After the Sobor: Day 6

September 5, 2015

After the extraordinarily long last day of the 6th Session of the Patriarchal Sobor on 'The Vibrant Parish', most delegates probably didn't set head to pillow until closer to midnight or later. The grand concluding banquet didn't start until late... delegates still wanted to socialize, and... say their goodbyes - especially as some had planned to leave early the next morning for numerous events in the surrounding area.

In fact, Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak was invited to participate in the Dormition pilgrimage the following day at the major Marian shrine and monastery near the village of Hoshiv. Hoshiv is one of Ukraine's older and very popular shrines that rose up around the monastery chapel established there by the Basilian Fathers in the 16th Century. Web link for Hoshiv monastery.

Monsignor Buyachok and myself were also invited to join him. So after checking out of the Hotel Nadiya and enjoying a wonderful buffet breakfast that included delicacies that are really found only in Ukraine ("sveezhyj syr", fresh cottage cheese, "mlyntsi" fruit-filled crêpes, etc.), we were met by the Protosyncellus of the Odesa Exarchate, Fr. Makarij Leniv, OSBM, who drove us the 70 kilometers to Hoshiv.

At Hoshiv, the pilgrimage was on! Hundreds of people already filled the grounds and an earlier Divine Liturgy was just concluding in the church where the miraculous Icon of the "Hoshivska" Mother of God is enshrined. The main event was still about an hour away and more pilgrims were pouring into the territory by the minute.

We were escorted to the monastery chapel where the clergy were vesting. A few bishops also joined us, including the Metropolitan Volodymyr Vityshyn of Ivano-Frankivsk; Bishop Irynej Bilyk from Rome; the Exarch of Kharkiv, Bishop Basil Tuchapets and Bishop Meron Mazur of Prudentopolis, Brazil.  Many priests were present from the area. All vested in the blue of the feast.

In the chapel we noticed a fresco of our Metropolitan's patron, the martyr St. Lawrence and so we had a picture taken. (The bishop-in-blue in the background is Metropolitan Volodymyr).

When we processed from the monastery, past the church to the outdoor sanctuary, where the Divine Liturgy would be celebrated, we noticed how the crowd had swelled in the past hour. Thousands of all ages had gathered from all around the oblast' (province). Many, wanting to maintain the true pilgrimage spirit, had walked for many kilometers and for two or more days to be here.

Metropolitan Lawrence, who also happened to be celebrating his 38th anniversary of Priestly ordination that day, was asked to preach and give words of greeting to the pilgrims and to Hoshiv's Ihumen (Abbot) Fr. Damian Kastran who was celebrating his 25th anniversary of priesthood. The image of Metropolitan Lawrence preaching from the raised altar area to the masses of pilgrims gathered all around the shrine grounds as far as the eye could see, reminded one of Christ's sermon on the mount. The piety and whole-hearted participation of everyone present was an inspiration in itself. The Faith is still very much alive and well in Hoshiv.

At the close of the liturgy, as is the custom on such occasions, Metropolitan Lawrence was invited to sign the Gospel Book on the Altar as a memento of the historic visit of the Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan of Canada to the Hoshiv Shrine.

After the large banquet lunch, which was served smorgasbord style (referred to in Ukraine as Shvedsky steel "Swedish table"), we had the opportunity to wander around the shrine. There was a life-size way of the Cross concluding with the 14th station in a candle-lit sepulchre cave. The church with it's amazing floor-to-ceiling iconostas and boat-shaped pulpit was also filled with pilgrims, but they especially came to venerate the miraculous Hoshiv Icon of Mary and implore her intercession for many things.... especially for peace and sovereignty for Ukraine.

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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