“One of the signs of the Holy Spirit is the urge to action, and action gives life,” – Bishop Andriy Rabiy on his new appointment
On November 10, 2022, the Apostolic See announced that the Holy Father Francis, after blessing the decision of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, appointed Bishop Andriy Rabiy as an auxiliary bishop of the Winnipeg Archeparchy. Prior to that, the bishop performed active pastoral ministry as an auxiliary bishop in the Philadelphia Archeparchy.
How the bishop himself received the news about the change of assignment, what will be his first steps and what he learned during 28 years of service in the United States of America – we talk about this with Bishop Andriy Rabiy, auxiliary bishop of the Winnipeg Archeparchy.
How and when did you receive the news that from now on you will serve as an auxiliary bishop in the Winnipeg Archeparchy?
I learned of the appointment to the Archeparchy of Winnipeg on Thursday morning, November 10, shortly after it was announced by the Holy See. After a short prayer, I realized that my time serving in the United States had come to an end and a new challenge was waiting for me. This is wonderful because with every assignment and challenge there is an opportunity to learn, to serve, to apply previous experiences and abilities, and to learn new things. One of the signs of the Holy Spirit is prompting to action, and action gives life.
Did this decision of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC come as a surprise to you?
This decision was not a complete surprise. One of the priority tasks of the Synod is the proper spiritual care of the faithful in different parts of the world, and a bishop and clergy coordinate and provide it at the local level. The effort to ensure this in full sometimes requires re-appointments among the bishops. Therefore, each member of the Synod is ready to change the place of his service, aiming at the good of the faithful and the Church. Just like the first holy apostles: no one chose where they wanted to serve, but always obeyed the will of the Church and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Have you been to Canada? What do you think about this country and our Church there?
Yes, I had the opportunity to visit the province of British Columbia in 2018, and the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario last spring. Each province is beautiful and unique in its own way.
The history of Ukrainian immigration to Canada is very interesting, in which the history of our Church in the settlements is closely intertwined. Also, the history of Ukrainians in Canada is closely connected with the history of the development of Canada as a country. For example, Ukrainians and Canadians of Ukrainian origin made up and make up about 9-10% of the total population in the province of Manitoba. In the province of Ontario, this share is even higher.
Our Church in Canada has an interesting history of formation. Its development mostly depended on the living conditions and circumstances of our faithful. Our parishes are often identified with large villages, towns and megacities. In Canadian reality, there are a large number of so-called “farm” parishes. These are remote small churches that were built by Ukrainian farmers on the edge of their fields, where a priest came to serve the Holy Liturgy once a week or a month. This is a really good example of the adaptation of our Church to these circumstances.
Nevertheless, many of our parishes there are really alive and actively involved in social service, especially for newcoming displaced people from Ukraine. Most of the priests are local, that is, they are from Canada, and a relatively small number of priests come from Ukraine and other countries. This diversity is a gift, because it makes it possible to direct priests to parishes where they can best develop and bestow their gifts and abilities on the faithful.
I really want to meet the clergy of the Winnipeg Archdiocese and get to know them better. Equally, I want to get to know the Ukrainian communities of the province of Manitoba.
Have you had a chance to talk with Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak and learn about your new duties and limits of responsibility?
There had not yet been an opportunity to discuss my duties and hopes in detail, as only a few days had passed. I think that Metropolitan Lawrence will gradually share his expectations and tell me about responsibilities. I would very much like to help him, taking into account also the fact that he is currently the interim administrator of the Eparchy of Saskatoon, where proper attention and care of the faithful must also be given. For now, I can say that I will work with temporarily resettled people from Ukraine and find ways to help them adapt to the conditions of a new country for them.
Wasn’t it difficult to say goodbye to the country and the people with whom you have served for 28 years?
One of the great personal difficulties is the very moment of saying “goodbye”. It seems to me that when we say “goodbye”, we cut off the connection and disengage from the past permanently. It is better to say “see you soon” or “goodbye”. Many of my friends, mentors, wonderful parishioners and acquaintances remain in the United States, with whom I will continue to keep in touch. Many of them were very involved in the process of my formation as a person, a seminarian, a priest, and later as a bishop. All of them are extremely dear to me and I will always remember them.
What do you feel most grateful for to Metropolitan Borys Gudziak, to our Church in the USA, and to the country in general? What did they teach you?
I am most grateful to the Lord God for bringing me to the United States after two years of seminary in Ivano-Frankivsk in order to continue my studies at St. Josaphat Seminary in Washington at the invitation of the then Metropolitan Stepan Sulyk. I was given the opportunity to receive an excellent education at the Catholic University of America and the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., and later to receive a Licentiate in Canon Law. This opportunity was quite rare at that time.
I will always be grateful to the wonderful parishioners in the parishes in which I had the opportunity to serve and who helped me grow as a priest. I will remain extremely grateful to all my mentors, rectors, brother-priests, and archbishop-emeritus Stefan Soroka for their love, care and example of sincere service to God and the Church. I am very grateful to Metropolitan Boris for his example of serving the Church in different parts of the world, his knowledge of the history of the Church, depth of thought, constant search for an understanding of the role of God and the Church in the modern world, and concern for Ukraine during the war.
And personally, I am very grateful for the opportunity to understand the true dignity of a person and the right to freedom. In the context of the conditions and time when I came to the United States – and this happened back in 1994 – it was a transition from thinking and perceiving reality in a “Soviet” way (homosovieticus) to understanding that you are unique, a person and an individual, completely able to have his own and unique opinion and worldview. It is something that is “very American”.
The first clear experience of this was during my studies at the Catholic University, when teachers treated students as individuals rather than a general number of young people.
Any experience is good, instructive and unique. The main thing is to always see God’s presence and what lesson He wants to teach us.
Translation by Bishop Andriy Rabiy.
Original text by о. Іван Вихор