November 29, 2016


Those gathered at the Prince’s Court conference hotel in Knyazhychi, Ukraine woke up to a surprise. We arrived the day before (or some earlier) to a snowless, relatively warm November day. Throughout the night a heavy snow fell, covering Ukraine with a blanket of the white stuff. It still wasn’t terribly cold, however, and the snow gave the village an image appropriate for the season that is upon us…
       The day began with an early morning, but glorious Divine Liturgy led by Bishop Bohdan Danylo of Parma, Ohio and sung by the Kyiv Seminary Choir. After which, everyone prepared for the long day with an excellent buffet breakfast and good coffee.
       The program of this conference includes, besides the other liturgical services, a Lectio Divina reflection on Sacred Scripture every day. The Bible excerpt this morning was of Christ’s encounter with a group of Pharisees (Luke 11:42-46).
The first sessions of the day were entitled “Serving one’s neighbour – Diakonia” and the presenters spoke on the whole aspect of Gospel living that incudes our commitment to social issues, social justice and care for those around us in need. Fr. Andrew Nahirnyak, the vice-president of Caritas-Ukraine, asked the participants to explore the widest possible vision of Social Service. He spoke of a theological and even liturgical approach as well as developing the perhaps more obvious and perhaps more practical educational and administrative aspects.
He expressed a great thank you to the Eparchies of the diaspora that contributed so much material and financial support for Ukraine over the last couple of years in this period of great need. One of the important messages that we were all asked to explore more and more every day is that the laity are very gifted and willing to assist and end are very capable to lead initiatives to amazing successes. Invite them and let them do it!
Also a director of the Lviv Education Foundation that specializes in the field of volunteer development, Maryana Kashchak, offered a similar message. She spoke of the simple, but tried and true, steps needed to see through a successful charitable project – especially with the capable use of volunteers that are more than willing and waiting for an invitation.
Andrew Was’kowycz, the president of Ukraine’s national branch of the international charitable organization Caritas, also addressed the conference with a very engaging talk on what Caritas does in helping hundreds of thousands of people in need. He spoke of the 1.6 million internal refugees that are now found in Ukraine as a result of the war being waged by the Russian-backed rebels in the eastern provinces of the country. He painted an astonishing picture of the work that Caritas-Ukraine does for the poor, the victims of war and their families as well as for the AIDS and HIV-infected and children of the street.
The following smaller-group discussions dealt with the practical way in which eparchies can meet the need for social assistance within the eparchies themselves and especially their parishes.  Further presentations included the presentation of professionally-made videos on particular parishes and how those parishes are being transformed into truly vibrant parishes where visitors and regular parishioners can indeed “encounter the living Christ”. In some cases, the parish priests from those parishes were able to be present to expand upon the video and answer questions about practical matters.
Not one of the videos shown at  the Conference (those will soon be online) but one of many Vibrant Parish videos that can be found on youtube…

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