Unity 2012- Into the Wild!
From August 16th to 19th approximately 120 Ukrainian Catholic young adults and speakers gathered together at Wilderness Edge Retreat Centre in Pinawa, MB for Unity 2012. The theme was “Into the Wild” inspired by Isaiah 40:3. This theme continually pointed us towards realizing the purpose of Unity: to understand, embrace, and celebrate our faith at a national level.
We began on Thursday with a hay ride and a steak Barbeque cooked by our clergy including a couple of bishops. We were greeted byour facilitators, Lesia Sianchuk and Fr. Ivan Nahachewsky, who did an excellent job of connecting the various elements of the weekend together and keeping us engaged. The opening ceremonies included a Moleben to Blessed Nykyta Budka and the assembling of the Unity cross, made with wood from each of the different Eparchies, all of which were represented including BC! The program finished with a chance to gather in assigned small groups for the first time of many to share.
After celebrating the Divine Liturgy on Friday morning the podium was turned over to our keynote speaker, Fr. Athanasius McVay. As this Unity coincided with the 100th Anniversary of having a Ukrainian Catholic Bishop in Canada, he spoke about Blessed Nykyta Budka. Over the course of the weekend he shared the life story of this martyr, including how he came to Canada at a young age in order to take charge of the largest diocese in the world. Learning details about his life in Ukraine, Canada, and finally in Kazakhstan where he suffered and died for Christ challenged and inspired us to live our faith with the same passion and commitment today. These sessions and the question and answer period brought each of us young adults closer to our first Canadian Bishop and gave us a fuller appreciation of our roots.
During the afternoon the group spilt up to attend three workshops of their choice. Options included: Fr. Taras Kowch speaking about his grandfather Blessed Emilian; Fr. Michael Smolinski CSsR discussing seeing Christ in the Poor especially through his experience at The Welcome Home; Melita Mudri-Zubacz sharing the history and spirit of liturgical singing; Sr. Emily Schietzsch SSMI talking about vocations including her own path to becoming a sister; Fr. Michael Kwiatkowski motivating all to take ownership in the Church’s mission today; Sr. Teresa Matwe, SSMI drawing attention to the sex trade in Ukraine; Fr. Mark Gnutel covering the concept of communication between people and God; Mary Jane Kalenchuk, Ksenya Kavets, and Fr. John Sianchuk CSsR exploring the life of Blessed Vasyl and the ministry of his Shrine in Winnipeg. It was a privilege to have such an epic group of presenters and we were stoked to have them. Friday evening wound up with Taste of the Eparchies, giving each province a chance to strut their stuff. Highlights included Mundare kubasa, waffles and maple syrup shots, province themed shooters and skits, and karaoke. Fun was had by all.
Our third day started with Third Hour. Fr. Athanasius took the stand again for more keynote speeches during the morning. In the afternoon we got the chance to get to know Bishop David, Bishop Bryan, and Metropolitan Lawrence a little better as in the words of the Metropolitan, we- the mob of young people- captured and interrogated them. Really, we just presented them with questions, in the form of tweets, about themselves and about living out our faith. Then Fr. Stephen Wojochewski led us in a reconciliation session and service, followed by the opportunity to go to one of 12 priests for personal confession. There were also two sisters available to talk to and pray with during that time.
Wilderness Edge set the tone for our closing banquet by providing a pig roast. A group of young adults did improv as entertainment and thank-you’s were said, especially to Tamara Lisowski, the Manitoba Youth Coordinator who was the mastermind behind Unity 2012 and to her dedicated team of young adults. That night we had a chance to dance to the sounds of Sloohai during the Zabava!
The weekend quickly came to a close with a memorable Divine Liturgy at the Cooks Creek grotto on Sunday morning. Metropolitan Lawrence’s homily on the gospel of the Rich Young Man challenged us all to examine what we are willing to give up in order to follow Christ on our own journeys into the wild. We were sent off to our own Eparchies renewed and transformed, with a blessing and an invitation to come to Unity 2014.