By Brent Kostyniuk
Major Archbishop Shevchuk visits Edmonton students
On June 6, His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, spiritual
head of six million Ukrainian Catholics worldwide, celebrated a Divine
Liturgy for more than 500 Ukrainian bilingual students and their teachers
as the first official event during his visit to Edmonton. The students
attend bilingual schools in Edmonton and neighbouring Sherwood Park from
kindergarten to Grade 12.
The Divine Liturgy, held at St. Basil Church, was concelebrated
by Bishop David Motiuk and some two dozen priests from throughout the
Edmonton eparchy. As the Major Archbishop’s procession approached the altar,
several children presented him with the traditional Ukrainian greeting
of bread and salt. With its origins in ancient Greece, the ceremony is
rich in symbolism. Bread was long considered the staple of life. Salt
reflects the riches of the earth and friendship which will not spoil,
but more importantly reminds of us of Christ’s call to be the salt
of the earth. Taken together, bread and salt symbolize deep hospitality.
Prior to the sermon, Bishop David introduced the Major
Archbishop and spoke about the Ukrainian bilingual program which is part
of the Catholic school systems. Children attend regular classes, with
instruction taking place in Ukrainian, according to their level of comprehension.
In the higher grades, virtually all instruction is in Ukrainian. Bishop
David praised the program as giving students an opportunity to “.
. . learn to speak, read, and write the Ukrainian language, in the context
of our faith. The holy trinity of home, parish and school come together
to collaborate with the parents in raising their children. The Ukrainian
bilingual program is my pride and joy.”
In his sermon, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav spoke of his
excitement at being able to meet the children, see their eyes and hear
the lovely singing of their voices. “Before we started, Bishop David said you were
all excited to meet me. Well, I am excited to meet you! You are our future
in Canada,” he told them.
He reminded them this was the year of Canada for the Ukrainian
Greek Catholic Church, as it marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival
of Bishop Nykyta Budka in this country. He also reminded the children
the next worldwide Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will
take place in Winnipeg this fall. “I hope many of the bishops will
be able to come here to Edmonton to be able to visit with you, as I have
been able to do.”
Speaking in both Ukrainian and English, he drew a chuckle from the children
when he asked Bishop David if he had pronounced a word correctly in English.
At one point, the Major Archbishop asked the youngest children to raise
their right hands. He then raised his hand and told them he was like
them because he is the youngest Ukrainian bishop, having been appointed
in January 2009 at the age of 39. He was elected Major Archbishop in
A student presents Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk a bouquet of roses at a Divine Liturgy for more than 500 Ukrainian bilingual students in Edmonton recently. (Victoria Kostyniuk, photo)
He continued his sermon on a theme from the Gospel reading — I
am the bread of life. “Jesus is the bread of life who came down
from heaven. Right away we will receive that bread. It is not a thing,
but a person; a person we can talk to.” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav
concluded his sermon by expressing his gratitude to the children for
coming and giving him the opportunity to share the Divine Liturgy with
them. As he spoke, there could be no doubt his happiness and excitement
His Beatitude’s visit is part of the Edmonton eparchy’s
celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the installation of the first
Ukrainian Catholic Bishop of Canada, the Blessed Martyr Nykyta Budka.
Even as Pope John Paul II called on the church to breathe through both lungs — East and West — His Beatitude Sviatoslav’s visit to Edmonton is a reminder that mutual understanding and co-operation takes many forms. Within itself, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church breathes through the lungs of the faithful in Ukraine and those dispersed throughout the world, the lungs of those who speak only Ukrainian, and those speak only a variety of other languages. This Divine Liturgy was a wonderful example of the Ukrainian Catholic Church breathing through both lungs.
Kostyniuk, who lives in Edmonton, has a bachelor of theology from Newman and is a freelance writer. He and his wife Bev have been married for 33 years.