July 3, 2019


As Metropolitan Lawrence was away to Rome for the meeting of the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops with Pope Francis, he could not attend one of his most loved summer traditions - the visit to the Children's Summer camp at Ukrainian Park. (rumour has it, however, that he may just make it back for a visit to the second week of the camp program... He will surely try). In his stead, however, he asked his Chancellor and one of the Seminarians to make the traditional annual visit.

Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski and Seminarian Alexander Pankiw drove from Winnipeg to arrive at the beautiful Ukrainian Park north of Gimli for a morning-afternoon program.

First, the entire Archeparchial Catholic Children's Camp gathered in the large Carpathian-esque St. Volodymyr wooden chapel for a midmorning Divine Liturgy. Sr. Georgia Shchavii, SSMI with the help of Seminarian Jay Korban (who is helping at both summer camps), lead the children in the responses. They did very well for only 3 days of practice! They recited and sang in unison, both in English and Ukrainian. Fr. Michael celebrated the Liturgy with the assistance of Seminarian Alexander Pankiw. Father preached on the church being a place "where heaven and earth meet... where God and His People meet". He asked the children to consider making their whole camp experience a place heaven and earth meet where they know that God is among them because of their kindness to each other and by the way that they would go out of their comfort zone to be welcoming to everyone - even if it seems like a bit of a challenge.

Following the Divine Liturgy, Camp Director Joanne Lewandosky-Kuzia thanked Fr Michael and Sem. Alexander. They sang a great "Mnohaya Lita". They also sang for the camp counsellors and in a special way for the Ukrainian Epistle reader Ol'ha - a girl that had recently arrived from the war zone in Eastern Ukraine. The love the children for their long-time camp Director really showed when Mnohaya Lita was intoned for 'Pani Joanne' they sang with their whole hearts long and enthusiastically.

The group then gathered for the traditional group picture on the front steps of the chapel.

At lunch, the campers and guests were treated to an all-you-could-eat meal of jumbo chicken fingers, tater tots, salad and a take-with-you dessert of massive ice cream cones. During the meal, Fr. Michael spoke on a theme of religious vocations. He invited the children to speak with the seminarians and religious Sisters working at the camp. "ask them about why they want to give their lives to the Lord". They then asked Seminarian Alexander Pankiw to share some of his vocation discernment and speak about "why he's doing what he's doing". Jay Korban, also a seminarian, was present, but in the interest of time, he spoke briefly, but agreed to chat over the next two weeks with anyone that wanted to about the idea of serving the Lord and His People as a priest...

Following the lunch, the children had time to get ready for one of the several special "mystery bus tours" that would take them to some interesting and fun sites in the area. The plan that afternoon was to visit a nature museum and a water park. Much of the program, including the mystery tours is organized and overseen by coordinator Dayna Konopelny among other senior counsellors.

Another major highlight of the trip is always the visit to the Plast Tabir (camp) in a different section of the vast Park. This year the camp is being coordinated by Sestrychka Monica Sim. They explained to their guests about the theme and spirit of the Tabir this year. It involved some globetrotting as the camp, divided into teams - with delightful names like смачні чоботи (tasty boots) солодкі шкарпетки (sweet socks) - would "visit" various countries around the world and learn about the culture and history and uncover some of its secrets. The previous day they spent in Greece and this day they were in Japan! Fr. Michael chatted with the group and they shared a lot of information and sang a few happy camp songs (They even did an encore - singing a great rendition of the Mad heads "Надія Є!"). It was simply a wonderful group and it was obvious that both the children and their counsellors were having a great, educational and fun time.

Lord, watch over all the children, grant them and their counsellors a wonderful experience and may they all come home safely and refreshed for the rest of the summer!

On the way back to Winnipeg, Sem. Alexander Pankiw, who is working with Syncellus Fr. Mark Gnutel in the Archeparchial Property office, asked to stop to see the site of the former Sts. Peter and Paul church in Winnipeg Beach. His department will be travelling around the province this summer assessing various properties and this drive back to the city was a perfect opportunity to get a head start....

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