by Brent Kostyniuk
Back in September, Both Lungs recalled a particularly uplifting Divine Liturgy I attended while on holidays in London. The celebrant was Father Mark Woodruff who had been ordained in the Latin Church, but who had bi-ritual faculties. This month, Both Lungs visits with Father Mark to get a different perspective on the Eastern Church and its relationship with the West.
Father Mark’s interest in the East began through ecumenical work. “For many years, I have been involved with Catholic ecumenical engagement. In England in the past we concentrated on unity among Western Christians, but in the last ten to fifteen years the presence of Eastern Christians new to the United Kingdom, Catholic and Orthodox alike, has altered the perspective of what and who we mean by Christian Unity. There are also increased numbers of English-speaking people becoming Orthodox.”
“At one point, I was asked to be a trustee of the Society of St John Chrysostom (SSJC), an historic Catholic association which promotes awareness of the Eastern Catholic churches and reconciliation between Catholic and Orthodox, East and West. Because of decades of Catholic focus on western ecumenism, it had declined but there was now renewed interest in the East – we started inviting Orthodox churches to celebrate Vespers in Westminster Cathedral, which provoked great interest.” He adds that with increased immigration, Roman Catholics, especially in major towns and cities, were becoming more aware of Eastern Catholics.
“Shortly after I became a trustee of SSJC, we started to hold our meetings at the Ukrainian [Catholic] Cathedral, were made extremely welcome, and invited more and more to participate at the Liturgy. It also helped the Ukrainian community to gain regular contact with other Catholics and, of course, with a little English occasionally in services, it was of interest to Ukrainian Catholics who were living and working in the UK, also raising children whose first language was now English, to hear that their religion was not only from abroad but could also relate to life and faith in England.”
With the arrival in England of a new Ukrainian Catholic bishop, Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, a new approach to the use of English in liturgies developed. Father Mark explains, “It was clear to Bishop Hlib that past generations of Ukrainian Catholics in Britain had grown up without those who had become Anglophone having their needs met, other than through a language that they were growing away from, even if strong cultural links and identity persisted. There was also the question of how the Ukrainian parishes collaborate with their local Roman Catholic churches and other national chaplaincies or communities of Eastern Churches – how do we play our part in the wider Church’s mission to society? How do we evangelize as all churches must, and can we present the Christian faith and the life of the Church in the Byzantine Church’s tradition to people who would not otherwise know about Christ? Bishop Hlib and I discussed this and he made a request to my own bishop, now Cardinal Vincent Nichols, for a petition to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches for a faculty to enable me to serve in the Byzantine rite for the sake of the pastoral need of the Ukrainian Catholic Church here in London.”
After a period of preparation and building on his existing familiarity with the Byzantine rite, Father Mark began his new role in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. “In December 2013 we established a regular monthly Divine Liturgy in English at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, which is right in the heart of central London. This was to be experimental, to see if it met any demand, to see if it was feasible, to see whether we might do anything differently or instead. Our Liturgy is when London’s West End is heaving with shoppers, at 4:00 pm on the second Saturday of each month. We make it a Liturgy of Sunday by anticipation and this is gradually getting known about both inside the Ukrainian church community, the local Latin parishes, and through the networks of the Society of St John Chrysostom and the Centre for Eastern Christianity at Heythrop College, London’s Jesuit theology faculty. There is now a small regular community – mainly Ukrainian English speakers, some new to the Church and curious about the Eastern tradition as possibly their way forward into the Body of Christ, some visitors passing through, some keen Roman Catholic supporters and some who have just found that we offer a spiritual home that they couldn’t find elsewhere.”
Today, Father Mark feels very at home with the Ukrainian Catholic Church. “I now take part at the Liturgies on the major feasts, not just as a guest (which is a constant delight and honour) but also a bit more as an adopted part of the family, so it means there is more English heard on such occasions. Everyone speaks Ukrainian, of course, but clearly there are children who are at school and who are growing up speaking English too. Their children will firmly have English as their first language, and so even now it is good to make the message heard that their Church is an integral part of the Catholic Church in Britain.”
Finally, Father Mark reflects on his particular experience of West meeting East, Both Lungs working together. “For my part, I have learned to say the Lord’s words that the priests sing together in the anaphora in Ukrainian, as this underlines our communion, and the unity of East and West too. It’s a simple matter of respect too. But I think it’s important to stress the English language dimension too. People are very kind at my attempts at some Ukrainian, but my Christos rozhdayatsya – Christ is Born – when we were blessing and anointing the faithful at the end of the Nativity liturgy occasioned much mirth and good will.”
Next month, Father Mark Woodruff talks about what Both Lungs means to him.
This piece first appeared in The Prairie Messenger. Reprinted with permission.