Ukrainian Catholic leader inspires many gathered at St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church
By Nathan Rumohr
More than a decade ago Father Sviatoslav Shevchuk celebrated Divine Liturgy in Vancouver as a young priest. Now, 15 years later, he has returned as Archeparch Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
He again celebrated Divine Liturgy Sept. 1 at Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, 550 W 14 Ave. in Vancouver.
Known to Ukrainian Catholics as His Beatitude, the major archbishop greeted his people with humility and gave them a message of hope on the dawning of a new liturgical year.
"It is such a pleasure for me after 15 years to come back to this church, this holy temple," Major Archbishop Shevchuk said. "This is such a grace. Wondrous are the works of the Lord."
The major archbishop said he was also honoured by the fact that he would go on to lead the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops' synod Sept. 9 to 16 in Winnipeg. "The synod honours the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Canada's first Ukrainian bishop, Blessed Nykyta Budka."
Archbishop Shevchuk spoke about the power of the divine liberation referred to in the day's Gospel reading. In the fourth chapter of St. Luke Jesus returned to Nazareth and revealed, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me."
"Jesus Christ in this particular passage is announcing the Good News," Archeparch Shevchuk explained. He said because of Jesus revealing this, "We can receive the eternal salvation through Him with the Power of the Holy Spirit."
He connected the Gospel lesson to the new liturgical year and hoped the liturgical new year would bring many blessings to the faithful as they live out their faith.
The archeparch said it is not easy to be a Christian in today's Canadian society, and he asked the Holy Spirit to help Ukrainian Catholics "preserve their treasure (the faith) for generations and generations."
The major archbishop's presence at the Divine Liturgy attracted many Ukrainian Catholics from around the Lower Mainland.
Orysia Babec, a parishioner at the eparchy's Holy Eucharist Cathedral in New Westminster, was emotional when describing the major archbishop as a vibrant, young, and charismatic leader. She said it was wonderful for the Ukrainian Church to have a shepherd who would inspire young people and help the Church to grow.
"The Divine Liturgy itself was very emotional, and it was beautiful," she said as tears of joy streamed down her cheeks.
Ukrainian priests also were inspired. Father Edward Danylo Evanko, pastor of Dormition of the Mother of God Parish in Richmond and the celebrated thespian of the one-man show Damien, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy. He said he witnessed a spiritually gifted man in the major archbishop.
"He's amazingly charismatic," Father Evanko said. "To see this immensely prayerful, spiritually gifted man give the liturgy - I had the sense of being in another place, an unearthly place."
Major Archbishop Shevchuk celebrated the Divine Liturgy along with fellow Ukrainian bishops concelebrating. These included Archeparch Ihor Vozniak, CSsR, of Lviv; Eparch Peter Stasiuk, CSsR, of Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania; and Eparch Daniel Kozlinsky, Apostolic Administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchy in Argentina, as well as many priests.
Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, who also concelebrated Divine Liturgy, called the visit a blessing for the Church in the Lower Mainland.
"His Beatitude travelled a long way to visit with us and give witness to the strength of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada and throughout the world," he noted. "His presence is an important sign of both the unity and the diversity of the universal Church."