WINNIPEG, Manitoba (CNS) — Ukrainian Catholic bishops from four continents gathered for a final celebration Sept. 16 as they closed their weeklong Synod of Bishops.
One of their emphases was on the role of the laity, and the final “gala,” as it was billed, included the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus, an honor guard and the Selo Ukrainian Dancers.
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, the elected head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, challenged his audience of 800 to live Christian life to the fullest and not as “lukewarm, nominal Christians.”
“If we allow ourselves to be overcome so we don’t pray or enter into liturgy, we will cease to be a church,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “We are called to be people of prayer, gasping for the air of the Holy Spirit.
“Sometimes our churches are more like Ukrainian museums,” he added. “We need vibrant parishes, a place to encounter the living Christ. May our encounter today fill us with new faith, energy and perseverance.”
Reinvigorating Ukrainian parishes is part of Vision 2020, the long-range pastoral plan for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was suppressed for decades under Soviet rule.
After an opening Divine Liturgy in Winnipeg Sept. 9, the 38 bishops in attendance moved to Portage La Prairie, a city of about 13,000 west of Winnipeg. Focusing on the theme, “The Role of the Laity in the Life and Mission of the Church,” they heard presentations and reports before breaking into smaller thematic groups.
A statement issued at the end of the synod said the bishops acknowledged the role of the laity in preserving the faith when the church was suppressed in the 20th century, and they issued a pastoral letter to the laity; it was not immediately available in English.
“The laity must be collaborators with the bishops and priests in pastoral work and, with their giftedness andby their talents, contribute toward the building up of the body of Christ,” the statement said.
The bishops proclaimed a patron of Ukrainian Catholic laity: Blessed Volodymyr Pryjma, a choir director from the parish of Stradch, Ukraine, who in 1941 was tortured and murdered by Soviet paramilitary agents in a forest after taking Communion to a sick woman with his priest.
They also pledged to support Ukrainians who have emigrated from their home country.
Bishop Borys Gudziak, newly named bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland, told Catholic News Service before the synod began that in the last 18 years, Ukraine has lost up to 15 percent of its population to emigration.
“People have been leaving in droves,” he said, noting that, in many countries, the Ukrainians are illegal and living on the margins of society.
Bishop Gudziak was one of four bishops elected to the permanent synod for the next five years. Others were Archbishop Volodymyr Vijtyshyn Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine; Bishop Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, British Columbia; and Bishop Jaroslav Pryriz of Sambir- Drohobych, Ukraine. Next year’s general Synod of Bishops will be Aug. 11-13 in Kiev, Ukraine, and will have as its theme the new evangelization.