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U.S. bishop travels to Ukraine, sees projects supported by American funds

12 Jul 2018 – By Don Clemmer, Catholic News Service

STRADCH, Ukraine (CNS) — People walk miles to participate in the pilgrimage to Stradch, a village about 12 miles northwest of the city of Lviv. Here the Ukrainian Catholic Church gathers every 26 June to honor its beatified martyrs in an outdoor liturgy before a carpet of pilgrims that stretches to the surrounding woods and hills. The liturgy is presided over by Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

This year, near the end of the liturgy, Archbishop Shevchuk introduced some of the concelebrating bishops in attendance, including one American, Bishop John Michael Botean of the Romanian Catholic Eparchy of St. George’s, based in Canton, Ohio. Archbishop Shevchuk noted that Bishop Botean’s presence represented the solidarity of the U.S. bishops and Catholics in the United States. Bishop Botean was representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, which distributes funds from a national second collection, taken up Ash Wednesday in most U.S. dioceses.

As the U.S.-based shepherd of a Byzantine Catholic Church himself, albeit one rooted in neighboring Romania, Bishop Botean told Our Sunday Visitor newsweekly his background offered him “opportunities that no Latin rite bishop would ever have here.” Calling Byzantine Catholicism “an extended family for me,” he said he wanted to use the shared identity “to strengthen the sense of solidarity.”

Bishop Botean said he was struck by how the Ukrainian Catholic Church “really gets it” when it comes to mission and that the staff are “doing really creative work, with very few resources.”

This was evident in his visits to the administrative offices of the patriarchal curia in both Lviv and Kiev, where a structure comparable to the USCCB — and made possible through funding from the collection — helps the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church work collaboratively.

An effort like building marriage preparation programs from the ground up would sound familiar to Catholics in the United States, but other efforts are more innovative, such as intentionally facilitating exposure between the elderly and young people.

“I spent my time with my grandparents,” Father Bohdan Tymchyshyn, who oversees the family life efforts of the patriarchal curia, noted of his own formation in the faith. Meeting with the U.S. delegation 27 June, Father Tymchyshyn highlighted the role of family in evangelization.

“Transmission of faith — it belongs to the family.” He added that families come to church together, not just for faith, but for the community that parish life engenders. “It helps the family itself and also the young people to learn from each other … especially on the moral issues.”

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