The Canada Room at Brennan Hall at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto was packed to the gills with leaders of the Ukrainian community of Toronto and various university officials on Friday, May 2, 2014 as His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church delivered a riveting address on the value of higher education in the broader human quest for a relationship with a God who wants to be known. He spoke of the under-reported religious dimensions of the maidan and how it was transformed from a pro-European protest into an incubator of human dignity, with religious leaders of various Christian communities as well as Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams leading the people in prayer and the fundamental transformations that occurred there.
Patriarch Sviatoslav addressed the role of the diaspora, reminding his audience that the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church is not a Church simply for Ukrainians. It is rather “a Church that comes from the Ukrainian people, but is for the entire human race.” That is what makes it a Christian Church. His Beatitude was introduced by Dr. Andrew Bennett, Ambassador to the Canadian Office of Religious Freedom, who is an alumnus of the Sheptytsky Institute, and a former Vice-President of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute Foundation (MASIF). The Ambassador is a sub-deacon in the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. Like Ambassador Bennett, Patriarch Sviatoslav is an alumnus of the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, having attended the Institute’s Summer Intensive Program at Holy Transfiguration Monastery in California in1995, as a newly ordained priest.
His Beatitude reflected on the need for the Sheptytsky Institute, which since 1986 has been preparing men and women, clergy and laypeople for lives of service and leadership, offering fully accredited degree programs in Eastern Christian Studies from the undergraduate certificate through the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. He cited the Institute’s motto, “Serving for the Future, Leading with Tradition.” He stressed that he endorsed this motto and added that it is a lot to live up to. Speaking of the diaspora’s relationship with Ukraine, he emphasized that the diaspora’s role is “not to live for Ukraine, but to live,” that is, to thrive and not just survive, demanding and working towards a living, dynamic, life-giving Church that can nourish it. He said: “in Ukraine we have the Ukrainian Catholic University, in the diaspora, you have the Sheptytsky Institute” to train leaders, and he asked those assembled to support the Institute. Towards the end of his deeply engaging talk, Patriarch Sviatoslav hinted obliquely at the conversations that have been held recently about the possibility of the relocation of the Sheptytsky Institute: “Why is my first public event during this visit to the Toronto Eparchy at a university? Because I believe that we Eastern Christians, Catholic and Orthodox, have something life-giving to offer to one of the great universities of the world. I believe that the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, which has resolutely proven itself in the last 28 years, is excellently positioned to do the offering.” The crowd of some 250 rose to their feet and gave the patriarch long-lasting applause.
Rev. Michael and Dobrodiyka Oksana Loza of Oakville served as the masters of ceremonies for the evening. Fr. Peter Galadza, chair of the banquet committee, introduced special guests, including the chief patron of the evening, philanthropist James Temerty, Chair of St. Michael’s Collegium Hugh MacKinnon, president of St. Michael’s College Sr. Anne Anderson, CSJ and a bevy of other dignitaries. Andriy Hladyshevsky, Q.C. of Edmonton, President of MASIF, offered a toast to His Beatitude. During the evening, Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism presented the Very Rev. Dr. Peter Galadza, Kule Family Chair of Eastern Christian Liturgy with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for outstanding service to the community. Fr. Andriy Chirovsky, founder of the Sheptytsky Institute and Peter and Doris Kule Chair of Eastern Christian Theology and Spirituality, rounded out the program with thanks, fondly remembering his former student, the patriarch, as a young priest who struck him as fundamentally gentle and humble as well as incredibly talented. He proclaimed: “This is the kind of leader we would follow to the ends of the earth.”
The evening had been opened with an invocation by Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto and Chancellor of the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. It was concluded with a benediction by Bishop Stephen Chmilar of the Eparchy of Toronto. Significant assistance in the organization of the affair was rendered by Mr. Bill Petruck and the staff of Toronto’s Funding matters, Inc. The full text of the patriarch’s speech can be found at www.royaldoors.net . In the first day after it was uploaded, the website reported over 1400 views. All present received copies of two new publications: The Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies: Serving for the Future, Leading with Tradition and Archbishop Andrei Sheptytsky and the Ukrainian Jewish Bond, both edited by Fr. Peter Galadza.