The Greek Catholic Church is thriving in Ukraine, according to reports from Sister Luiza Ciupa, S.S.M.I., director of the Patriarchal Catechetical Institute in Lviv. Visiting offices of CNEWA on 17 May, Sister Luiza says the people are eager to learn about the church and their religion. Although the Communists suppressed the church during its long reign, she reports, the church survived underground with the help of priests and nuns, who kept the faith. The people she says, “had the courage to learn.”
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union and Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the church has made strong inroads in religious formation. Catechism classes are conducted not only for children but for adults as well, she says. College students who have classes during the day receive religious instruction in the evenings, and there are summer camps for children that incorporate religious training. Members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church attend Bible classes conducted by Catholic teachers, she says, and relations between the two groups are amicable.
Members of the Eastern churches must work together to meet the needs of the one church, she says. In the process Sister Luiza adds, they can preserve their cultural differences but make them subordinate to the goal of the entire church.
Sister Luiza, a member of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, is responsible for religious education in schools and parishes in Ukraine. Her office, she reports, has published books that are used in the public schools. They are not religious, she says, but deal with matters of ethics and conduct. Her priority, she says, is catechetical formation. It is important, she feels, that the teachers have materials and develop programs that will enable them to be good teachers. She also reports that young people from countries outside Ukraine, such as Canada and the United States, go to Ukraine for the summer to receive training as catechists.
She contrasts the people of Ukraine who are eager to learn about and deepen their faith with those of Russia, who have survived communism but in the process have lost their faith. A sign of growing Catholic fervor, she says, is that the Basilian Fathers will open a new church in Kiev in late June. Sister Luiza also says that in Kiev so many people are seeking religious training for their children that there is no room for classes for some 200 children.
Sister Luiza, a native of Brazil, was visiting the United States for a week. The purpose of her trip was to meet with various Ukrainian dioceses in the United States, including the Ukrainian Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which encompasses Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.
Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA is a special agency of the Vatican, providing support to the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. CNEWA projects include needy child, seminarian and novice sponsorship programs; village redevelopment; health care and education and interfaith dialogue.