Take Five: 5 Reasons the Ukrainians Were in Canada

The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, blesses the icon of the Blessed Bishop-Martyr Nykyta Budka, the first Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparch of Canada. (photo: Carl Hétu)

Last Sunday marked the conclusion of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Winnipeg. So what were all these Ukrainians (whose church is based in Kiev) doing in Canada?

There are a number of reasons. Here are five:

  1. This year marks the 100th anniversary of when the first bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Nykyta Budka, arrived in Winnipeg. Bishop Nykyta is considered a model of holiness, a man who sacrificed his life for his people. In 1927, he left Canada and returned to Ukraine; 22 years later, he was arrested for opposing Stalin’s elimination of the church. Bishop Nykyta was sent to a concentration camp in Central Asia, where he was martyred in 1949. Pope John Paul II declared him blessed during a visit to Ukraine in 2001.
  2. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic See of Winnipeg has become the first metropolitan see of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church outside Ukraine.Over the years, Winnipeg has evolved into one of the most important centers of Ukrainian cultural and religious life. In addition to being the seat of theUkrainian Greek Catholic metropolitan archbishop, the city of Winnipeg is also home to the Ukrainian Orthodox metropolitan archbishop. The close ties between Catholics and Orthodox of the Ukrainian tradition in Canada serve as an example of cooperation and ecumenism. At the synod, the Ukrainian Orthodox metropolitan of Canada, Archbishop Yurij Kalistchuk, participated as an honorary guest.
  3. Canada is home to more than a million people of Ukrainian descent, most of whom have links to western regions of Ukraine that for centuries were under the care of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The synod provided Ukrainian Canadians with a strong reminder that their church leadership cares for them and is serious about addressing their spiritual needs and challenges.
  4. The year 2012 has been declared by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church a “Year of the Laity.” Over the last century, members of the church in Canada have helped create a network of civil and faith-based organizations. Over the decades, groups such as the Ukrainian Canadian Women’s League, Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood of Canada, Ukrainian branches of the Knights of Columbus and the Ukrainian Catholic Youth of Canada have played a crucial role in helping the community and the church to thrive. The synod acknowledged their valuable achievements. The synodal fathers also reflected on the ways this positive experience could benefit the entire church. In particular, they discussed how the Canadian experience could benefit their brothers and sisters in Ukraine who, due to decades of Communist authoritarianism, did not have the opportunity to create similar institutions.
  5. By holding its executive leadership meetings and synods in various places around the globe, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church manifests its “catholic,” that is, universal, identity, and that it lives and flourishes around the world. Recently, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who leads this church, emphasized that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is not a church of Ukrainians, but first of all a church of Christ following the ancient Byzantine Ukrainian tradition open to all.

CNEWA works closely with many Ukrainian bishops in Canada and Ukraine. And, as an expression of solidarity with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, CNEWA Canada’s national director, Carl Hétu, participated in the closing liturgies of the synod in Winnipeg and had a chance to greet personally the synod’s participants and members of the Winnipeg Ukrainian community.

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