Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Transfiguration


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Laudato, Si: Praise be to you, my Lord

  It’s September: a month that so poetically reflects life’s “harmonious dissonance”! Summer draws to a close, and the earth is bursting with ripeness. Yet, the sweet fulness of growth is tinged with a hint of decay. Without the immediate labour of harvesting, fruits of the earth rot and feed the soil, rather than people and animals. We are part of nature and our actions impact the cycles of life. As nature ends another year of creating life, we begin another year of co-creating: processing harvests, beginning a new school year, beginning a new liturgical year.

  This September is particularly unique in that also we have a federal election and our Church, together with other Faiths, have designated September as the Season of Creation. Ultimately, we are in a season of decisions. And decisions carry potential for healing and hope. COVID persists, but our world is never static; we carry on, albeit with pandemic repercussions that people exhibit in opposing ways. We continue to see displays of human behaviour ranging from the most self-less to the most selfish. Let’s strengthen the former and overpower current surges of animosity with a concerted force of actions for goodness.

  As we enter the month of September, let’s join the “Laudato Si” movement that is gathering momentum throughout the world. The words Laudato Si begin a prayer of St Francis: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs” (Laudato Si 1.). This ecumenical movement calls for “common care for our common home”.

  In the words of Pope Francis:

“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.

This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters (Laudato Si 2.)”.

In the following weeks we’ll talk about Laudato Si approaches and goals to use in our own life and the life of our parish that strive towards healing and hope for our societies and the environments we inhabit.

  Also, we’ll include pages of an educational book about Bishop Budka that was published in Manitoba for young students. The martyr Bishop Budka gave his life for healing and hope in our communities here and in Ukraine. His legacy can help us in this particular time of creation.

May we actively be co-creators with our God who is Love and the source of all goodness.

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Our faith teaches us that we are members of God’s family and our choices must reflect our common good and the good of God’s creation

I’m disconcerted with newscasts covering our current elections. We see such unbridled malice directed at elected politicians who have tried to steer our country through the unprecedented hardships of a global pandemic. I am dismayed at how people place their energy into what appears to be violent anger—growing into a hysteria of unkindness aimed at anyone who differs from them in opinion or appearance.

The gospel readings this Sunday directly address this human behaviour. In Matthew, we hear the story of the fellow who owes a large sum of money to his creditor. Not having the funds he owes, he begs for accommodation—time to pay back, deferral of punishment—anything! The manager feels sorry for the defaulter, sees his plight, and cancels the debt.

Imagine. In this country, when the pandemic struck, tax payment was deferred, some of us received payments to help us through income loss . . .

Well, we know what happens in the parable: instead of being grateful for the compassion he received, the debt dodger violently punishes a man unable to repay money owed to him. The injustice is blatant. Despite the passage of 2 millennia, we feel indignation at such a portrait of flagrant entitlement. And human nature remains the same. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians also appeals to our sense of fairness, justice, and compassion. Paul’s readers begrudge the income owed to their spiritual leaders. They begrudge others having what they themselves have to live comfortably. Both readings speak to human impulses and freedom of choice. We have in us a basic instinct towards greed, selfishness, self-interest. Also, we have the freedom to rise above our base impulses to choose justice, compassion, kindness. Through Christ we can choose goodness; we can choose to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated.

Our freedom to see the transfigured world is not a whimsical idea for Sundays only. It is a serious life choice that can be unpopular and feel uncomfortable. However, the more we walk the path, the easier it becomes. Walking in the steps of Christ we join untold numbers of others on a road of constant discovery, fresh relationships, and creative forces.

On Sept 20th we’ll be electing MPs to represent us in parliament. On what do we base our decisions? Whomever we choose, there are questions to ask ourselves before we check the ballot box: Does community welfare outweigh individual desire?  Are taxes vilified? It is only through taxes that we can have healthcare for everyone.

Pope Francis has asked all Catholics to dedicate September as a month of prayer for us to make choices “that promote a simple and sustainable lifestyle.” He sees this not only as how we treat our environment, but more fundamentally about the choices we make in all aspects of our life. In his appeal he speaks of young people who “have the courage to undertake projects for environmental and social improvement, since the two go together.” Pope Francis’s reflections can guide us in our vote later this month.

–Are we choosing a candidate who will support and enhance our public health care system? Are they protecting our elderly (Long Term care) and our children (childcare).

–Is our vote going to someone who will help address the social inequities which have been so clearly manifested during this pandemic?

–Pope Francis says: “Our degradation of the natural world is (…) already undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people—or 40 percent of humanity.” Will our vote be respectful of the environment or ignore the dire global situation and continue what he refers to as “ravaging the very ecosystems that underpin our societies.”

Often our politicians are successful because they appeal to our particular desires as individuals; our faith teaches us that we are members of God’s family and our choices must reflect our common good and the good of God’s creation.

Each Christian man and woman, every member of the human family, can act as a thin yet unique and indispensable thread in weaving a network of life that embraces everyone. May we feel challenged to assume with prayer and commitment, our responsibility for the care of creation. May God, ‘the lover of life’ (Wisdom 11:26), grant us the courage do good without waiting for someone else to begin, or until it is too late.”   Pope Francis

Quotes from Pope Francis taken from “Pope highlights ‘sustainable lifestyle’ in prayer intention for September” Sept. 2, 2021 La Croix International

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To see through Christ’s eyes, we see the miracle of fruit, of sustenance, we see the healing power of flowers and herbs, we see the peaceful end of a loving life as sleep before a new awakening.

This past Sunday we blessed fruits of the season in celebration of our praznyk, the Transfiguration, and this weekend we bless flowers and herbs, remembering the death of the Mother of God: Uspennia. Every year the blessed produce of the earth calls us to revisit our perception: how we see—ourselves, our world, each other. The gospels teach us that the world is transfigured through Christ. As Christians, as Ukrainian Catholics, as members of our parish, our tradition points to the sanctity of all creation. We’ve said that we are a transfigured community—coming together for our liturgies to strengthen our desire to be light in our world. On Mt Tabor, the disciples saw their friend illuminated in divine light: Jesus the Christ of the Triune God. In time they recognized and recorded that we too must strive to live in the dazzling reality that God is in us and in everything around us.

Dare I let this fact transform me? Dare I deny it?

  Perhaps the most difficult barrier to my transfiguration is letting myself believe that I, with all my faults, insecurities, and secrets, have God in me—whether I like it or not. I am (you are) loved—whether or not I choose to acknowledge it. Transfiguration comes to us when we consciously choose to see, to live, through love—Christ-like love: not romantic sentimentalism, but the essential life force of creation. When I let myself feel integrally loved, I glimpse the transfigured world: God’s love in everything connecting everything, without exception.

To see through Christ’s eyes, we see the miracle of fruit, of sustenance; we see the healing power of flowers and herbs, we see the peaceful end of a loving life as sleep before a new awakening. A transfigured perception can’t turn away from its connections. To see as Christ did is to reject learned prejudices that obscure what we might encounter before us. Transfigured sight sees the plight of Afghani people; hears the lament of Haitians, recognizes the loss of indigenous lives, grieves the degradation of the environment and stands with women, abused at work and at home.

Transfigured sight isn’t blinded by despair or deluded by conspiracies or pious hope. Transfigured sight looks for Christ, for Love, within oneself, and finding love generates strength and confidence to oppose what is wrong and takes action for justice in whatever steps are possible.

  The martyrs depicted on our new icon were ordinary people who lived their regular daily lives as best they could. They found themselves in circumstances of extraordinary cruelty, violence, and inhumanity, yet they managed to live in the light of the Transfiguration, being an oasis of love even for their captors. In times of suffering and terror, we often wonder why God has abandoned us. Yet, just as Christ walked with the most unwelcome of his culture and religion, God remains with us and in us. We can strive to see reality transfigured and become one with it. We can carry the blessed flowers and herbs of Uspennia (Dormition) with us throughout life so that our existence becomes a source of beauty and healing.

“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”

These feast days of sharing fruits and flowers, carry a spirit of contrasting realities: fear/hope, life/death, joy/sorrow, earth/heaven. As we end another COVID praznyk, I hope we have garnered some strength from each other to enable us to continue caring, sharing, and loving. We are in a time of COVID exhaustion, climate disaster, social inequality, and global terror. May our community of transfiguration generate love and energy to hold the tensions of today with positive action towards justice and peace.

“Thanks to God and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19. They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together. Being vaccinated with vaccines authorised by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love. Love for oneself, love for one’s family and friends, love for all people.”

Pope Francis Aug. 20, 2021

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Nykyta Budka — bishop, pioneer, and martyr (1877-1949)

Про священномученика Никиту Будки дивись:

Amongst the martyrs depicted on our new icon, to the right of Metropolitan Sheptytsky is a figure for whom we, members of our parish, can feel particularly grateful. The first Ukrainian Catholic bishop of Canada, Nykyta Budka, came to Kitchener in 1926 to bless the newly built sanctuary for our nascent community of the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord.

Blessed Martyr Budka began his life’s arduous journey in Dobromirka, Zbarazh Region, on June 7th, 1877. In 1905 he was ordained a priest by Metropolitan Sheptytsky. In October 1912, he was ordained bishop and assigned to serve our people in Canada.
The task awaiting him in Canada was daunting: 17 priests and communities of faithful from Nova Scotia to Alberta!
He centred his ministry in Winnipeg.

  His first undertaking was to assure our newly immigrated people that their Church cares for them, while he negotiated with Roman Catholic bishops who claimed control over our Ukrainian Greco-Catholic faithful. Bishop Budka ministered to our growing Canadian Church with selfless energy and fortitude. He travelled to visit all Ukrainian settlements, wrote pastoral letters, encouraged the establishment of parish schools, catechism for children; he founded orphanages and instituted hospitals run by the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate.

However, the war and postwar years were by far the most harrowing. The spite of some Ukrainians and the ignorance of Canadian authorities resulted in Bishop Budka’s arrest for treason in 1918. (This was due to a letter he wrote in 1914—prior to the commencement of war—where he mentioned a need to pray for the Austrian Emperor.) The trial took place and the charges were dropped, but the judge warned the bishop to watch what he says.

Another hardship the bishop endured was the conflict amongst our people regarding the Petro Mohyla residence in Saskatoon. The rift arose between those wanting lay or Church ownership of the cultural centre. His opponents vilified the bishop in the press and historians claim this was a factor in the fragmentation of the community and the establishment of the Orthodox Church in Canada (1918).

  The hard work and relentless accusations against him took a toll on Bishop Budka’s health. He applied for leave of his duties as bishop and returned to Ukraine the next year. Leaving behind a mature, strong Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada, he joined Metropolitan Sheptytsky and worked closely with him in Lviv. There his health improved, but not fully.

  In addition to his responsibilities in the metropolia, Bishop Budka restored the church in Zarvanytsia, where the wonder-working icon of the Mother of God is kept. This is where our parish’s UCWLC has funded a summer camp experience for residents of the Petryky orphanage.

 April 11th, 1945, all Ukrainian Catholic bishops in Soviet territory are arrested. Bishop Budka is accused of anti-Soviet activity and sentenced to 8 years imprisonment in a concentration camp near Karaganda. He worked as a medic and died there October 1st 1949. His body was thrown on the taiga for wild animals to devour, so that his grave wouldn’t become a place of devotion for prisoners. He had garnered great respect from others of all ethnicities and religions. Even the prison guards, who were to strip his body naked, honoured him by leaving his body clothed.

This Blessed Martyr not only blessed our church, but his antimension—signed by him in 1926—hangs on the wall opposite the new icon of Ukrainian martyrs.

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Emilian Kovch — priest, patriot, and righteous (1884-1944)

Інформація по-укр.::

“Kovch, whose German was perfect, yelled at the German soldiers to let him into the synagogue [which probably the Germans had set aflame]. They were shocked into silence and let him in. Father immediately began to carry people out of the burning synagogue. Among those that Fr. Kovch saved was rabbi of Belz Aaron Rokeach.”

Fr. Emilian Kovch, a priest and martyr, was born on 20 August 1884, in Kosmach near Kosiv. After graduating from the College of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1911. In 1919 he became field chaplain for the Ukrainian Galician Army. After the war and until his imprisonment in the Second World War he conducted his priestly ministry in Przemysliany, at the same time tending to his parishioners’ social and cultural life. He helped the poor and orphans, though he had six children of his own.

  During World War II he carried out his ministry, preaching love to people of all nationalities and rescuing Jews from death. He was arrested by the Gestapo on 30 December 1942. He displayed heroic bravery in the concentration camp, protecting the prisoners sentenced to death from falling into despair.

  He died in the ovens of the Majdanek Nazi death camp on 25 March 1944. He was recognized as a “Righteous Ukrainian” by the Jewish Council of Ukraine on 9 September 1999.

I understand that you are trying to free me. But I am asking you not to do anything. Yesterday they killed 50 persons here. If I I were not here, who would help them to endure these sufferings? I thank God for His kindness to me. Except heaven this is the only place I would like to be. Here we are all equal: Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Russians, Latvians and Estonians. I am the only priest here. I couldn’t even imagine what would happen here without me. Here I see God, Who is the same for everybody, regardless of religious distinctions which exist among us. Maybe our Churches are different, but they are all ruled by the same all-powerful God. When I am celebrating the Holy Mass, everyone prays . . .. Don’t worry and don’t despair about my fate. Instead of this, rejoice with me. Pray for those who created this concentration camp and this system. They are the only ones who need prayers… May God have mercy on them…” — From Fr. Emilian Kovch’s letters written in the concentration camp to relatives.

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Sister Lavrentia (Harasymiv) (1911-1952)

The martyr Sister Lavrentia (Harasymiv) was born on 30 September 1911 in the village of Rudnyky, Lviv District. In 1931 she entered the congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Tsebliv. In 1933 she made her first vows. Sr. Lavrentia practiced herbal medicine and taught catechism. In 1938 she went to the Sisters’ house (monastery) in Khyriv. In 1950 she agents of the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB) attacked the house and the sisters were arrested. Sr. Lavrentia was sent to Boryslav. Eventually, she was sentenced to lifelong exile in the Tomsk region. She was sick with tuberculosis and had to live in a room with a paralyzed man. She prayed much and did manual labour, patiently enduring inhuman living conditions and the lack of medical attention.

  She died, as a martyr for the faith, on 28 August 1952 in the village of Kharsk in Siberia’s Tomsk Region.

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Sister Tarsykia Matskiw, SSMI (1919-1944)

“She modeled saintliness in life’s ordinariness.”

Текст по-українському: August 08.2021U

  The period of the underground for the UGCC, revealed the love and devotion to Christ’s Gospel of bishops, monastics, and laity. Their lives and martyrdom gave witness to the holiness and action of the Spirit “in” them and “through” them. When, in 2001, 28 Ukrainian Catholics were recognized as “blessed”, they represented the enduring loyalty of our Church to Christ. There are so many more whose names we will never know, but we acknowledge that due to their self-sacrifice and commitment our “silenced Church”, “Church of the martyrs”, has emerged from the underground bursting into bloom from the bountiful seeds sown by its saints. The Church has seen both destruction (liquidation) and resurrection (legalization); it was a silenced Church with its hierarchy in the camps of Mordovia, Siberia, and Kazakhstan, but it endured and received the “wreath of glory”, which was her renewal at the end of the century. . . .

Whenever we speak of saints, subconsciously we expect to hear about extraordinary events or suffering that resulted in sainthood. There was little of this in the life of Blessed Tarsykia. Her life became extraordinary by fulfilling daily tasks responsibly and being ready to give her life for Christ. She modeled saintliness in life’s ordinariness. Here we may not face persecution, but Blessed Tarsykia exemplifies the need for each of us to strive towards sainthood in our quotidian living.

Olha Matskiv was born on March 23, 1919 in Khodoriv, Ukraine. She was the eldest of Roman and Maria Matskiv’s four children. Her father had a supervisory position at the railway, and the family moved to Ravy-Ruska when his job required it.  As a child Olha developed a love for nature, all living things, church and prayer. Her niece, Olha Kudlyk, describes Olha’s childhood from her memoirs, as she heard from family stories: “She was obedient, thoughtful, and loving towards her parents and siblings.” Similarly, another sister recalls: “She would gather flowers from the field to decorate the roadside chapel on her way to baba’s. She would save injured creatures and mend their wounds.” Olha’s mother taught her to see the world as God’s gift. No wonder she began to feel called to a monastic life, after finishing high school in Lviv.

Olha’s mother, however, was so against her entering a convent that she forbade her attending daily liturgies. Undeterred, Olha secretly left for church in the early mornings and returned in time to make breakfast for the waking family.   In time, Olha asked for her parents’ blessing and despite her mother’s objection, Olha joined the SSMIs in Krystynopil. So began a new chapter of her life which ended at the “Golgotha” of the second descent of Bolsheviks on Lviv. From the start, with her joyful nature and dedicated service, Olha embraced the monastic life. On the 4th of November, 1938, she accepted her habit, took the monastic name of Tarsykia, and made her first vows. Her responsibilities included overseeing the convent workshop, teaching sewing, and being the gatekeeper. In September, 1939, Soviet armies came to Krystynopil. The front line of battle was close to the monastery. In a letter to her parents, dated September 2nd, 1941, Sr. Tarsykia writes: “We have experienced much: war, bombs, bullets, and the front line. We have lived through horrendous waves of endless bombing by the Bolsheviks. At times we were more certain of death than survival.”

  In 1943-44, when the Soviet armies advanced through Western Ukraine, the sisters were given the option to leave the community and go home, but according to Sr. Daria Hradiuk, not one of them left.

 On the morning of July 17, 1944 you could sense that military action would begin again and that evening the bombing started. . . The next morning combat lessened and the sisters prepared for the Divine Liturgy with Fr. Josyf Zahvijskyj.

 . . . An eyewitness states: “It was already early morning, we were waiting for Father to come for the service; we heard the bell; someone was at the gate. Sister went to it . . . the Bolshevik fired and one of our sisters was shot . . . she hadn’t even made it to the gate.”

Sr. Demyana Chepil writes in her memoirs, that all the sisters were in the basement, “the only ones in the house were myself, Sr. Maria Borodijevych and Sr. Tarsykia. Unexpectedly the soldiers rang the bell. We jumped at the sound, Sr. Tarsykia ran out ahead of me. She noticed that she hadn’t brought the key and turned to ask Sr. Maria to get it. In that moment the soldier shot his automatic rifle through the opening in the gate. He shot Sr. Tarsykia in the head. I saw her fall immediately.”

  . . . On entering the Bolsheviks saw Sr. Tarsykia’s body. “The officer asked in amazement: ‘Who did this?’ One of them admitted, ‘I killed her.’ Our superior Sr. Monica Bolesta asked why. He answered, “Because she’s a nun.”

  . . . Not far from the monastery was the cemetery, but because of the combat nearby we couldn’t bury her there. So, she was buried in the monastery garden near the statue of the Mother of God. Even those who killed her attended her funeral.  . . . Subsequently her remains were moved from Krystynopil to Lviv where she was interred in the Sisters’ gravesite at Lychakiv monastery.

  Thus the events of the Second World War destroyed the regular monastery life. . . . In early spring of 1946 it was clear that the Soviet authorities would not allow our monastery to continue, inasmuch as the preparations for the destruction of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church were well underway. . . . After the so-called “Lviv Sobor” and the arrest of our hierarchy, the authorities went after the monasteries. . . . A similar fate awaited other, both men’s and women’s, monasteries. The life of blessed Tarsykia and her fate foresaw the period of persecution of our Church and her death was as if a sign of the Soviet intent for the death of our defiant Church.

The life of blessed Tarsykia witnessed complete faithfulness to Christ and His Church. . . In her death she gave witness to her love, as her life witnessed holiness. She demonstrated that holiness is not limited to a small circle of the early Christians, but also is possible in our world.

Her life should be an example for our life; her service should be continued by our service, and her death and holiness should call us all to holiness.  May Sr. Tarsykia’s intercession grant us all the gift of sacrificial love and a passion for holiness lived out in our world. This is something we all need. (R. Syrotych)


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The Church solemnly proclaims the blessed martyr Volodymyr Pryjma patron of the laity

Blessed Volodymyr Pryjma: Patron Saint of Ukrainian Catholic Laity (1906-1941)

(Текст українською мовою в бюлетені 1.08.21)

Volodymyr Pryjma, the son of Ivan and Hanna, was born in the village of Stradch, Yavoriv District, July 17th, 1906. Volodymyr’s family were active members of their community: his father—church cantor and secretary, and brothers—both ordained priests.  After graduating from the School for Cantors of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptysky, Volodymyr became the cantor and choir director in his village church. He married Maria Stojko November 10th, 1931. With their 4 children, the family played a vibrant role in the life of the parish.

  On June 26th, 1941, Volodymyr accompanied Fr. Mykola Konrad to home of a woman who was ill and asked to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On their way home they were accosted by the NKVD (Soviet Secret Police responsible for prisons and labour camps) and taken into the Birok forest. There, the NKVD agents brutally tortured and murdered cantor and priest. After a week of desperate search, their broken bodies were found by villagers. Volodymyr Pryjma had been repeatedly stabbed in the chest with a bayonet.

In 2001, when Pope John Paul II came to Ukraine, he recognized Cantor Pryjma and Fr Konrad as Blessed Martyrs of Christ’s Church. The Synod of Bishops of UGCC in Winnepeg, September 2012, proclaimed Blessed Volodymyr Pryjma the patron of laity. The next year, June, 2013, Patriarch Sviatoslav made the official announcement confirming Pryjma as patron of Ukrainian Catholics.

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She was simple, good, humble, compassionate; she simply loved people

Let’s get to know the martyrs represented in our parish’s icon “Synaxis of Ukrainian Martyrs”. We begin with the young woman seen in the icon’s top centre: Maria Shved (1954-1982).

(Текст українською мовою в бюлетені 25.07.21)

  While the 1970s and 80s were generally a time of optimism in North America, in Ukraine people continued to be persecuted for being Ukrainian-Catholic: arrested, tortured, even killed. Maria Shved, vivacious, funny, generous and kind, was murdered before she could celebrate her 27th birthday. She was born on October 17th, 1954, in the village of Yaremkova, Sambir Region. Her mother took Maria and her 2 siblings, the older Stefania and younger brother Bohdan, with her to church whenever possible. Maria fervently prayed for her father to stop drinking, and according to the parish priest, this small child’s devotion brought peace to their household. Maria grew up with a strong faith and concern for others. After completing school she went to work in the factory “Progress” and later in a telegraphic equipment plant in Lviv. She lived with her sister Stefania, who already had a family of her own. Stefania recalls how they could stay up all night talking, laughing and listening to Maria’s stories. A fellow factory worker (Nadia Vytvytska, a Basilian nun) remembers her as looking so much younger than her years. She would give away anything she owned if someone asked her for it. She was “quiet and humble. She never raised her voice, and I never saw her bad-tempered.”Maria supported Bohdan, her brother, sending him money if needed and keeping him “in line”. She was a people person and others valued her view and advice. In time, this colleague learned that a fellow worker was an informer to the authorities and was tracking Maria’s movements.

The Soviets had outlawed the Ukrainian Catholic Church, closing our churches or declaring them Russian Orthodox. So Maria attended the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Lviv for daily liturgies. There she met several of our underground clergy and nuns and assisted Fr. Peter Perizhak in his secret ministry to Ukrainian Catholics. She was so engaged that, although the Sisters of St. Joseph did not accept new members in those dangerous times, they could not reject her wish to join them. As a novice she continued her ministry with Fr. Perizhak. On Sept. 29, 1982, (the feast of St Sofia) Maria planned to visit her mother in the evening, because it was her mother’s name day. She went to church after work and boarded the streetcar with Fr Perizhak after Liturgy. At the church of St Elizabeth and Olga, the two sat on a bench to talk. Father gave her a holy card for her mother’s name day. Suddenly the secret police appeared and demanded Father’s papers. While he was being questioned, Maria quietly slipped away taking Father’s bag containing his vestments and liturgical objects so that he could not be charged with illegal activity. She ran along Turgenev Street to the gate of building #10. The “guards” pursued her, brutally attacked and killed her. The authorities tried to blame Fr. Perizhak for her murder, but eventually let him go. Ultimately, despite an eyewitness to the attack, no one was charged.

  Maria’s family was not given her body until 5 days after her death. She was buried in her village of Yaremkova. Approximately a hundred people gathered at her funeral on that still autumn day. They made a wreath of fresh blooms. She lay dressed in white. A single bell tolled from behind the locked doors of the village’s small wooden church. As she was carried to the cemetery, hymns were sung and, in his homily, the Roman Catholic priest (our priest would have been arrested had he been present) asked that we not pray for Maria, but to her . . .

  She was simple, good, humble, compassionate; she simply loved people and knew how to accept that which Jesus prepared for her each day. (Sr. Halyna Sovhan)

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How fitting….

(Текст українською мовою в бюлетені 18.07.21)

How fitting, that from this Sunday, dedicated to All Saints of Ukraine, an icon representing recent Ukrainian witnesses of Christ, will appear in our church of the Transfiguration: the icon of the Synaxis of Ukrainian Martyrs (of the 20th century).

We thank God for the dedication of the iconographer Kseniia Sapunkova and the generosity of the donor Mary Gaida (Steve and Mary Gaida Ohar Foundation), in memory of their deceased parents.

Commonly, the mention of Ukrainian saints evokes an image of the 10thc royals, Volodymyr and Olha, responsible for Christianizing Ukraine: recognizable, yet hardly relatable. Since that time, the Church has recognized the holiness of innumerable Ukrainians. More than can be named have been martyred—within our lifetime and that of recent generations.

  As Western Europe and North America celebrated the end of the 2nd World War, Ukraine suffered a renewed onslaught of vicious religious persecution by the Soviet regime. Priests, monastics, lay people, children were hunted, murdered, tortured, and starved in prison and Siberian camps. To this day, the political oppressors of Ukraine continue to target our Church and Faith Tradition as well.

  These were people no different from you or me, leading mundane lives: buying groceries, singing in the parish choir, changing diapers, taking out the garbage, meeting up for coffee. . .  suddenly faced with unspeakable evil, unimaginable torment. Individuals forced into evil yet maintaining faith, continuing to be kind, loving, generous—serving others. We look to these individuals and see God. Let us, each of us, come to know and understand the figures represented, so that we can tell their stories to our visitors, and to our children, so that future generations will find strength and inspiration through these saints of our people.

  In the next few weeks, our website will include information on each saint in the icon. Let’s remember them: vichnaia pamiat. With this icon, let’s honour them and join our prayers and lives to theirs. Let’s follow their example and live as saints in our own ordinary lives so that we may actively build a world that opposes evil and persecution of others.

Synaxis of Ukrainian Saints

  We first gaze at this icon as if seeing through a window. The gold background and light surrounding the heads of the figures evokes the Pentecostal flame—the divine Spirit envelopes the air around the figures, while their feet are firmly standing on a (very familiar) solid floor. The figures appear alight. In Matthew (5:14-16) Christ exhorts us to let our light shine and not hide it beneath a bushel. The martyrs shine, during and even after their lives were extinguished.

The figures create a domed shape, as if a church. At the top of the dome, the title of the icon and the building forma cross. The church is the Sobor of St George in Lviv, the seat of the Metropolitan. The martyrs represented are from Western Ukraine.

  The title, Synaxis of Ukrainian Martyrs, points to their symbolic representation of all untold numbers of Ukrainian martyrs.

  As our gaze focuses on the figures themselves we see both religious and lay people forming the body of the Church: the body of Christ.

Directly below the sobor, in the centre, we see a young woman in a kerchief. At her heart we see our Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who foresaw that our Church would “rise from the grave”. On either side of him we see other church leaders: bishop, monk, nun, priest. The sister and priest hold a palm branch—the symbol of martyrdom. Above are men and women and another nun. We see signs of our Faith: crosses, Gospels, hands in blessing.

Now we ask who. Who are these figures, human and luminous?

First row (left to right):

Sister Tarsikia Matskiw SSMI (1919-1944)

Bishop Nykyta Budka (1877-1949)  

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky (1865-1944)

Archimandrite Klymentij Sheptytsky (1869-1951)

Fr. Omelan Kowch (1884-1944)

Second row (l to r):

Cantor Volodymyr Pryjma (1906-1941)

A woman/жінка representing all unnamed martyred women.

Sr Maria Shwed (1954-1982)

A man/чоловік representing all unnamed martyred men.

Sr Lavrentia Harasymiw SSJ (1911-1952)

The Sisters represent all martyred women monastics.

Maria Shved represents women who served as nuns secretly in the underground church.

Klymentij Sheptytsky represents all male monastics.

Fr. Kowch and cantor Pryjma represent both ordained and lay people who served in the underground church.

Bishop Budka is the first bishop of the UCC in Canada who returned to Ukraine and died in a Soviet camp.

Metropolitan Sheptytsky was the Head of our Church from 1901-1945.

In the coming weeks the website will have the stories of these saints and martyrs.