November 30, 2016


The eparchial coordinators of the Vibrant Parish movement of renewal of Ukrainian Catholic Church, participating in the Church-wide conference now taking place at Knyazhychi near Kyiv, Ukraine, had an unexpected morning of reflection and inspiration.
In the still dark of the winter morning on the last day of November, Bishops, priests and sisters made their way through the corridors of Prince’s Court Hotel to the ground transportation waiting to take them to the capital city of Kyiv for the day’s Divine Liturgy. Within forty minutes, they arrived at site that many had never seen and none will forget. It was the small wooden church, known as the ‘Ecumenical Chapel’ and an entire memorial area dedicated to the memory of “Heavenly Hundred” that were shot on the streets of Kyiv and the many others that died by order of their own government, because they wanted to be free of the enslavement of body and soul to which they were subjected for generations.
The small wooden chapel, hurriedly erected at the close of the Revolution of Dignity, is used open to the faithful of various denominations. It is mainly used by clergy of the Ukrainian Catholic and different Orthodox Churches. Since the time of the ‘revolution’ a new mutual respect and closeness has developed between the faithful of various confessions. The rector of the Kyiv seminary, Fr. Peter Zhuk, explained during his brief introduction before the Liturgy, that as the drawn-out conflict heated up, no one was asking “from which Church are you?”, they sought blessings and spiritual care from any of the priests that came out to be with them as they struggled for freedom and dignity.
As can be imagined, the Divine Liturgy celebrated in the small chapel was an extraordinarily powerful event. Representatives of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from around the world crowded into and managed to fit in the small space. All hearts were moved by the very fact of being right there on the spot where only recently was the blood finally cleaned and the cobblestones replaced. Here at the site that griped the attention of the world for months only a short while ago, they were united with each other and with the Lord through His gift of the Holy Eucharist. The significance was not lost on anyone that here at the site of bloodshed and self-sacrifice , Ukrainian Catholic clergy from the entire Church were celebrating the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ who first shed His blood to restore to all people the life and dignity that was intended for them by the Father from the beginning.
Following the Divine Liturgy a walking excursion was arranged to take the group along Instistutska Street where many had died and down to Independence Square - the now world-famous “Maidan”. Even now reconstruction is still underway for streets and buildings that were damaged during the revolution. The group made its way along Khreshchatyk Street to the European Square and back up Hrushevsky Street passing Ukraine’s parliament building the “Verkhovna Rada”. It was interesting to see that on the streets around Ukraine’s National Bank, many hundreds of people were gathering to protest some decisions. Some reports suggest that most were bussed-in and even paid by the protest organizers. However, a protest, especially one of this size, is always deserving of due attention and it was a positive sign that the Christian-democratic spirit was not lost for the people of Ukraine. They can still freely gather and make their voices heard.
The excursion walk was long and few in our group were properly dressed for winter weather, so we were happy to get back to the bus. Some, of the priests that had actually been there on the streets at the time of the revolution reminded the rest that it was nothing compared to standing on the street for days and weeks in the bitter winter cold. Our bus eventually made its way through the crowds of protestors and we were soon heading out the city back to Knyazhychi.
After a late and rushed breakfast we had yet another extraordinary event – a meeting with the former head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, His Beatitude Cardinal Lubomyr (Husar). He was first to initiate the groundwork of “Vision 2020” that has become better known as the “Vibrant Parish” movement. He resigned his office in 2011 as he did not want his failing health to inhibit the work that the head of the Church needed to do. Today, his eye-sight is practically lost, but his mind and desire to serve the Church remain as strong as ever. Everyone had the opportunity to meet him personally and share a few words. He knew many of the people that were there. He then spoke at length to the whole group encouraging all to appreciate how important the Vibrant Parish initiative is for the whole Church. There was also a ‘Q&A’ during which His Beatitude Lubomyr, who is now commemorated a “Archbishop”, openly responded to any question put to him by the conference participants.
The afternoon sessions involved the presentation and analysis of the all the statistics that were gathered from every parish of every eparchy and exarchate and other jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Catholic Church throughout the world. It ended up being one of the more animated discussions for two main reasons. Some felt that the method of gathering the statistics did not always reflect the diverse reality of the Church in different countries, while many were simply surprised by what the numbers suggested about the reality of many aspects of Church life. Sometimes the numbers showed enthusiastic growth and activity and sometimes the information had participants wondering if the stats could really be accurate. It was definitely a time of reflection and assessment. These statistics will now be taken back to the local bishops and eparchies for further study and reflection and, hopefully, will serve a resource for the realignment of pastoral efforts with the local Church communities.

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