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September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
31 August 2017
Mariana Karapinka, Catholic News Service

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, congratulates Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk during his enthronement as the new head of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago on 29 June. (photo: CNS/courtesy Stanley M. Wlodkowski)

With the appointment of two new Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the United States, church leaders are hoping to reach out to church members in the diaspora.

“We are used to thinking about our church in the U.S. as a stabilized and settled church. However, it still is a missionary church,” said Bishop-elect Andriy Rabiy, who will be ordained in Lviv, where he was born, 3 September. He will serve as auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

“Our parishes established a hundred years ago are not as strong as they used to be because people had moved,” he told Catholic News Service. “They go where the jobs are. And in these new places we don’t have our parishes and missions. We need to examine carefully these migration processes and go where our people are.”

Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Benedict Aleksiychuk, former auxiliary bishop of Lviv, was enthroned as the new head of the Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago 29 June. He, too, told CNS he felt the need to reach out to his people.

“My eparchy, for example, includes California with its Silicon Valley,” he said. “Many Ukrainian IT professionals work there, and the majority of them are not acquainted with the life of church. We need to go to them.”

Bishop Aleksiychuk said he has decided to establish a new department in his curia to be responsible for mission and strategy.

“This department will not deal with the routine challenges but will look in the future, will keep the hand on the pulse and will be constantly looking for the new ways to talk to people about God — the God they seek, sometimes unconsciously,” he said.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, the leader of more than 5 million Ukrainian Catholics worldwide, entrusted Bishop Aleksiychuk with the task of mission at his enthronement when he said, “We are a Ukrainian church, but not a church for Ukrainians.”

In the late 19th century, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, a Byzantine church, sent priests to the United States to minister to its members who had migrated. Churches, parishes, and eparchial or diocesan structures were established later in what is known as the diaspora.

Archbishop Shevchuk told CNS that church leaders decided to ordain Bishop-elect Rabiy in Lviv “as a symbol of unity of the global Ukrainian church.”

“All the bishops of our church from different countries and continents will be present, as this day we start our annual synod,” he said. “Therefore, the ordination will be the event not for one eparchy, but for the whole church.”

“These bishops were born in Ukraine but will serve our people in the diaspora,” he added. “That’s an important sign of unity and exchange of gifts within the church. When the (Ukrainian Catholic Church) in Ukraine was getting out of catacombs after the collapse of Soviet Union and started restoring its structures, our clergy and laity from the diaspora helped immensely sharing their resources — financial, human, expertise, etc. Now it's time for the mother-church to share.”

The Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington and a Ukrainian Catholic priest, said his church in the U.S. “needs dynamic pastors who will engage the people into the life of Christ and will stimulate the Christian life of the laypeople in our parishes.”

“We have to bring our unique tradition to the world,” he said noting that people of many different races view the Ukrainian Catholic Church as “their spiritual home.”

14 September 2016
Mariana Karapinka, Catholic News Service

The Rev. Mykhailo Romaniuk blesses families from the Ukrainian community of Paris on 3 September in St. Volodymyr the Great Cathedral to mark the beginning of a new school year. Ukrainian Catholic immigrants have found a welcome home in Paris.
(photo: CNS/Ian Langsdon, EPA)

On Sundays, the Saint-Germain-des-Pres quarter of Paris — known for its artistic cafes, expensive boutiques and numerous bookstores — is filled with people in embroidered shirts who speak Ukrainian.

Since 1943, the Ukrainian Catholic community has prayed at the Cathedral of St. Volodymyr the Great on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Through the years, the parish has become the center of Ukrainian cultural and social life in Paris.

“We don’t have a feeling that we are in Paris as we are walking down the Boulevard Saint-Germain on Sunday or other feasts; it's like in our city of Ivano-Frankivsk,” said Zoriana Dolishniak. She, her husband, Andriy, and two children came to Paris from Western Ukraine six years ago. In Ukraine, Andriy Dolishniak had his own little business, but it did not go well, and they decided to start over in France. He works as an electrician in a construction firm; Zoriana Dolishniak cleans private houses.

Their children go to school — ordinary French school and Saturday Ukrainian school.

The Dolishniaks do not have legal status in France; they are waiting for documents. Their story is typical for the Paris Ukrainian parish, where new immigrants are the majority.

“Eighty percent of our faithful are undocumented,” said Bishop Borys Gudziak, who serves the Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. He said the Paris parish has been totally transformed by an influx of immigrants who are fleeing social and economic dislocation and, more recently, war.

“We have before us the example of the apostles and the first generation of Christians,” the bishop said. “What chance did St. Peter have in Rome where he didn’t know the language, he was an undocumented immigrant with no citizen rights, while living in the city of marble, senators, warriors and chariots? What chance do the Greek (Byzantine) Catholics have in Paris with the population of 10 million? We ask ourselves with a smile and in confidence in God’s guidance.”

Father Mykhailo Romaniuk knows well about the parish transformation. Eighteen years ago as a young priest, he was appointed to Paris, where most of the congregation was an aging post-war diaspora. His appointment coincided with the start of mass immigration of Ukrainians to Western Europe, and he was one of the first to welcome them in Paris.

“When the inflow started, doors of the cathedral never closed. People needed support and information. Sometimes people who arrived had no place to sleep, and they slept in a tiny parish hall,” recalled Father Romaniuk. He said they were difficult years, yet the openness of the church for the people in need helped build up the community. “We now have many people because we were there for them.”

On Sundays, about 600 attend liturgies, but the parish can see up to 3,500 on Easter, the priest said. It has more than 80 baptisms annually.

Bishop Gudziak said the parish raises the spirit of people. “They come to church to be together with God and with each other. In the city they work hard, often in demeaning circumstances, they live very modestly in tenement dwellings. But in church the glory of the Lord and the fellowship of the community is theirs.”

One reason people are attracted to the parish is the school, established in the 1950’s. Today it has more than 200 students.

“The Ukrainian school at the parish is a great advantage,” said Andriy Dolishniak, who is convinced that it is very important for the children to grow learning Christian values. School offers lessons on Ukrainian language, literature, history and catechism. Dolishniak said that while accompanying his daughter Solomiya to her catechism classes, he was able to deepen his own faith.

The working immigrants are modern-days nomads; some of them stay for a couple of years, some move to other cities and countries. Father Romaniuk said he considers his parish a missionary parish.

“It’s hard to implement long-term programs, but we would like to give as much as we can to the parishioners,” he said.

One of the programs the parish implements is the global Ukrainian Catholic Church strategy, “The Vibrant Parish — a place to encounter the living Christ.”

“For our eparchy, Paris is a model parish which develops programs and conducts experiments that then radiate throughout the other 29 communities that we have so far,” said Bishop Gudziak.

One of the tasks is to foster lay involvement and initiative in administration, in ministry and in outreach. Lawyer Stephane Dunikowski is actively engaged in parish and eparchy life, which she said makes her feel needed. She said she tries “to help with my efforts, my energy, my time and also financially.”

Bishop Gudziak said parishioners organized collections for sick children in Ukraine whose parents do not have money for treatment. He said parishioners have been generous toward those who are suffering in Ukraine because of war and the Russian invasion.

Some French Catholics have discovered Byzantine spirituality in the parish, even though they do not always understand national tradition and even the language; cathedral liturgies are celebrated in Ukrainian.

“I feel at home in this community,” said a woman who asked only to be identified as Natalie, who visits the cathedral almost every day. “I don’t understand a word during the service, but I get a lot.”