Archbishop Borys Gudziak about the first 100 days of his service
Archbishop Borys Gudziak about the first 100 days of his service: closeness and communion I have received is beyond my expectations
The first months at a new position for politicians or government officials are considered to be telling, even pivotal, for their future. As they appear newly in the spotlight, their words, early initiatives, style, interactions with people – are all observed and scrutinized. After the first 100 days, analysts and public intellectuals conventionally paint a portrait of the newly arrived and express their first general assessments and projections for the future. Does this apply to an ecclesiastic also? What are the criteria to evaluate the efficiency of a Church leader? How does one judge a hierarch’s emerging priorities and first decisions?
Archbishop Borys Gudziak officially started his service as the Ukrainian Catholic metropolitan of Philadelphia on June 4. The first months have been full: visits to over 30 churches in the Archeparchy; summer pilgrimages, festivals, and celebrations; encounters with youth in the inner city and in summer camp; the onset of a comprehensive pastoral and administrative audit of the Archeparchy; two meetings with Pope Francis and one with Pope Benedict in Rome; the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops in Baltimore; convening of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and its Permanent Synod; two trips to Ukraine; meetings, conferences, and presentations in various world capitals; and well over 100 sermons, public talks, and published blogs, articles, or interviews. After 100 days, the Archbishop was ready to formulate some observations and talk about concrete plans.
What was the highlight of this busy summer for you as the new metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the US?
There were of course many. But allow me to share one experience that stood out and helped me to connect many dots. It was during the Knights of Columbus convention, the first I ever attended. I was amazed by the thousands of participants, the careful organization, logistics, the rites and rituals of this organization that today includes close to two million Knights, offers up to 80 million volunteer hours, and has contributed some 200 million US dollars for charitable causes. Speaking with the Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, Michael O’Connell, a leader of their outreach to Ukraine and the creation of the K of C in Ukraine, and many ranked members, I was impressed by their mature and manly life of faith and service.
Heart-rending at this convention was the testimony of John and Maria — parents of Kendrick Castillo, who three months before had sacrificed his life for his classmates and stopped a school shooter in Denver. In disarming the assailant he was repeatedly shot at point-blank range. Other classmates wrestled down the terrorist but for Kendrick it was too late. Kendrick, who wanted to become a Knight as soon as he would reach the age of eligibility, was made a full Knight posthumously. I had two conversations with his parents who agreed to come to our Sobor to be held in Philadelphia on December 7-8 to give witness about their son — a man of faith, a modern martyr. Kendrick’s sacrifice was Christ-like: selfless in an ultimate way and salvific for many.
Sadly, that week there were two mass shootings in Ohio and Texas. Today our American society is divided on how to deal with guns, immigrants, the growing tension between racial and ethnic groups.
I am concerned about a gun culture in which instruments that are designed to kill can be treated as toys. But I am even more concerned about a society in which American citizens, young people, people who grew up in a free, democratic, pluralistic, economically privileged society become cold-blooded killers. In the end, it is our hate that kills. A week that began with El Paso and Dayton and culminated with the testimony of John and Maria Castillo outlined for me the immensity of the challenge facing any spiritual and civic leader in America.
Speaking with Kendrick’s parents, you were exposed to the worst and the best of America…
We live in a society that seems to be unraveling. We no longer have a common anthropology, a shared definition of who is a man or woman, what is marriage or family. People are becoming less capable of authentic communication and lasting commitment. The life of the spirit, the community that is fostered in churches, the communion that should be fostered in families is in fact becoming less and less a matrix defining and cementing American society. And the cracks and crevices are becoming deeper and wider. There is a need for profound conversion—personal, cultural, and political.
Things are not well in society. Never have we possessed or consumed so much, and yet how easily we descend from riches and privilege to base and even murderous activity: whether it be the scandal of child abuse in the Church, medicine, and sports, not to mention families; the epidemic of pornography; the irresponsibility of vulgar and debased political rhetoric; the iconic depravity of a billionaire whose life ends in the tragedy of suicide; or the mass shootings of innocent civilians that are becoming a regular phenomenon — all manifest that there are deep problems in our culture. I fear it may get worse before it gets better.
Sad and alarming reflections. However, the start of your ministry in the US will be remembered as a big festival. Let us get back to the beginning. How did your service commence?
With abundant divine grace and incredible intensity. I thank God and my brothers and sisters for every day that I have experienced since June 4.
It all began with a deeply moving, spiritually rooted, and symbolic inauguration week (June 2–9) called “From Heart to Heart.” The liturgical prayers, encounters and conversations, and creative and critical reflection involved close to 3,000 persons at various sites in Philadelphia and Washington— young and old, members of our Church and friends, Americans and foreign visitors, rich and poor. The week’s activities required strenuous preparations over some three months and generated a whirlwind of rousing impressions, emotions, and insights.
Now, more than three months later, many in the Archeparchy can stand back and appreciate the grace and unity we experienced during this octave. Bishop Andriy Rabiy, my auxiliary, with the help of Bishops Bohdan Danylo of Parma, Paul Chomnycky of Stamford, and Benedict Aleksiychuk of Chicago, the archeparchial administration, the clergy, faithful and community leaders did an amazing job implementing the program. The complicated logistics were handled with subtlety allowing everyone to focus on what is most important — fellowship with God and neighbor.
The turnout was indeed impressive. It looks like many friends wanted to launch you off to a good start.
Almost half of our global Synod were present — twenty-two Ukrainian Catholic bishops — and His Beatitude Sviatoslav devoted a whole week to us. I have posted excerpts of his June 4 sermon on my door. It will take many years to fulfill the mandate that he expressed so eloquently. The bishops led services, preached, visited parishes, and met with our people throughout the week. I am particularly grateful to the other Eastern and Roman Catholic bishops, especially from the Byzantine Catholic Church, for their spiritual solidarity.
My brother bishops really came out in force — over fifty in total — to accompany me into this new ministry. In the months since, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Joseph Tobin of Newark have been warm and welcoming, while offering also much needed advice and assistance. Metropolitan Antony Scharba of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in America honored me with his presence and prayer. I had the opportunity to express my gratitude to him and to Archbishop Daniel Zelinsky during a fraternal Sunday encounter in New York.
I must ask pardon of the 140 priests present at the enthronement service, most of whom stood for close to three hours: something happened with the chairs that had been set up the night before. The priests’ steadfastness — and physical endurance! — before God on my behalf is something I will always appreciate, and of which, surely, I will be reminded!
The enthronement ceremony and solemn Divine Liturgy, along with a whole set of further events, aimed to bring together people from different corners of the United States, Canada, Ukraine, France, Belgium, Germany, and other European countries: clergy, religious, and faithful of different ages and walks of life. The choir that sang that day included ninety choristers from numerous parishes. Those who were present or watched on EWTN will long remember their splendid, uplifting chant.
These are not easy times for the Church in America. Many who participated shared that they went away with renewed motivation. Whom were you addressing?
The audiences were many —the clergy and religious, intellectuals and laborers, cultural workers and technocrats, seniors and the young. The week commenced with a perceptive and heartening lecture by George Weigel who gave us a good start analyzing the vocation of Eastern Catholics and the gifts that we should share with the rest of the Church Universal.
The full-day meeting with the religious of our Metropolia was the first time ever gathering of its kind. The Basilian Sisters hosted us at their beautiful Spirituality Center. The religious congregations in North America are waning. Coming together and sharing their concerns offered much needed mutual moral support. His Beatitude spent the morning with our clergy and the afternoon with the religious. Fruitful for me was my first conversation as a metropolitan with my brother priests, each of whom had an opportunity to express himself, to convey the concerns of their parishes and parishioners. The presbyterate and the youth must be special priorities for episcopal service in the Philadelphia Metropolia.
Our celebration week extended also to Washington, DC. Father Mark Morozowich and the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, of which he is dean, hosted an incisive discussion on the present state and mission of our Church in the United States. Here, the voices of young theologians of different ecclesial and ethnic/racial backgrounds sounded prominently. In that context came the announcement of the creation of a Ukrainian religious studies program at the Catholic University. This program is being launched with a generous five-million-dollar benefaction from Bishop Basil Losten, our Stamford bishop-emeritus. Fr. Robert Hitchens, rector of St. Josaphat’s Seminary, along with its staff and students, as well as the parishioners of the Holy Family National Shrine hosted us exquisitely.
You have also met some of the Ukrainian-American community leaders and politicians?
In the nation’s capital, Patriarch Sviatoslav and I met government officials and representatives of different state and civic institutions. During the working lunch with the leaders of the Ukrainian-American credit unions we reflected upon the challenges of the Ukrainian-American community-at-large. Discussions in the State Department about the war and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine took the conversation to a geo-political level.
The week included a day devoted to the youth. Why?
It was crucial to show that the youth are a top priority for our mission. At the same time I wanted to reach to the margins of our communities as well as outside of them. The Youth Day was punctuated by a moving healing service in which 300 people participated, each anointed by seven bishops — probably a first in the history of our Church. It was a true gift to have some of our friends with special needs fully involved, including a children’s touch football game. It had been years since I last played!
Other highlights were accompanying the youth to meet our low-income senior citizens at the Ascension Manor — African and Asian Americans, Latinos, as well as Ukrainian Americans, and the procession to the Shrine of St. John Neumann — a model for me of episcopal service to be emulated.
The “Heart to Heart” octave culminated with solemn Vespers of the great Feast of Pentecost and the celebration of the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, its ministers, and faithful. Indeed, the fruits of the Holy Spirit were among us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In anticipation of the Kingdom we commemorated our departed: the bishops of the Archeparchy in the cathedral crypt, and the clergy, religious, faithful and those who gave their lives for American liberty and freedom of Ukraine at the Fox Chase Cemetery. Prayer throughout the week was animated by the angelic singing of the Ukrainian Catholic University student choir, which later made a tour of parishes in New Jersey and New York. We prayed a lot! Fr. Roman Mirchuk said to me that never before had so many Matins and Vespers been celebrated at the cathedral. What occurred during the “Heart to Heart Week” demonstrated what is possible.
How did the city of Philadelphia receive you?
I am grateful that the mayor and the city council of Philadelphia issued an official proclamation designating my first days of service as “Heart to Heart Week” for the whole city. We had a good meeting and conversation between Ukrainian-American community leaders and city council representatives. There are issues in the Philly neighborhoods that we can address together. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a warm welcoming first-page article with a mirthful title: “A new crown in town.” The New York Times had a piece on their web page, as did major American Catholic and Ukrainian media, print and electronic. For many Americans this was a first exposure to the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Ukrainian-American community, and it was definitely a positive one. The reception was beyond my anticipation. The expectations expressed are, actually, rather daunting. I hope the honeymoon lasts. Everything is in God’s hands …
Right after that celebration week, you were welcomed by the Conference of U.S. Bishops…
Yes, the day after Pentecost I left for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting in Baltimore. The bishops could not have been friendlier. They are good men who want the best for the Church, its faithful and those who serve them. They are mindful of the Church’s faults and failings, and have the firm resolve to lead it in repentance and reform. In those first days of joy, the weight of the challenges facing every bishop — in fact, every Christian — in the US and in the world in the twenty-first century was palpable.
I visited separately the newly installed archbishop of Washington DC, Wilton Gregory, a man of great pastoral experience who served as president of the USCCB. On this occasion I participated at least briefly in the XXIII Orientale Lumen conference, an ecumenical theological encounter organized so faithfully by Jack Figel, this time on the topic of “One City, One Bishop: Church Boundaries Past, Present, and Future.”
Later, in August at the invitation of my old friend Cardinal Dolan I spent several days with him listening to his advice and explanations of Catholic life in the United States — most helpful after my 32 years spent in different European countries.
Have you visited many parishes of your Archepachy?
About half, thirty to be exact, not counting our cathedral in Philadelphia and the Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington. I started with Whippany, New Jersey. One of the newest parishes in the archeparchy hosted me for a solemn Divine Liturgy the first Sunday after the celebration week. The parishioners, community organizations, and particularly the youth came out in force. We spent a beautiful day together in prayer, conversation, and celebration of our identity and mission. I was moved by the spontaneous response on just a few days’ notice. That day ended with a profoundly personal moment when I celebrated a panachyda at my parents’ grave at St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cemetery in South Bound Brook, NJ. To them, and to the Great Generation that overcame the horrors of totalitarianism and World War II genocides to give us life and a foundation to live it well, I will always be indebted.
In July and August, I was introduced to our communities in the North and South Anthracite deaneries, as well as the Lehigh and Schuylkill deanery. Our churches are beautiful, and our people maintain them with great dedication and pride. My admiration continues to grow for the sacrifice made by penniless immigrants in the late 1800s who gave everything they could for the glory of God and the consolidation of their communities. The shining granite of the church in Shamokin, the rebuilt church in Shenandoah, the beautiful congregational singing in Frackville and McAdoo touched my heart. Each parish left its own impression contributing to the mosaic of the archeparchy that is being formed in my mind and heart.
The swing through the South Anthracite deanery and its twelve churches culminated with the Seminary Day festival in Minersville. This is one of three parishes in our archeparchy that still with the help of the Sister Servants maintain a school. For 80 years our anthracite parishes and faithful have held a pilgrimage festival which has brought people together from the entire archeparchy and has been an important support for the Washington seminary. Seminary Day included a beautiful Liturgy, a chance to preach, listen, have some beer from Yuengling, the oldest brewery in America, and hear the stories about the experience of five generations of faith.
The second swing through the Anthracite deanery calling on ten parishes culminated in a Divine Liturgy in Olyphant, which I had visited in the past. It remains memorable for me and for many because it was a place of service for Fr. Stephen Hrynuck, who holds what must be an all-American record for serving in one parish for almost sixty years. (He retired at the age of 97 in 2008, and died in 2014.) For years he was the oldest serving Catholic pastor in North America.
Visiting our places of worship offered me the opportunity to stay at the homes of our married and celibate clergy, meet our people, ask a lot of questions and encounter a sincerity, openness, and expectations that were both touching and motivating.
What are the main concerns of the parishioners?
Some in tiny parishes spoke with fear about the future. “Do you plan to close us?” they asked. In Glen Lyon and elsewhere I emphasized that I have come to see, listen, and appreciate. In the previous seven years in Paris, we moved from 13 to 38 missions. Closing parishes has not been part of my episcopal experience. Hopefully that this will not change. I pray that we can not only maintain, but increase the number of our missions. What that means exactly, we will discern in time together.
What were the other encounters and travels?
This summer was marked by numerous encounters, conferences, and conventions in five countries, with hundreds of bishops and priests, religious sisters, and thousands of faithful, especially young people. There were celebrations with the Ruthenians in Parma and visits with them in NYC. Twice I celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. George’s Church in New York. Besides the Ukrainian Museum, which I visit regularly, I signed up for membership to the Whitney. My 90-year-old aunt and godmother Stephanie lives in New York. It is good to be closer in her time of need.
Since my arrival, I visited the Basilian Sisters in Fox Chase three times — the last on the occasion of Sister Bernarda’s requiem. What a brave missionary this music teacher was in post-Soviet Ukraine to the age of 90! I spent two days at Sloatsburg, New York, with the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate and participated in the Dormition pilgrimage — the biggest annual gathering of Ukrainian Catholics in the US. The Sister Servants have been hosting it for 65 years. Despite the intense heat, more than 3,000 people prayed and celebrated together outdoors.
After observing Ukrainian Independence Day on August 24 with the Philadelphia community, I left for the Synod in Rome from Centralia, a symbolic place. This Pennsylvania coal town was devastated by the underground fires that started in the 1960s, forcing an almost complete evacuation of the population and destruction of all buildings: before the fires some 1500 residents lived there; according to the 2010 census — only 10. Just a few houses and the building of the Ukrainian Catholic Church remain. Driving on the asphalt streets of the neighborhoods that exist no more was an eerie experience. The church and the beautiful natural surroundings bring into sharp contrast life and death, symbolizing the creative and destructive capacities of humanity, and the ups and downs in communities, in general, and in the Church, in particular.
What were your first moves besides the parish visits?
The Archeparchy has started an audit/accompaniment process conducted by a team headed by Bishop Ken Nowakowski from British Columbia. The team is surveying different aspects of life in the Philadelphia Archeparchy: pastoral, canonical, legal, financial, and infrastructural. Bishop Ken has interviewed one-half of the active priests of the archeparchy. The finances were reviewed, and a preliminary survey of the paperwork of the archeparchy — both canonical and civil — was conducted.
Why would you need the audit?
An audit, which comes from the Latin word audire “to listen”, is an efficient instrument to gather information in a structured way and to identify the possibilities for growth. It worked very well for the Paris eparchy — I began and finished my service there with an audit conducted by Bishop Ken. The same team audited the Patriarchal Curia of our Church in 2017-18. The goal is not only “to listen” but also to accompany. The audit/accompaniment can be expected to last a year or more.
What are the first conclusions of the audit?
It is clear that the archeparchy has active parishes, beautiful churches, committed clergy and faithful. The staff are dedicated. We have a complex sociology, and it is clear that we are not getting through to the youth. We have been losing people through assimilation and secularization—80% with each generation. Evangelization and catechesis need an overhaul. Probably, we need to work more on a person to person level, heart to heart. The clergy and faithful respond positively to open and frank encounters and discussion. People, priests, the Church, and American society crave for hope and healing. Trust is fragile. Too many adversarial relationships, particularly in governance. Pastoral concerns should prevail over administrative ones. We all need what Pope Francis is calling for— “a pastoral conversion.” The manner and message of Jesus should serve as our guidelines — His obedience to the Father and relationship to the people He encountered. There is a significant financial deficit in the archeparchy, the nature of which will become more clear as the audit continues. But it is already evident that the finances of our archeparchy need creative attention and significant revision and development. Some of the parishes struggle to survive with few young people. And yet the clergy and faithful show great resolve. Evangelization of the younger generation is the primary challenge, especially in light of the ongoing de-traditionalization of culture and society.
Having entitled your week “From Heart to Heart” you clearly made a pastoral, rather than structural, focus. Has a better acquaintance with the situation changed it? Or has it confirmed your intuition?
The intention to emphasize a pastoral, person-to-person approach announced during the “Heart to Heart Week” has only been reinforced by the summer experience. That doesn’t mean that there will be no attention to structures, but all structural and financial decisions should be guided by spiritual priorities and pastoral concerns. It will take more time to determine what structures are necessary and there must be some hard financial decisions. We need people, especially priests—holy ones. Together the US Ukrainian Catholic bishops have issued a letter to candidates for priestly service which explains more fully what kind of clergy the Metropolia needs for the future.
For me, the top priorities are: first, the spiritual strengthening of our presbyterate, increasing the number of priests, and helping all of our priests to grow spiritually and intellectually, to improve their health, to travel, to get new perspectives, to update their knowledge and competences, especially in preaching. We all need to speak heart to heart. The second top priority is to reach out to the youth. This, in fact, is the greatest challenge. It is, actually, a question of do or die. It cannot be overemphasized.
For the last months, I have been trying to listen and watch the best I can. The audit and our upcoming Sobor (eparchial council/convention) sessions serve to embed “listening” more deeply into the corporate culture of the archeparchy. The listening is just a beginning, but it will also be important to draw conclusions, one after another, about what needs to be done concretely. This should be happening in concert with the other eparchies of our Metropolia.
For two days (August 29-30) our bishops of North America, both the US and Canada, met in Rome before the general global Ukrainian Catholic Bishops’ Synod to share our concerns and approaches. This year the US was responsible for the agenda. We covered many issues and had frank, fraternal, constructive conversations. There is a desire to walk together, to strengthen cooperation on clergy recruitment, liturgical texts, and youth issues.
In an interview after your appointment, you said that you are coming home. Have you experienced a real homecoming?
The final third of my first 100 days was marked by a return on two occasions to Syracuse, my home town. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse has just received a new bishop, Douglas Lucia. His ordination and enthronement were an occasion to see from another perspective a new beginning. If in Philadelphia I was “a new crown in town” as the Philadelphia Inquirer teased, in Syracuse I was a local boy welcoming a new bishop.
Coming home to the US, to Syracuse, to a family wedding (of my niece Kateryna and her Brazilian husband João), to my 90-year old godmother, and good friends from my youth and student years have been particularly rewarding. Some friends, like the Temnycky family and Iko Labunka, graciously drove me from event to event, others, like the Buniaks, attended to my health needs. One aspect of my life which is not fully re-Americanized is that I don’t yet have a car, and so priests and good friends have cordially driven me where I needed to go.
But my new family also gave me a feeling of home. Throughout this time I was faithfully accompanied by auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy, Fr. Peter Waslo, our chancellor, and the committed members of our chancery team. Everybody has bent over backwards to show me the ropes. We are slowly getting used to each other. Hopefully, together we are opening our hearts to God’s will, our ears to God’s voice.
I rediscovered the beauty of America, its nature, the rolling hills of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the white marble of Washington, the walk on the High Line in New York City, good conversations with people in search of fate and faith.
Readjusting to American pastimes was also part of my summer. A weekend in East Chatham with the Plast Scouts brought me to the fields and streams and youthful memories. I hope to visit the SUM camp, Tryzub, and other youth organizations as soon as possible. I went to a Phillies home game and, being a New Yorker by birth, for the first time in my life I saw a game at Yankee Stadium. Cardinal Dolan would never let me live down the fact that at the baseball game instead of a hot-dog I ate … sushi. I’ll try to not repeat that faux-pas again!
You also spent a bit of time in Europe?
My responsibilities as head of the Department of External Church Affairs of the UGCC and president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv oblige me to travel regularly to Europe. This summer there was a special occasion— a two-day summit-seminar with the Holy Father.
Eleven hierarchs — metropolitans and members of the Permanent Synod of our Church — were hosted by Pope Francis, ten cardinals, archbishops and other members of the Curia for an unprecedented analytic session regarding the global state of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the context of the war being waged against Ukraine, the resultant humanitarian crisis, and the immigration tsunami of ten million Ukrainians who have left their homeland in the last twenty-five years. By convoking the meeting and dedicating so much time to it Pope Francis underscored that the suffering of the besieged and marginalized Ukraine is critical for him and the Holy See. He wanted his team to have full information on the life of the Ukrainian Church. We had two days to explain historical roots and contemporary issues. During the discussions special consideration was given to Ukrainians and church life on different continents. Many observers noticed that President Putin slipped in a meeting with the Pope before us. It was clearly of little consequence. The pope and his curia were attentive to the presentations and issues raised by our hierarchs, who gave excellent reports and illustrative materials. No other Eastern Catholic Church has had such an opportunity to be heard in Rome. It was a unique exercise in mutual listening and goodwill.
I also had meetings in Vienna, took part in a fundraising event in Kyiv for the Anne of Kyiv Center in France, had a beautiful encounter with the president of Notre Dame University in Lviv, and was present at the UCU Senate (board of directors) meeting. It was wonderful to see faculty and students of UCU again.
In Poland, I had substantive meetings on the spiritual foundations of European unity with the Polish philosopher and public intellectual Krzysztof Czyżewski and team members of the Anne of Kyiv Center. The second time I traveled to Europe for the Synod of bishops in Rome and the commencement of the new academic year at UCU. As my first 100 days came to a close, 10,000 young people from all over Ukraine and from different countries descended on the shining UCU campus for a Christian festival entitled “Wind of Hope.” Indeed, it was!
Were you able to combine all these worlds you operate in? What would be the system?
Effective fulfillment of my responsibilities as the metropolitan of Philadelphia, president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, and head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will require discipline, precise time-management, and flawlessly efficient communication. Thank God, today it is possible to lead international and intercontinental teams with the aid of contemporary technology.
I am very grateful that so many of the UCU family and from the Paris eparchy team were willing to spend many weeks in the United States easing the transition. I hope that our archeparchy can become increasingly internationalized. It might seem that international experience is not necessary for everyone, but in fact, that is the case. Stepping out of our village and our specific cultural context both inspires and promotes humility. We see that our problems are not unique; we see that our burdens are not necessarily the heaviest; and we see also that others are courageously and creatively moving forward in their lives and ministries despite the violence, war, or cultural disintegration engulfing them. We are in it all together.
Did you have rest this summer at all?
I am not sure that my initial vocation was to rest. These were days of incredible exposure, of profound encounter. I was learning a lot. My respect for the experience of others grows. But so does confidence that in my personal life and in the life of my Church God is in action. There is much good. There is much vitality. There is much that is true and profound.
Sometimes we are called to do things, and sometimes the tasks before us can be accomplished by making connections with those who already have been getting these things done.
Despite the transition, the short nights, and endless travel I think I have gained seven pounds. The pyrohy offered in different communities were just too good to turn down.
Wherever I could, I tried to get in a half-hour swim. This summer, whether in Philadelphia, in New York, DC, or in Rome the days were scorchingly hot. A hundred degrees (40 C), day after day. In Philadelphia I discovered the swimming pool behind the cathedral where I could also connect a bit closer with the inner city experience of the youth of various racial backgrounds.
What is the main lesson of your first 100 days at a new service?
The last 100 days reinforced for me what has been a growing intuition that all people — despite their diverse cultures and cuisines, languages, races and social backgrounds — are looking for communion. At the same time real communion, authentic communication, living community are becoming more difficult for most people. The feeling of emptiness that one senses in different places — Church included— and among many people is actually quite sad, especially since there is so much posturing, hype, stimulus, and consumption. The tawdry and empty bloatedness and melancholic alienation of much in our culture is in stark contrast to the joy, peace, and freedom that we experience in a friendship with our merciful and saving God and in loving relationships with each other.
We should not lose heart in the face of a rather hollow consensus and barren fashions. Life is a wonderful gift, and we can be free to receive and share it. True communion with God and neighbor does not have to be incarnated or experienced in great numbers. The Kingdom is like a mustard seed. Followers of Christ are mere yeast in the dough or salt in the meal. Good things come in small packages. Real things can be shared from one heart to another. A pastor today is called to be present and transparent, to avoid playing a role, to be a simple instrument that lets the Holy Spirit be the prime protagonist. I have asked people: “What do you expect from me? What advice can you give me?” Among the responses that speak to me most is: “be a spiritual father,” “be yourself,” “be close.” This closeness and communion I have received in the first 100 days beyond my expectations. I realize that I am not the one who is in control and that I am called to let go ever more. I hope that I can trust God and my sisters and brothers, fostering a mutual trust with and among them. What an adventure!
Mariana Karapinka specially for the Ukrainian Weekly