Bishop Borys Gudziak, one of the founders of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine, was recently called upon by Pope Francis to speak at the Synod of Bishops in Rome. The synod was dedicated to the theme of family. Bishop Borys highlighted the destructive influence that Soviet totalitarianism has had and continues to have on the stability and vitality of family life. How can society nurture healthy families in a world that is dominated by repression, war, economic hardship, and social ills?
An historical example of the destruction of the family was cited in Bishop Borys’ intervention at the recent Synod. Familial love and mutual trust were replaced by paranoid fear and cynicism; the bond of family was sabotaged by the myth of Pavlik Morozov. According to Bishop Borys “As a 13-year-old boy Pavlik denounced his father (and some neighbors) to the authorities for forging documents and selling them to the bandits and enemies of the State.” The story about Pavlik, probably fictional, energized mistrust and encouraged children to spy on their parents. In order to heal this destructiveness, Bishop Borys and the faculty of UCU have mentored a generation of young professionals, such as Yuriy Didula whose example I cite below, who lead Christian lives guided by virtue and grace that heal the psychosocial wounds of the past.
Under the steadfast guidance of Bishop Borys, the Ukrainian Catholic University nurtures the creation of moral responsibility grounded in the teachings of the Gospels. His challenge to students to go and do great things is summed up in the dictum to “go and do.” Positive change begins simply: pick up the trash on the streets, share a meal with the hungry, help your neighbors repair a ruined structure, respect all of God’s creation. The Ukrainian Catholic University embodies the antithesis of political repression and totalitarian thinking by facing the fear of personal initiative head on.
The courage to be morally responsible and live a Gospel-centered life is essentially reflected in UCU’s academic programs. Building upon solid academic training in theology, programs have been created to transform society. Whether it be journalism, media, good governance, computer science and IT, business, bioethics and most recently medical rehabilitation, the soul of the Ukrainian Catholic University is filled with bringing healing, love and joy to a battered and war torn world. It can be said that many institutions of higher learning are “ivory towers,” cut off from the needs and concerns of the surrounding world,. The Ukrainian Catholic University fearlessly confronts the existential emptiness of a post-Soviet world.
Endless examples can be cited of how academia at the Ukrainian Catholic University inspires social responsibility and nurtures psychological and spiritual health. One example in particular stands out in my mind. The Russian invasion of Donbass has left millions of citizens homeless and displaced. The humanitarian crisis continues to escalate as countless persons witness the deaths of their loved ones and the loss of their homes. In response to this growing darkness graduates such as Yuriy Didula actively participate in a social program known as Vilna Hata. Yuriy and his colleagues visited Kramatorsk after its liberation from Russian separatists and were instrumental in remodeling destroyed homes and in building a new community center. Just think of the tremendous impact graduates of the Ukrainian Catholic University have on transforming the world. Hopefully there will be more graduates to meet these needs.
TThe Ukrainian Catholic Educational Foundation has organized fundraising events, banquets which benefit the needs of the Ukrainian Catholic University. Please attend one of these fundraisers. The benefits held in Washington D.C. and Chicago were huge successes. Upcoming fundraisers will be held in Syracuse, New York, Toronto, and Montreal. For more information visit the website at www.ucef.org.
By Rev. Myron Panchuk M.A
Photos by Maksym Prokopiv