Ukrainian Journals of Henri Nouwen presented to Philadelphia audience 


On December 18, the Library of the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center in Jenkintown hosted the book presentation of “Ukrainian Journals” of Father Henri Nouwen. The book consists of deep and touching personal reflections on Ukraine and Ukrainians by Father Henri, which he wrote in his journals during two trips to Ukraine. These journals, written 27 years ago, have never been published and have now seen the light of the day in Lviv’s publishing house, Svichado, 25 years after their author’s death.

“In the religious and theological world of the ’80s and ’90’s Fr. Henri Nouwen was a megastar, but rather a jazzman not a pop star, ” said Metropolitan Borys Gudziak, who met Father Henri, while studying at Harvard University. They became close friends, and it was Borys Gudziak who asked him to visit Ukraine.

“It was important for me that he — my professor, confessor, and friend – come to see the land of my parents, where I recently moved. And he agreed. This is an example of Henri’s reflex — he was deeply involved in other people’s lives. For him, everything was personal. He had the gift of attention. He was a man of encounter, empathy, and deep intuition. This book appeared because he came to me and Zenia Kushpeta, who was establishing the movements “l’Arche” and “Faith and Light” in Ukraine.

The book was presented to the Philadelphia audience by Metropolitan Borys Gudziak and the translator of the Journals, Maryana Karapinka, who is currently the head of the Philadelphia Archeparchy’s Communications Department. Deacon Volodymyr Radko moderated the conversation.

“He was my best friend, although 25 years have passed since his sudden death, and death puts a little distance between us and our friends. He had a tremendous influence on me, and he was with me in the most difficult moments of my inner spiritual experiences. The power of his writing, and I must say that his speeches were even stronger than the texts, came from great openness. He was honest, almost naked. This was the core of his eloquence, because he confronted what he was going through, shared it with the Lord, and wrote and preached about it, ” the Metropolitan shared.

He also noted that although Father Henri Nouwen had not seen the Ukrainian Catholic University, it was his influence that placed at the center of the university’s identity marginalized people with intellectual disabilities. The Ukrainian Catholic University is built on two pillars: martyrs — those who carried the torches of faith through the complex circumstances of the twentieth century, and marginalized — mentally handicapped people who do not care if you have a diploma or are in an important position. But they ask the most important pedagogical question ‘Can you love me?’ “They are mentors of human relations, “Archbishop Borys stressed.

Maryana Karapinka spoke about the peculiarities of the work on the translation of the “Journals” and about the special experience of discovering Lviv of the ’90s through Father Henri’s writing. “Travel stories is one of the oldest and most interesting genres in literature. This is an opportunity to get to places where we have never been. Father Henri writes about Ukraine and places that I know well, but with him, I seem to have fallen into the time machine — Ukraine and Lviv he writes about no longer exist. I was struck by the fact that Father Henri looked at our post-Soviet reality with the eyes of love. He doesn’t understand everything, he is sometimes annoyed, but he tries to comprehend the situation to its core, he is not afraid to meet suffering people,” she shared.

She also spoke about the work of the Henri Nouwen Foundation, created by his brother Laurent, who for 20 years has supported various projects in Ukraine  — psychiatric hospitals, orphanages, families with children with disabilities, rural hospitals, and schools.

The Archeparchy express its sincere gratitude to the Library at the UECC for their collaboration on this project and hopefully many more in the future.



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