NP-UN Western Bureau.
The Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada, Edmonton Eparchy, celebrated its 75th anniversary with a Prayer Service (Moleben) and a banquet at St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral and its parish hall in Edmonton, May 26.
In her presentation, Lena Sloboda, UCWLC National Past President, Honorary Life Member and author of UCWLC: Builders of Home, Faith and Community, referred to her book in tracing the history of the organization, founded in 1944.
But, as Sloboda pointed out, the history, really originates with the first Ukrainian settlement in the Canadian prairies beginning in 1891, and with the development of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada.
The book sheds light on the importance of Ukrainian settlement in Western Canada during this important historical period; in particular, it addresses the crucial role played by Ukrainian pioneer women in the Ukrainian community and the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
“Ukrainian pioneer women were of paramount importance in the development of their family homes in the severe conditions that characterized the early settlement of the prairie wilderness of Western Canada,” she said.
“Ukrainian pioneer women came to Canada with their husbands, small children, and little else. There are many stories of supreme suffering, yet these women, in this difficult setting, took upon themselves not only the responsibility of their home life, but also the role of being the leaders in their community’s religious and cultural life.
“These women, through their robust efforts, determination, and participation in the life of their church, parish, and community, laid the foundation for the subsequent emergence of the UCWLC as a national organization in 1944, an organization now affiliated with many other well-known national and international organizations,” Sloboda added.
As early as 1943, the Ukrainian Catholic women in Alberta saw the need to centralize the Ukrainian Catholic women’s groups. They proceeded to create a separate provincial organization under the title of “Ukrainian Catholic Women of Alberta,” with branches throughout Alberta. This was the first Ukrainian Catholic women’s provincial organization in Alberta, and the first in Canada.
Although the UCWLC was formed in 1944, the Ukrainian Catholic Women of Alberta continued working on the provincial level until December, 1945.
“The book documents the powerful legacy of Ukrainian pioneer women. These women were the strength and force in preserving their heritage, traditions, culture, and Christian values. Their fundamental legacy is the retention of our heritage today.
“And it is this legacy of our great heritage that continues to be developed by our organization, the UCWLC, and, in a broader sense, in our Canadian society. I would like to add: by preserving our own identity, our own language, and our own traditions, we have added something of value, of strength, and colour to the evolving cultural mosaic of Canada,” Sloboda said.
The book also describes the founding and developing of the UCWLC Eparchial Museum of the Edmonton Eparchy as one of the League’s most prominent accomplishments and provides the reader with an overview of the history and activities of the UCWLC from 1945 to 2010, including documentation on the Edmonton Eparchial Executive, the 22 active UCWLC branches across Alberta, the history of formerly vibrant UCWLC branches, and the history and accomplishments of the UCWLC at the national level.
It further illustrates how the history of the UCWLC is one that cannot be separated from the development of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
The Most Rev. David Motiuk, Eparch of Edmonton, in his “Greetings” for the book, notes that the story of the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada focuses on the title, “Builders of Home, Faith and Community,” and that the interconnectedness of these three dimensions (home, faith and community) gave strength and courage to a pioneering people who had very few tangible possession when they arrived in Canada, but still managed not only to survive but flourish in the harsh years and decades that followed. These same ingredients of “home, faith and community” again offer a recipe for success of the UCWLC and for our children’s children.
The keynote address was delivered by Iryna Laschuk, Chancellor of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton, who noted that the mission of the UCWLC is its ongoing commitment to the mission of the Church, the nurturing of our cultural heritage, providing the resources that help its members to realize their own true vocation and to live an authentic Christian life as contributing members to the Church and society.”
“The term ‘nurturing’ is very fitting. Nurture is the gift we give to our church, to our families, our work, our communities. Nurturing embodies an aspect of care, encouragement, growth and development that encompasses everything a mother, daughter, wife embodies. We see the full person, the full need, and the full future. This is our strength,” she said.
Laschuk was appointed Chancellor of the Eparchy on January 1 of this year after previously working as the Director of Finance, overseeing the assets and expenditures of the Eparchy on behalf of Bishop David.
The chancellor’s role is defined in canon law. “Appointed by the Bishop, the chancellor collects, arranges and is a keeper of the church archives. The person need not be a cleric, but must be of good character and above reproach.“
“What does my being appointed chancellor mean for UCWLC members and for the women of our church? It means times are changing. It means that we must take another leap of faith, the way the women did 75 years ago. But which way do we leap?
“Pope Francis (in an address to the General Assembly) referred to the dignity and role of women. He said that this is ‘not just a question of style, the feminine genius reflected in the Church, which is woman.’ Nor is it simply a matter of giving women a greater role in the Church, although this is important. Rather, he said, ‘it’s a question of integrating the woman as the figure of the Church into our thinking. And also, of thinking of the Church with the categories of a woman’.
“The window is open; and soon the door – where women will step in and take on greater roles within the church hierarchy. We must be ready. We must be available to share our time, talents and treasures for the church. Let us be ready through education and spiritual growth in our faith.”
In closing, she drew attention to the 25-year Pastoral Plan that Bishop David set in motion seven years ago and the three pillars: To Know God, To Serve God, To Love God.
“It is clear that the members of the UCWLC have a strong faith and love God; prayer and spreading the teachings of Christ demonstrates this unceasing love. To serve God – “Service” is every UCWLC members’ middle name; and it is the way we serve – with joy and generosity that is a gift to our churches, the Eparchy and community. To know God – we know God in our hearts, and this is where we can learn more. This is my challenge to you – let us make this pillar the strongest of all. Let us know God better. Let this be our door to a more enlightened future; let us take this step to learn, to grow and develop more fully so that we can be prepared for the years to come. Our church needs our gifts now, more than ever,” Laschuk stated.
Greetings were delivered by Bishop David and Mary Ann Phillips, UCWLC Eparchial President.
Teresa Makowecki, President of the Holy Trinity Branch in Vegreville, served as Master of Ceremonies, Rev. Janko Herbut, UCWLC Spiritual Advisor, led the Opening Prayer, while Very Rev. Fr. Stephen Wojcichowsky, Vicar General led the closing one.
Entertainment was provided by the Trinity Youth Choir from Vegreville.