYI, national chaplain in Ukraine for the Catholic Scouts of Europe
In September 2005 Fr. Serhii Krutovskyi, a priest of the Basilian order of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was chosen to be national chaplain of the Catholic Scouts of Europe (CSE) in Ukraine. This is a youth organization that functions in Greek and Roman Catholic churches and the main goal of which is educating youth through youth.
The pedagogy of a scout’s education is based on perfection and the development of four goals in a hierarchy: spirituality, the practical dimension of Christian service, health, and sports. Fr. Krutovskyi has previously worked with this organization. We asked the priest to share his experience and opinions concerning youth groups and various youth problems.
– Please tell us about how you worked with the scouts before you were chosen as national chaplain. Probably some concrete, either interesting or funny, cases made you closer to this organization? What do you get out of the CSE?
– I started to work with the CSE unexpectedly and on a daily base. When I was still studying in the seminary, special courses on ministry to scouts were organized for us. I did not take those classes because I was convinced that “this is not for me” and I would never have any business with this. The Lord saw it differently. In June 2004, a need appeared to leave the paper work that I was taking care of at that time. I went to a girl-scout camp situated near the village of Lahodiv, Peremyshliany District, Lviv Region. I went there with a very blurry image of what scouts were and of the role of a chaplain for them. I remembered this very first camp in my life and everything that I undertook for the first time there, like the firsts night in a tent or food cooked on the fire, the best. Some people even accuse me of remembering one incident from the camp in Lahodiv too well. We were having supper very late and in the darkness mistakenly used detergent instead of oil. I ate soup with a great taste and only wondered what kind of spices with such a strong smell were added to the soup.
After that camp my cooperation with the CSE started. It brought many new things to my life, too. Thanks to this cooperation I was able to undertake many interesting adventures and have a closer look at how the community lives. This experience helps me in my ministry.
– Why did you agree to become national chaplain?
– The answer to this question is very simple. This is because God called me to become a priest and I try to serve as a priest everywhere that people need it. In this period of my life there was a need for me to become the chaplain of the national structure of the CSE in Ukraine. So, I explain this as God’s will for me and aim to fulfill it as good as I can, understanding, though, my own natural limitations.
I also want to clarify that the chaplain of the national structure is not the “national” chaplain in the full sense of this word and does not have any hierarchical power above other chaplains, but serves the national structure and helps to coordinate the work of the chaplains.
– Is there a difference between secular youth organizations and youth organizations within the church? If there is, then what is it?
– The main goal of every youth organization should be educating and forming fully-developed persons. There cannot be a fully-developed person without developing his/her spiritual part. The spiritual development of the person is of greatest importance for youth organizations within churches, even if they are not essentially religious organizations. Everything else develops after spirituality. So, we can say that these organizations have many more opportunities to form a fully-developed person because of the basis on a strong foundation. It is unlikely that a building constructed on an unstable foundation will be firm.
– Please, share your views on the role and place of a chaplain in the organization.
– Much has been written and said regarding this theme. Even conferences dedicated to this theme are organized, and that is why it will be hard to describe the task of a chaplain for scouts in a few words. In general, I can say that he has to evangelize them, to care for their religious and spiritual development. In practice it can be implemented in such various ways as through the Liturgy, preaching, confession, personal talks, spiritual direction, discussions on religious themes, retreats, pilgrimages, and so on. The cooperation of the chaplain with the coordinator who is morally responsible for education in general, and specifically, the religious aspect of it is very important. Scout camp is a nice and rare chance for evangelization. The few days when the scouts live together with a priest always leave positive results.
– Have you ever had contact with the representatives of youth organizations from abroad? What is your experience, conclusions?
– Unfortunately, I have had contact with scout chaplains from other countries only when they were visiting Ukraine. For various reasons I never could take part in international scouting events. I have not had contacts with other youth organizations yet.
Although the life of youth is different depending on the country of residence, I think that sharing experience is very useful because it gives the opportunity to benefit from the spiritual achievements of other people so as not to make the same mistakes.
– What are the most urgent problems of youth that would you list, based on your own experience? How would you comment on the phrase of John Paul II: “Youth are the hope of the world”?
– The youth of all times and nations have more or less the same problems related to the psychophysical development of the person. Scientific and technical progress and different social conditions in different countries can cause some specific problems. Specifically, it is easy to notice that today young people do not always use the fruits of hi-tech critically and responsibly. The problem of drugs, sexual sins, and crime still remains very urgent. Such problems are exactly the consequences of thinking not critically and “swimming with the current.” Also, it is noticeable that it is very difficult for the modern person to recognize any authority. He/she also tries to escape from him/herself very often.
Nevertheless, every young person has a very important feature: there is some noble lack of peace that causes him or her, if directed in the right way, not to stop with obtaining temporary things but to look for that which lasts forever. So youth are always something in front of which the world moves and something that reveals the eternal youth of God and his church to the world.
– Your wishes and addresses to the scouts?
– I wish all scouts of Ukraine to be courageous on their path to sanctity. Scouting is called to educate a perfect person, and this perfection is the sanctity of life. Do not be afraid of being a saint! Sometimes it requires one to swim against the stream. You are not alone on this hard path. Millions of those who have the same problems aim at the same goal right next to you. Christ is with you. He is the source and goal of sanctity. The holy Mother of God is with you. She is an example of the fact that sanctity in the person’s life is not something that is impossible to reach.
– Thank you for the interview.
Olena LEVCHUK conducted the interview, which RISU’s Ukrainian-language site posted on 20 June 2007.