The 39th UCWLC Convention Edmonton Eparchy

New Eparchial Executive and Committees sworn in Photo: Lidia M. Wasylyn

Lidia M. Wasylyn, Edmonton Eparchy Constitutional Chair.

“The Vibrant Parish…The Next Steps, My Response” Convention Theme

Months of planning culminated in the 39th biennial Convention of the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada, Edmonton Eparchy from October 18-20, 2019. Fifty-one delegates and thirty-five guests representing seventeen branches assembled at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre.

The opening, chaired by Past Eparchial President Joyce Chrunik-Rudiak, commenced with a stately Procession of the Flags by Brach Presidents while all sang the UCWLC’s prayerful anthem O Spomahai Nas. Welcome remarks were made by Eparchial President Mary Ann Phillips and Eparchial Spiritual Advisor Very Rev. Janko Herbut led the opening prayer. The Eparchial spiritual committee of Amelia Danilak and Marcia Hladunewich organized a touching memorial for deceased members; the names of members who passed away since the last convention were read out and roses and memorial cards were displayed in a place of honour for the duration of the convention.

The morning was dedicated to League business. Teresa Hlus and Olga Porylo acted as convention secretaries and newly elected UCWLC National President Barbara Hlus brought greetings. The convention was pleased to welcome Mary Molloy, Diocesan President of the Catholic Women’s League, who brought greetings from our Roman Catholic counterparts.

It was a privilege to welcome Honorary Life Members (HLM’s) from the Edmonton Eparchy. These distinguished champions of the UCWLC included Nadia Cyncar (2010), Olga Hlus (2019), Dobrodiyka Luba Kowalchyk (2010), Shirley Rudnitski (2016), Lena Sloboda (1983) and Natalka Yanitsky (2001).

Teresa Makowecki, newly elected National Constitutional Chair, chaired the reports session. Informative updates were presented by Rosemarie Nahnybida about the Nasha Doroha Press, Evelyn Cook on behalf of the Eparchial Museum, Luba Atamaniuk updated on the successful Anniversary Cookbook project and Lidia M. Wasylyn, Eparchial Constitutional Chair presented the resolutions from the UCWLC National Congress held two weeks earlier in Toronto.

Bernie Mandrusiak Eparchial Catechism Coordinator provided valuable ideas for developing spiritual and educational opportunities for families in our parishes to encourage them to stay connected to our parishes and faith.

The highlight of day one was the election of the new UCWLC Eparchial Executive. This session was chaired by Lydia Migus while Virginia Sharek reported for the Nominating Committee. The new Executive and Committees were sworn in by Father Janko. A more informal session entitled “Mixer and Branch Partner Session” was chaired by Jo-Anne Heuser. The first afternoon ended with a special prayer for peace and stability in Ukraine led by Father Janko.

The evening began with a Moleben at Edmonton’s historic St. Josaphat Cathedral followed by dinner at the Cathedral’s “Verkhovyna Hall”. The evening was chaired by Greg Warawa with keynote speaker Bishop Ken Nowakowski, Eparch of New Westminster, B.C. whose presentation was titled “The Vibrant Parish…The Next Steps, My Response, Part 1.”

First Hour morning prayers started the second day. Olga Hlus (HLM) gave an informative presentation on the structure of the Centralia, or Ukrainian Catholic Council. She outlined the relationship of the lay organization that comprise Centralia and the Eparchy. This topic was important as many members know of Centralia but were not aware of its mandate and responsibilities.

An upbeat presentation about sharing our talents was delivered by Joyce Chrunik-Rudiak. She reminded everyone that our talents, whatever they may be, “are God’s gift to us and we can share these gift with others.” We are all skilled in something. Sometimes the fear of criticism prevents us from stepping forward and sharing our gifts. Recognizing our gifts and appreciating the gifts of others is very powerful. Members were invited to exhibit their talents and there was a number of interesting displays, included paintings, icons, cakes, quilts and a writing portfolio.

In a related presentation, Joyce Chrunik-Rudiak addressed the theme of Steps to Building Bridges. An urgent topic for our parishes, the question was posed, “Does it matter to me if our faith grows and our churches become full again or is it of no concern to me?” For the women of the UCWLC, the answer is a resounding “yes!” But how do we achieve this? We start with soul-searching and self-assessment by questioning what we do and how committed are we to achieving our goals. Do we encourage and support youth in our parishes to participate in church activities or organizations? Do we overlook pessimism and move forward positively? Are we prepared to sacrifice other events for a church event? These and a few dozen other tough questions were posed. It really is within our power to build bridges with our fellow parishioners and help make our parishes more vibrant.

Sister Laura Prokop (SSMI) spoke on Steps to Holiness: Following in the Steps of Blessed Josaphata, founder of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate. After providing a brief historical portrait of Blessed Josaphat, Sister Laura discussed the mystery of suffering. She drew upon her own complex experiences with suffering, self-doubt and the personal pain of depression to provide a moving account of taking steps toward holiness. Sister Laura’s presentation highlighted the challenges of dealing with depression and the need for candor about issues that ail the heart, mind, body and soul.

Allen Schietzsch, father of Sister Emily Schietzsch, who professed her final vows in August 2019 spoke of being a “joyful parent of a sister.” He dismissed the fears expressed by others who questioned why he would to allow his child to go into the vocations. For him, having a child who is happy with her choices makes him happy. As a parent, he is appreciative of being embraced by a large new family of Sisters.

A highly anticipated session What to Do with Baba’s Stuff, was presented by Joyce Chrunik-Rudiak. This timely topic tackled an issue challenging many, namely how to manage, preserve, distribute or otherwise dispose of religious, cultural or artistic artifacts held in our families. Most Ukrainian families have artifacts, including religious items such as holy icons, carved crosses, and Bibles, original handmade embroidery – vyshyttia, music, record albums and musical instruments, carpets, books, original paintings, family documents such as immigration papers and birth certificates or even antique farm implements, to name a few. These items may not suit our contemporary tastes or might not be useful, however, they all have historic, artistic, genealogical and cultural value worth preserving. Joyce suggested possible places where artifacts can be donated, such as our own UCWLC Museum, the Basilian Father’s Museum in Mundare, the Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum, the Provincial Archives of Alberta, the Kule Folklore Centre at the University of Alberta. Artifacts can be donated to parishes or offered through parish bulletins to those who may need such items. A long list of creative repurposing ideas was also presented that could give some of Baba’s cherished things a new life.

Following convention tradition, members showed off their baking skills in this year’s cultural contest Best Pampushky Ever. The entries were judged for flavour, colour, texture and uniformity. Choosing a winner was difficult, since all entries were delicious. Ultimately, the winner was Joyce Chrunik-Rudiak followed by Steffie Chmilar, Irena Loshuk and Dobr. Nikiforuk.

Bishop Ken was keynote speaker at a joint session of the UCWLC, the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood, Ukrainian Catholic Youth, the Edmonton Eparchy Knights of Columbus and representatives of parish councils from throughout the Eparchy. His powerful presentation was titled “The Vibrant Parish…The Next Steps, My Response, Part 2.” In his unique, optimistic style, he discussed serious issues facing our church. Bishop Ken laid out the six elements of a vibrant parish, identified what we do well and where we need improvement. The six elements are: Word of God and Catechesis, Liturgical Life and Prayer, Serving our Neighbours (Diakonia), Fellowship, Stewardship and Leadership. Bishop Ken suggested ways to continue building vibrant parishes.

The final session “Tying it All Together with Our New Resolutions” was chaired by Lloyanne Yaremko-Galas. She introduced Eparchial Constitutional Chair, Lidia M. Wasylyn who tied the sessions together with the resolutions from the National Congress earlier in the month who stated, “On the face of it, the resolutions are about membership, the environment and social justice but in fact they are about the future of our Ukrainian church. A sober examination of the League confirms our numbers are going down while we are getting older. However, collectively we are an experience and knowledge powerhouse. The resolutions assist to focus our energies. They nudge us to invest time and resources in our parishes and youth, while honouring our and traditions. As any gardener will attest, only a plant with healthy roots will bear fruit. If we want it to thrive, we must nurture our roots to ensure our Church is there for future generations. We will reap what we sow and God will guide us but we have to commit to good works, act lovingly, honour our cultural traditions and the Kyivan Rite.”

New National President Barbara Hlus spoke last sharing her vision for the next term. Her focus will be the Domestic Church – the Church of the family at home and on respecting our Ukrainian Greek Catholic traditions. Barbara is committed to protecting our heritage and making connections with the wider community. She wants to revive the personal development role of the UCWLC of past years be reviving the standing committee for leadership development and education, that she calls Vykhovny Committee. The League has fertile ground in Ukraine, encouraged by our Patriarch and our UCWLC can be role model for our Ukrainian sisters. Barbara plans to invest in our young women. She is inspired by the 2018 Youth Synod theme “Aware, Prepare and Engage.”

Mary Ann Phillips closed the convention with a prayer, and the recession of the flags was accompanied by O Spomahai Nas.

The Saturday evening gala banquet was a relaxed opportunity to socialize over a great meal with friends. For a bit of fun, numerous door prizes donated by generous individuals, community groups and businesses were given away. Bishop Ken was invited to present a Part 3 to his earlier remarks but instead took the opportunity to encourage everyone to vote in the federal elections that would take place in two days. He did not say how to vote but encouraged everyone to thoughtfully exercise their democratic rights and to appreciate the freedom we have in Canada to have our voices heard.

Sunday’s Divine Liturgy at St. Josaphat Cathedral united delegates with parishioners in prayer. Celebrated by Bishop David Motiuk, Eparch of Edmonton along with Bishop Ken, it was a fitting conclusion to an eventful weekend that brought together faithful from the entire Eparchy.