Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Transfiguration


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The former head of our Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, the blessed metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky died on November 1, 1944 due to complications from the flu. On Nov. 5th he was buried in the underground crypt of St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv. On the eve of his passing, on Oct. 31st he spoke these words to those gathered around him:

“Our Church will be destroyed, devastated by the Bolsheviks. But stand firm, do not desert the faith, the Holy Catholic Church. The terrible experience which will befall our church will be temporary. I see the resurrection of our Church. The Church will be more beautiful, more glorious than before and she will embrace our whole nation. Ukraine will free itself from its fall and will become a strong state, united, great and will become an equal of other highly developed and civilized countries of the world. Peace, prosperity, good fortune, high culture, mutual love and concord will reign in Ukraine.”

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Baptized and Sent

Very appropriately for us in Canada, today is World Mission Sunday. Pope Francis has provided the theme: Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World. As faith filled Christians we are all responsible for living Christ’s Gospel in the world. The Pope says: “ This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission.” Tomorrow, election day, we have an opportunity to express, through our vote, our commitment to bring Christ to the world. As Christians our faith compels us to live our lives actively engaged with others, our community, our society. Canada has not escaped the growing wave, globally, of intolerance and protectionism, that scapegoats the vulnerable and disregards truth. We are inundated with messaging assuring us that we need less taxes and more dollars in our pockets. It’s increasingly hard to sift through mudslinging, rhetoric, and outright falsehood to be able to make a wise discerning choice.

Happily we have our faith community to keep us grounded.

We vote for good leadership for our collective—for our communities of people. As we’ve seen with the idea of Ubuntu: “I am, because we are.” And so we can remember that without taxes we cannot have healthcare and social services and public education and parks and all the aspects of Canada that make it such a good place to be. How often have we watched politicians, who say they value life, cut back services that support the single mothers who struggle with their children? As we vote let’s think of our theology of icons that reminds us we are, and all creation is, transformed through God’s humanity in Christ. Who of our candidates will honestly act to preserve our environment, to respect all people, not just income generators?

As we cast our vote, let’s remember that Christ was born homeless, in poverty, displaced. Who of our candidates will support and welcome immigrants and refugees?

It is a privilege and responsibility to vote.

May we cast our ballots with care, pride, and love for all humanity.

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Pope Francis: on being a missionary people

On numerous occasions Pope Francis has underscored our need to see ourselves as a missionary people. But perhaps not as we have understood in the past. In three instances this week he spoke of his understanding of mission in our world today. In his letter to the heads of Europe’s Bishops’ Conferences he wrote that mission is not proselytism (forcing conversion), but rather it is about witnessing our faith in love.

The Pope has declared October a month for re-invigorating our sense of mission as a Church. Significantly in the process he has done two things focussed on this theme and with a Canadian connection. The Pope unveiled a new statue in St. Peter’s Square: the “Angels Unaware” is a life-size bronze and clay statue created by St. Jacobs based, Timothy Schmalz. Inspired by the passage from Hebrews (13:2): “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”, it images Francis’ commitment to supporting migrants and refugees regardless of where they are from and where they are journeying.

As another sign of the Pope’s desire that we all recognize our call to live God’s love by being with the marginalized and disenfranchised, on October 5 he made Fr. Michael Czerny, a Canadian Jesuit, a Cardinal. Fr. Czerny has worked tirelessly with and for the poor in Latin America and Africa. He was the co-founder of the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice. Most recently he has led various initiatives in support of migrants and refugees. He will immediately serve as one of the Special Secretaries for the Special Assembly on the Amazon which begins Oct. 6 in Rome. Fr. Czerny’s appointment is particularly historic since he was not a bishop when appointed!

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Caring for the planet is not an option, it is a necessity!

Perhaps we have considered the climate an issue beyond our personal control, understanding, or interest—but our Faith teaches us that God is present in all creation. A Christian responds with love and gratitude to the created world. Patriarch Sviatoslav and Pope Francis are insistent voices among the leaders of all major world religions, urging us to mobilize in action to save our Earth from environmental disaster.

Ignoring our climate crisis cannot be an option for us.

Globally, young people, children, are articulating their frustration with governments that value immediate profit over a sustainable future. Pope Francis has pointed out that youth are not our tomorrow, they are today; they are here and now. We can look to them to recognize that our present lifestyles of “success” will rob their adulthood of clean air and water, the constituents of life itself. Amnesty International has identified the climate crisis as “the greatest human rights challenge of our time. It impacts the right to life, health, food, water, housing, livelihood, security and the rights of Indigenous peoples. Climate change disproportionately affects those who are already vulnerable, disadvantaged or facing discrimination.”

As we know in our parish, together we can make a difference. We can make the world a better place.

The election campaigns are in full swing: who, beyond rhetoric, will respect efforts to fight climate change? Let’s join our Church leaders and youth in taking climate change seriously.

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Live by the Spirit

In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians he calls us all to “live by the Spirit, . . . keep in step with the Spirit.” (5:25) I think we so underestimate the meaning of these words: “live by the Spirit”. It certainly does not mean that we are perfect, but it speaks to our immense giftedness and so an unimaginable capacity to do the good: to be gentle with one another, to be present for one another, to recognize that we can be instruments of God’s presence in the world. But it does require effort on our part. Not the effort of “doing things”, but before that the effort of “being” a certain way. Pope Francis once reminded us that we are not called simply to be “social workers”, rather we are called to be witnesses of God’s presence in our lives and the life of the world. By doing so, we change the world for the better. This past week’s readings offered us two images for followers of Christ: a tiny seed that falls on good ground, and a mustard seed. Both images speak to our life in the Spirit. No single seed achieves monumental things. But each seed brings forth fruit, each seed becomes part of something greater, every seed by being what it is, is a blessing! So too each of us, called to live in the Spirit, to nurture a relationship with Christ in the Holy Spirit become a wonderful seed. We open ourselves to God’s Word, we inhale the Spirit, we partake of the Eucharist, we grow to truly be who we are meant to be: God’s image and likeness for the world!

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New Martyrs of Ukraine

In our faith tradition, we, each one of us, are called to be saints. Sure. We’ve heard this before: icons of Christ, manifesting Trinity, revealing God to each other through how we choose to live our lives. In the same way we are called to be martyrs; the hymn of the Holy Martyrs is sung during our sacrament of marriage while the new couple is led around the tetrapod, symbolically led by Christ through their united life. This mention of martyrdom in marriage often elicits chuckles; because fortunately, in Canada, we do not worry about Christian persecutions and sainthood (normally) does not appear on our daily agenda. But the saint, deriving from the Latin word for holy, and martyr, from the Latin for witness, is someone who truly embodies and models Christ for us and inspires us to do the same. That is why we honour saints throughout the Church year.

downloadThis initial period after Pentecost is dedicated to Ukrainian holy witnesses of Christ. Likely the mention of saints and Ukraine conjures an image of Volodymyr and Olha, the 10th-11th c royalty, who brought the Christian faith to Ukraine from Byzantium: familiar, yes, but not exactly the people next door. Since that Period of Princes, 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. June 27th commemorated the New Martyrs of Ukraine.

As Western Europe and North America celebrated the end of the Second World War, Ukrainian and Eastern Europe suffered a renewed onslaught of vicious religious persecution by the Soviet regime. Priests, monastics, lay people, children were hunted, murdered, tortured, and starved in prisons and Siberian camps.

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 hope, continuing to be kind, loving, generous. We look to these individuals and see God.

Let’s remember them. Let’s honour them and join our prayers and lives to theirs. Let’s follow their example and live as saints and martyrs in our own ordinary lives so that we may actively build a world that opposes evil and persecution of others.

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Pope Francis on refugees and migrants

We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved. They are an occasion that Providence gives us to help build a more just society, a more perfect democracy, a more united country, a more fraternal world and a more open and evangelical Christian community.


June 20th marked the UN World Refugee Day, bringing attention to the plight of children, women, and men facing unimaginable hardship in their efforts to escape persecution and violence. Currently, wealthy countries, such as ours, are becoming increasingly intolerant, exclusionary, isolationist. Political leaders who foment fear and division are gaining popularity, feeding what Pope Francis has called a “globalization of indifference” towards the suffering of others. The Pope warns against the present trend of scapegoating migrants and refugees, blaming them for all our society’s problems. He calls us to overcome our fear of otherness, recognizing Christ in the very people whose difference makes us uncomfortable and afraid. [Christ] is the one, said Pope Francis, “with ragged clothes, dirty feet, agonized faces, sore bodies, unable to speak our language”. We should be grateful to the refugee for the opportunity of “welcoming and assisting Jesus”. The migrant/ refugee “problem” Francis contends, is not just about refugees—it is about each of us; it is about our humanity. By giving in to a “throw-away culture” we put ourselves at risk of being excluded and marginalized for not conforming closely enough to an accepted norm. The Pope reminds us that Jesus was a refugee. I think of many of our parents and the influx of Ukrainians to Canada after the 2nd world war. They too came as refugees. Labeled DP (displaced persons) they often encountered ridicule and exclusion from jobs, housing, and schools. As Christians we must be open to not only migrants and refugees but all people in need. Francis tells us that “our response to the challenges posed by contemporary migration can be summed up in four verbs: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.” This response “enables us to be more human: to recognize ourselves as participants in a greater collectivity and to understand our life as a gift for others; to see as the goal, not our own interests, but rather the good of humanity”.

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Happy Pentecost! Happy Father’s Day

Pentecost icon

This is indeed a special Sunday: celebrating our fathers on the Feast of Pentecost! This feast, 50 days after the Resurrection, dates back to the Early Church. Together with Jesus, the apostles and their faith community also celebrated Pentecost—50 days after Passover. They too decorated their homes with greenery, in celebration of God’s goodness in the time of harvest. As Christians we recognize this Divine Spirit as one of the Tri-Une God. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, we—human beings—become temples of God. Paul writes that God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, and faithful! (Gal. 5, 22-23) God is with us and in us. Our task is to be open; to accept that God is in us, no matter who or how we are. With our human failings, it can be surprisingly difficult for us to feel loved, to feel lovable in our deepest core. But God’s love is infinite and unconditional. When we have the security of feeling profoundly loved, it is easier to be generous with our own love. The Spirit is the source of all genuine goodness and love we feel, see, and know. It is not earned, but simply accepted.

Christ demonstrates the fruits of the Spirit through the example of a father. In the story of the Prodigal Son, the father embraces his wayward son despite all the wrongs he had done. He demands no payment and celebrates his child’s return to his loving home. This is how our Divine Father loves us. This is how our own fathers mirror Divine Love through the Holy Spirit!

On this day of joy we thank all our Fathers, Grandfathers, and Uncles for their goodness and love. Mnohaja Lita!