December 11, 2014

The Archeparchy of Winnipeg has successfully realized the happy mandate of the Synod of Bishops that every Eparchy and Exarchate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church would hold a Sobor (council) that would provide representatives of all the laity, clergy and religious a forum to discuss and strategize. The principal theme of the Sobor was to be a comprehensive “Vision 2020” renewal of the Ukrainian Catholic Church now under way throughout the world. The main thrust of Vision 2020 is what is more commonly known as “The Vibrant Parish”. The Vibrant Parish – initiated by the inspired pastoral letter of the same name - is the global effort to rejuvenate the Ukrainian Catholic Church by focusing first on the revitalization of each parish. This is a logical starting point as it is through the local parish that most members of the faithful experience their Christian faith.  

The uniqueness of the 2014 Sobor, however, is that it was not so much a consultation gathering, but an action follow-up to the mandate issued to all the Church in the pastoral letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav – “The Vibrant Parish: A Place to Encounter the Living Christ”. The purpose and format of the 2014 Sobor was to pinpoint the most primary goals of the six priorities of a “Vibrant Parish” as laid out in the pastoral letter, and to share experiences and to propose realistic strategies so that participating parishes would have a clear basis on which to build concrete plans to reach those goals.

Rev. Andrew Onuferko, from the international Vibrant Parish Implementation Team, made a presentation to the clergy of the Archeparchy on 11 December of last year. It was at that time that the decision of the Synod of Bishops for a 2014 Sobor was explained. The priests were able to learn more about the goals of the Vibrant Parish initiative and discuss their views and proposals. Some of the discussion focused on a consultative eparchial sobor, “Jesus Christ the Source of our Spiritual Renewal” that had occurred in 2002. Since the Archeparchy held a major Sobor twelve years prior, it was decided that perhaps a smaller, albeit more intimate format would prove more beneficial at this time. Metropolitan Lawrence agreed to follow one of the options proposed at the Clergy Conference – a series of Regional Sobors throughout the Archeparchy. This would allow for an even greater participation on the part of parishioners since fewer parish communities would be involved within each region.

Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski, the Vision 2020 Coordinator for the Archeparchy of Winnipeg, in consultation with the Metropolitan, divided the Archeparchy into three regions that would allow for a mix of rural and urban parishes. This would provide an opportunity for parishioners from different situations to better appreciate the concerns and challenges of their peers from different areas.

The three regions that were established were the “Western” (which essentially corresponded to the territory Dauphin Deanery), the “South-Eastern” (parishes of the Cooks Creek, Vita areas and those in Winnipeg east of the Red River and South of Portage Avenue) and the “North-Central” (Interlake Parishes, the Selkirks and Winnipeg parishes in the core and north end areas). All the clergy from each of the parishes and “five representatives from each parish” were invited to participate. The principal qualifications for a representative was that he/she had to truly care about the future of the Church in Manitoba and had to do a bit of homework in preparation for the Sobor. The ‘homework’ was simple enough – study the 2012 Pastoral Letter “The Vibrant Parish”. Additional (albeit optional) reading was encouraged – such as other church documents –e.g. Pope Francis’ Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

All three Regional Sobors would take place on a Saturday and would include an all-day format beginning with registration and a Divine Liturgy in the morning and ending with a fellowship supper of sharing and validation.

1. The first Regional Sobor was held in the heart of the Western Region at Holy Resurrection Parish in the city of Dauphin on 24 May 2014. The following report on the event was submitted by participant Shirley Novalkowski, of the Dauphin Parish...

THE FIRST ARCHEPARCIAL SOBOR HELD IN MANITOBA The Vibrant Parish: A Place to Encounter the Living Christ, was held in the Western Region-Dauphin Deanery headed by Very Reverend Father Oleg  Bodnarski at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of the Resurrection in Dauphin, Manitoba on Saturday, May 24th, 2014.  Facilitating this event was Archeparchial Vision Coordinator Rev. Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski from Winnipeg.  The Western Region extends from Portage la Prairie to Brandon, west to the Saskatchewan border, north to Thompson and south to Neepawa.

The Vision 2020 Sobor was attended by representatives from 5 of the 6 Districts and their clergy:  Fr. Michael Tkatchuk - Brandon District, Fr. Emil Karadesinec - Neepawa District, Fr. Mykhailo Khomitskyy - Rossburn District, Fr. Yaroslav Strukhlyak - Gilbert Plains District, and Very Rev. Fr. Oleg Bodnarski - Dauphin District, and also seminarian Jay Korban from Winnipeg, for over 87 participants. Absent was the Northern District (due to the transfer and changes happening there at the time).

The one day seminar opened with celebration of the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 am, group picture was taken, then down to the auditorium for the six main priority topics and strategies to be held as group table discussions, confirming the priorities, changes, and means of revitalizing the future of our churches in Canada.  A gallery walk of these strategies was shared upon completion.

The topics of discussion to prioritize and strategize were:  1) Word of God - the Bible, 2) Holy Mysteries - Sacraments, 3) Leadership, 4) Serving One's Neighbor, 5) Fostering and Serving Unity and 6) Missionary Spirit of the Parish Community.

Three presentations enjoyed were: 1) A couple by (Jason and Michele Gulenchin), 2) A Woman Religious by (Sister Jean Zemliak, SSMI) and 3) A Young Man by (Jay Korban, Seminarian).

A Prayer Devotion to our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary (Moleben) was celebrated, including a group pledge, followed by a delicious supper catered by the U.C.W.L.C. and parish ladies.  The session was concluded with the final group presentations.  What an informative, enjoyable and revitalizing experience.”

2. The second Regional Sobor – the South-Eastern – was held at the Holy Eucharist Parish Church and Parish Centre on Saturday,  September 20, 2014. The morning began with a Divine Liturgy celebrated with the participation of the clergy of the participating parishes. An enthusiastic sermon was preached by the Winnipeg Dean, Fr. Mark Gnutel.

At the Parish Centre, after taking a coffee and refreshments to the central ‘theatre’, the participants heard a presentation of “who we are” as Church given by the Archeparchial Vision 2020 Coordinator, Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski. He spoke on the role of every member of the Church in fulfilling the mission of Christ’s Church. He especially emphasized how the laity must fully realize their participation in the priestly, prophetic and kingly duties in which all the baptised participate. He then gave a brief refresher on the Vibrant Parish Pastoral Letter. Some Q&A followed.

The participants were invited to divide themselves into working groups according to their top interest in the six Vibrant Parish priorities that most inspire them. During a period of discussion in the six groups, the participants honed their ideas into a clear idea, expressed in a phrase or two. This idea was also expressed visually by each group in a “poster” that everyone would readily understand. It was a challenge to be sure, but one that proved doable as the need to focus and uncomplicate the message is ever more evident for our new generation of the 21st Century. It was made clear that as time goes on new messages can be developed. However, the group was asked to present what the participants felt was the message that needed to be dealt with first and foremost.

After lunch, a panel discussion was held back in the theatre area. Three individuals, who were chosen from among the parishes to represent at least three of the many possible segments of any parish, were asked to voice their ideas about how they saw the Church in Manitoba today and where they thought we needed to concentrate our energy in the next six years (i.e. leading us into the year 2020).

A parent, Curtis Shupenia spoke from his perspective as a young father. A voice from the youth of the Church was given to Spencer Katernuk. A life-time active parishioner, Walter Dudych, expressed concerns and hopes from the perspective of one who is continuously invested in Church life. Sometime was allowed for Q&A, but the three presentations were to serve as some opening ideas for a discussion in smaller groups on the same subject. The participants again broke into groups according to the six priorities of a Vibrant Parish.

Following discussion, the groups were tasked with producing from five to ten actual strategies as to how the realization of their particular priority might best be accomplished in a typical parish setting.

The six ‘lists’ of strategies were placed in different locations of the Parish Centre. The participants were invited to walk about the Centre, and study the lists. Each participant was invited to signal – by placing a sticker beside it - which one strategy from each list was most important and most likely achievable. (This information will be shared in a designated link on this site).

The intense day came to a close with a Moleben, led by Fr. Michael Krochak in the parish centre. The ladies of the parish (some of whom also participated), prepared wonderful meals and snacks throughout the day. They also had a wonderful supper prepared for all the Sobor participants. At the meal, each group was able to present some of the work that they had accomplished throughout the day and individuals also came forward to talk about what they were “taking home” with them to their home parish and the inspirations that they received.

One of the thoughts expressed at this Regional Sobor – one that was heard at all three – is that every participant felt that they had a voice in the life and future of their Church. There was a great deal of hope at the end of the Sobor… even with the obvious fact that there was considerable work on the horizon if Vision 2020 was to be fully successful.

3. The Third Regional Sobor, the North Central Sobor was held at Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Winnipeg on Saturday, October 25, 2014. After early registration, the morning again began with a beautiful Divine Liturgy at which the clergy of the participating parishes concelebrated. Parish Priest Fr. Volodymyr Bashutskyy warmly welcomed everyone to the parish. An in depth homily on the spirit of His Beatitude Sviatoslav’s Vibrant Parish was preached by the Rector of the Cathedral, Mitred Archpriest Monsignor Michael Buyachok.

Once again, the ladies of the BVM Parish prepared an amazing day of meals, snacks and refreshments. After the participants grabbed a good cup of coffee and some pastries, and settled into the theatre area of the auditorium, Vision2020 Coordinator, Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski, as he did for all three Sobors, spoke about what our task is as Church and how the six Vibrant Parish priorities are a concise plan of action for us to achieve that vibrancy in our parishes.

The division into small groups for the six priorities and then the second division in the afternoon used a different method than that used at the first two Sobors that ensured a better mix of participants and a thus a better sharing of ideas with all of God’s people in the region. This allowed participants to meet up and discuss with others from even more parishes of the Archeparchy.

The format for the day was very similar in all three Regional Sobors as described in #2 above. However, in the afternoon, the panel discussion was led by yet another set of very interesting speakers. For the youth/young adults. Andrew Konopelny expressed his view of the Church today and where he thought the Archeparchy should concentrate its efforts over the next six years. From the Cathderal, active parishioner, Margareta Saray, shared about her fascinating activity in the church. The third Regional Sobor was once again blessed by having a member of a community of consecrated life speak – Sr. Darlene Pelechaty, SSMI. These three speakers, like in the previous two Sobors, inspired the participants for their very animated discussions in small groups.

The basic results of all three Regional Sobors will be placed on this Archeparchial website in the near future.

The underlying purpose of all the Eparchial Sobors in 2014 was that the many ideas and strategies could be shared with the entire Church around the world when delegates from each eparchy will come together for the all-Church (international) Patriarchal Sobor in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk in 2015. It is at Ivano-Frankivsk that representatives of every eparchy or exarchate from around the globe will anxiously listen to hear about the successes of the Vibrant Parish program in our parishes here in Manitoba. We will be comparing ideas and programs from other parishes… learning about new things that might work best for… our parish.           

Archeparchy of Winnipeg


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