At the Sobor: Day 3

August 25, 2015

We rose early on Tuesday as we had to be ready to catch the chartered buses from the hotel to the Resurrection Cathedral. The buses started running at 6:30 am. It was interesting to note that a good number of Canadian delegates were among the first group to take the first bus. Are we such early risers?

It was a beautiful Ukraine morning in the heart of the old part of the city of Ivano-Frankivsk. There really wasn't anyone on the street except the Sobor delegates who stood chatting as we waited for the church to be opened. The cathedral and surrounding complex was fully remodeled and looked very impressive.

The bishops went directly into the church to vest and prepare for the Divine Liturgy. The priests went to an adjacent building to vest and then return to the cathedral to await the arrival of His Beatitude Sviatoslav.

As we waited, we sang the 1st Hour with the Tropars of the feast of the Transfiguration, as the post-feast was still on according to the Julian Calendar. The cathedral soon filled with fully vested bishops and clergy from around the world. Lay delegates, local dignitaries and parishioners filled up the church and spilled out onto the square.

Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak was given the place of precedence right after the local Metropolitan Volodymyr Vityshyn. I was asked to be one of the four priests who first enter the Sanctuary at the beginning of the Liturgy and then later distribute Holy Communion. I am sorry that I did not get the name of the fourth priest, but the other two were Fr. Myron Bendyk, the Rector of the Drohobych Seminary and another from Canada: Fr. Peter Galadza from the Sheptytsky Institute in Ottawa.

His Beatitude arrived to the trumpeting of the local instrument of the Carpathian Mountain region, the "trembita". That moment set the tone of otherworldliness that lasted for the next three plus minus hours. One could not help but become lost in the glory and mystery of the perfectly celebrated Eucharist Liturgy of St John Chrysostom - as only the Ukrainian Church can. I have no pictures to share, but the Sobor staff said, that they will send some later.

Following this brief moment of heaven, buses took the delegates back to the hotel for breakfast and to prepare for the opening ceremonies of the Sobor. I did not join them. Since our Winnipeg brochures were damaged in flight, I hurried to town with a flash drive containing the documents in the hope that someone could print off the hundreds of copies today! Such a place was found, but they wouldn't be ready until the end of the day. I picked them up on the way to vespers in the evening. I made it back to the Theatre for the Sobor.

The opening ceremonies were well and solemnly performed, beginning with the procession of the Gospel Book into the Sobor Hall at the local Drama Theatre.

His Beatitude gave the opening address where he shared the history of the Vibrant Parish movement and thanked the many groups and individuals that have made it happen until now. He did ask the delegates one thing at the end, that this time they would not, they could not return home and forget what they will discuss and decide here in the next few days. The Church must move decisively forward. There is no time to drift again. (Yes, that's very paraphrased).

All sessions have simultaneous English translations.

After local representatives of government spoke as well as others, Fr. Taras Barschevsky gave the opening talk on Sacred Scripture and "proclaiming the Word of God". This was followed by two smaller presentations by Iryna Galadza, who spoke about the experience of the Brampton Parish in Canada, and Lubomyr Andrusiv, who spoke on "active mission service in the Church".

After lunch, the first session of the small group discussion and work was held.

Each of the members of the Winnipeg delegation was appointed to different groups. I was appointed to "Group 14" that met in room 906 on the 9th floor of the Pedagogy building of the University. This group consisted of bishops, priests, laity and monks and sisters from various countries, including Canada, Ukraine, Germany, Kazakhstan, England, Brazil and the U.S.

The discussion was really good. The theme was about mission activity and witnessing about our faith on eparchial, parish and family levels, as well as our personal witness.

It was a beautiful Carpathian summer evening so many delegates didn't take the bus, but walked to the Cathedral for Vespers. Along the way, I stepped in to the printer. The brochures and documents were ready!

Vespers again was beautifully sung. We could all sing along as they printed a booklet with the full text of all the services that will take place during the Sobor – quite amazing.

In the evening, our delegates chose their own evening presentation. I chose "Ecology and the Church". Fascinating stuff, did you know that our Ukrainian Catholic Church has had a very active ecology centre for seven years now?

It's been a long day. And we take the bus to the cathedral tomorrow morning at 6:30 again. So that's it for today.

Watch this site for updates on the activity of the Winnipeg delegation to the 6th Session of the Patriarchal Sobor on "The Vibrant Parish - The Place to Encounter the Living Christ" in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine. 24-28 August 2015.

Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski

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