Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Transfiguration


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Holy Men and Women of Ukraine

Recently we commemorated the Saints of Ukraine, but very often we are not familiar with contemporary saints. Over the coming weeks in the bulletin we will present the stories of Ukrainian saints: not just those who have been officially canonised, but also those whose saintly lives are already cherished by their communities. The Church’s ancient practice has always been to recognize that local communities and countries will hold dear the memory of saintly persons, not all of whom are canonised as saint for the Universal Church. On Sunday, July 16th we marked the 40th day of the passing into eternal life of +His Beatitude Patriarch Lyubomyr, a saintly person without any doubt. In the coming bulletins we will meet some of our contemporary saints of Ukraine.

Volodymyr Pryjma


Volodymyr Pryjma was a quiet village choir director and cantor. Born in 1906, married with two children, Pryjma worked diligently in Stradch. He generously supported and assisted the village priest, Fr. Mykola Konrad even in the dangerous circumstances of the Soviet occupation 1939-41. On June 26, 1941 he went with Fr. Konrad to the home of an ailing woman who had requested the sacrament of reconciliation. On their way home they were attacked, tortured, and murdered by the NKVD. He was beatified on June 27, 2001.

Sister Maria Shved (1954-1982)


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)

For those of us who grew up in North America, the 70s and 80s were a time of stability and for many optimism. It is hard to imagine that at that very time people in Ukraine were being arrested, tortured, and even killed for being faithful to our Church. The story of Maria Shved is just one example that brings that awful reality to life. Maria was a young village girl who after completing school went to work in a factory in Lviv. She was quiet, she liked to dress well and as one nun observed, “wear make-up”. Not the stereotypical image of a holy person in the making! But Maria grew up with a strong faith and so she attended Church services as often as possible. Although a Ukrainian Catholic, she availed herself of the fact that the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Lviv was open (unlike our churches which were all closed or declared Russian Orthodox) and went there daily. In the Cathedral she met a number of our clergy and nuns and began to assist Fr. Peter Perizhak in his secret ministry to Ukrainian Catholics. She travelled with him wherever he would go and carry the bag with his vestments and liturgical instruments needed for Divine Liturgy. This way, if he were stopped or arrested, the authorities would have no proof that he was carrying out illegal activities. Although the Sisters of St. Joseph were not accepting new members, her devotion so impressed them that she was accepted into the novitiate. Even as a novice she continued her ministry with Fr. Perizhak. On Sept. 29, 1982 while assisting him she was brutally attacked on the street in Lviv by the secret police and killed! No one was charged with her murder.

Father Evstakhij Smal (1922-1991)


Born into a poor village family, the young Evstakhij’s possibilities for an education were very limited. However because of his clear abilities and interests his parents and pastor worked hard to nurture his talents. Eventually his parents agree to send him to the newly established Redemptorist monastery and school near Lviv. There he is first exposed to the religious order which will become his second family.

Having already demonstrated his love of learning and his desire for all to have an opportunity to learn, Evstakhij chose to join the Redemptorists (an order devoted to teaching). However, with the arrival of Soviet forces in 1939 the monastery school closes and Evstakhij’s education and monastic training is interrupted. In 1950 he is arrested for his activity in support of underground priests and sent to work in the Siberian forests until 1957. Upon his return to Ukraine he is ordained and now sets out to serve in any way the needs of our people. Working in a clinic during the day, his evenings and nights are often spent travelling from village to town celebrating the Divine Liturgy, confessing, and celebrating various sacraments. He went where there was a need: every corner of Western Ukraine, the Baltic countries, even Kazakhstan! As a result, he was given the nickname: Omnipresent. A short, quiet and humble man, but a man of determination, honesty, and above all a deep love of God. His kind smile and wise counsel is cherished by all who knew him.


Sister Maria (Faina Lakher) 1917-2005


-Faina Lakher was born into a Jewish family in Peremyshlyany, W. Ukraine. From a young age she was open to her Ukrainian Christian environment and even fell in love with a young boy, Volodymyr Zaplatynsky. However, because of their different religions they did not want to pursue marriage, but stayed close friends. In 1939 with the arrival of the Soviets, Volodymyr joined the Ukrainian resistance and from that position assisted Faina and her family during the repressions of both the Soviets and the Nazis.

After the Germans entered Western Ukraine in 1941 Faina was, on a number of occasions, almost killed, so that in 1942 her family gave her permission to be baptised. She accepted the Christian name Anna. Young Volodymyr, now a prominent member of the underground, arranged for Faina to live with Studite sisters. Here Faina discovers a vocation to monastic life. Volodymyr is killed by the NKVD in 1944 and when she hears this news, she, now named Sister Maria, commits to daily prayers for him and for Ukraine’s independence. Sister Maria maintains her passion for monastic life throughout the underground period (1946-1989). Studite Fr. Sebastian comments: “you could always learn much from Sr. Maria. . . She helped me establish a strong foundation for a monastic life.” The iconographer Ivanka Dymyd-Krypyakevych wrote that “Sr. Maria Lakher walked on water. Once she had fallen in love with God, she fell in love with the Ukrainian Church, she fell in love with a person who had sacrificed himself on the altar of freedom (the insurgent Volodymyr Zaplatynsky) she discovered within herself the potential of love which could bring warmth to the entire world. This short, ascetic woman with the eyes of the Old Testament Rachel or Ruth had amazing gifts, one of which was to hear and see the person.”

On November 22, 2005 Sr. Maria calmly entered her room and passed on to eternity.


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The Church – The Gathering Place

Can one be saved outside of the Church?

First we have to clarify what we mean by Church. If we mean by this how church is commonly understood, then I think yes there is salvation beyond the Church. If we think of the Church simply as a holy place or a separate denomination we’re kidding ourselves and we haven’t heard Christ’s message. Christ said that there are those whom He calls to be his disciples, that is, to be the Church. But He loves others just as much. Beyond the Church there are over 5 billion unbaptized people, who belong to other religions. That’s why I think we can use the concept of “baptism by conscience,” when individuals live according to their deep moral-ethical principles given by God into all hearts.

Can we believe in God and not attend Church or be Churchgoers and not believers?

I would presume that people don’t find themselves in church accidentally in the 21st c. People no longer keep tabs on who is in church or not, even in the villages. No one is scolded for non-attendance—and this is as it should be. You cannot be forced to be a Christian.

Unfortunately, there are those who go to church but live lives that are not worthy of a Christian. But they are a minority. Most people who go to church are searching for God.

Those who say that they believe in God, but do not attend, often justify their animosity to the Church in various ways. But as soon as a person feels touched by someone, invited, sees the joy of encountering God, the need for excuses evaporates. I am certain and can attest from my own life experience that God is knocking on everyone’s door in all kinds of ways, ceaselessly inviting them. Some respond and some keep the door permanently shut.

It seems that the first Christians had an authentic experience of the Lord, that the Church was more alive then. What is missing in today’s Church?

The early Church was a gathering place, a place of community, friendship, mutual support. Today our Church is undergoing a crisis of relationship. There is a concept of “anonymous Christians”—that is, people come to church, pray, perhaps have communion, formally greet one another—and that’s it. The early Christian communities exchanged the kiss of peace at Liturgy: they embraced each other. We can only reach such closeness if every parish becomes a gathering of intimate community.

Perhaps contemporary church communities became individualistic because of an undue emphasis on sacramentalism: that is, people come to Church only to “receive” a given “sanctity”. This is a post-Soviet legacy, when religion became a private affair, given the prohibition of public religious practice. This “religion complex” remains current: standing at the back of the church, not receiving Eucharist, passively keeping quiet, since a step towards openness requires spiritual effort. We, Christians of today, have many barriers to overcome in order to revive the original concept of Church.

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A Litany to women

MothersDayWe walk in the company of the women who have gone before, Mothers of the faith both named and unnamed, Testifying with ferocity and faith to the Spirit of wisdom and healing.

They are the judges, the prophets, the martyrs, the warriors, poets, lovers and saints who are near to us in the shadow of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams.

We walk in the company of Deborah, who judged the Israelites with authority and strength. We walk in the company of Esther, who used her position as Queen to ensure the welfare of her people.

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The Church—The Gathering Place|Церква – місце спілкування

ChurchEaster2017(Interview with Fr. Oleh Kindiy, Professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv – continued)

Many people we interviewed replied that they believe in God but they don’t need a “middle man”. Others go to church when it’s empty. Still others attend for certain “rituals”: baptisms, weddings, or funerals. The majority generally don’t consider Church as community.

This is because, for instance, we teach catechism to children but only rarely in parishes do we have catechetical programs for adults. The Early Christians knew well that Church was a place to continuously deepen our faith, but we today have yet to recognize this. In terms of knowing God, there are no boundaries. On the other hand, at times people demand something from the Church, but when they are invited to, for example, a Parish Bible study, or a group to discover the beauty of the Byzantine Liturgy, they won’t take that next step; few respond to the additional offerings of their church.

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70th anniversary of “Operation Vistula (Wisla)”

Operation WislaApril 28-29 marks the 70th anniversary of the horrific “Operation Vistula (Wisla)”: the forced deportation of approximately 140,775 Ukrainians from their traditional territory which in 1945 became part of Poland.

During the Operation, thousands of people died. This act of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Communist authorities was a clear attempt to destroy the Ukrainian population by moving them westward and limiting their concentration in a foreign territory (which had been annexed from Germany).

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The Church—The Gathering Place | Церква – місце спілкування

ChurchEaster2017The following is from an interview with Fr. Oleh Kindiy, Professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv

People who attend Church don’t always consider themselves a part of a community. It’s easier for them to think of the Church as the priest or choir, ie: something beyond themselves. Doesn’t this remove personal responsibility?

I often ask people what percentage of the Church is made up by the clergy: priests, monks, bishops etc. The answer is between 30-50%, suggesting that lay people are only a segment of the Church that is primarily constituted by clergy. They are surprised when I tell them that clergy make up less than 1% of the Church. Lay people do not realize that they are the majority; they expect the priest to do everything: gather people and assign jobs for each to accomplish.

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Celebrating 70-years of UCWLC at our Parish | До 70-ліття нашого відділу ЛУКЖК

UCWLC-logoIn spite of the demands of wartime, Canada’s Ukrainian Catholic women established the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada in 1944.

Three years later, recognizing the wisdom of a national organization, the women of our Parish decided to establish a UCWLC branch in Kitchener and join this impressive and unprecedented initiative.

This week, we honour their 70 years of service to our Church, our parish, and the Kitchener-Waterloo community.

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Why go to church? [Pt. 11] Що відбувається на Службі Божі?

Communion imageSometimes people say their own prayers during Liturgy …
These people aren’t feeling their role in the community event that is Liturgy. They simply have not grasped what is taking place at the Liturgy and naturally they would want to spend that time doing something that is spiritually engaging …

What is the meaning of other Services in our Church, besides the Divine Liturgy?
In our rite, we have a great number and variety of services. Each has its own worth. Too often, we make the mistake of measuring other liturgies as “less than” the Divine Liturgy.

Each liturgy is a glorification of God. We sing various biblical texts, hymns, chants—thus achieving the pinnacle of human ability; the celebration of God.

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Христос Воскрес! Christ is Risen!

Easter2017“Behold, today is the day of the Resurrection!” A day like no other, the feast of feasts! Today and all during this week the doors of the iconostasis are kept open, visually showing us that heaven is available to us all!

God’s graciousness does not look upon our faults, but embraces our desire to be reconciled.
This feast is the most powerful witness of God’s goodness and the Holy Trinity’s desire that we be with Our Lord forever. It is the fulfillment of the promise that love shall conquer all. It is this faith and knowledge that has given energy to our predecessors in this parish who overcame immense obstacles to build and devleop our community’s life. Last year we celebrated that history and their efforts.

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Празник празників! Feast of feasts!

EasterThere is no more important celebration on the Christian calendar than today: the feast of the Lord’s resurrection. Among the many, many words that have been spoken and written about this day, none surpass those of the 4th century, St. John Chrysostom (who is credited as the author of our regular Divine Liturgy. His homily is traditionally proclaimed every Easter.

Let all the pious and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward …

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