by Brent Kostyniuk
Most Catholics will be well aware of World Youth Day (WYD), a gathering of young people which takes place in a different country every three years. A much more accessible event, Unity, is sponsored annually by the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada. This year, Unity will take place from August 17 to 20 at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster Saskatchewan.
Sarah Buchko, Youth and Young Adult Minister for the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, explains the significance of Unity 2017 for Ukrainian Catholic young people. “Unity is not only a reunion gathering for young adults who may have attended WYD, it brings people together who were unable to go to WYD due to financial circumstances, work, school or just the inability to get the time off. Unity is a more affordable and shorter time period for Ukrainian Catholic young adults to get together in Canada. It does much the same thing as WYD; it fosters spiritual growth in young adults. It not only does this, but it empowers young adults to discover their true purpose.” That ideal is reflected in Unity’s theme this year—Focus on Faith, Beyond the Horizon.
Typically, Unity lasts four days and features presentations by noted Christian speakers, as well as at least one or two Ukrainian Catholic bishops. The aim is to not only foster spiritual growth in the young adults, but to identify, challenge, and engage them in developing leadership skills. Sarah Buchko continues, “The presentations equip and provide resources for leaders in youth and young adult ministry by covering the comprehensive youth ministry goals, which are catechism, social and relationship building, pastoral care, community building, prayer, justice, and service.”
Unity is deliberately set in tranquil surroundings to help participants escape from the concerns of everyday life, hence St. Peter’s this year. The combination of spiritual direction and peaceful surroundings is noted for fostering deep friendships and has even resulted in marriages between participants. Returning to their home parishes, Unity participants are encouraged to connect with other young adults. Sarah Buchko recalls her own Unity experiences. “It guides young adults to deepen their faith and build life-long relationships. Having attended previous Unity’s in beautiful Ancaster, Ontario and the amazing wilderness of Pinawa, Manitoba, there is something life changing about going to one of these Ukrainian Catholic events. We hope young adults who attend Unity will return home and inspire others to become active participants in their church, to show them that others share the same faith, and help instil the same sense of pride in their cultural traditions. It is good to be Ukrainian Catholic in Canada.”
Young people attending Unity 2017 will indeed be able to expand their faith, figuratively and literally as they experience the vast prairie landscape of south-eastern Saskatchewan at St. Peter’s Abbey where Fr. Demetrius Wasylyniuk, OSB is Guestmaster. Unity 2017 will have more than a passing Both Lungs perspective for him. “I have the privilege of bi-ritual status since 2006. I am given the opportunity to serve in the Eparchy of Saskatoon. I, as a Benedictine Monk Priest have been able to be witness both lungs of the Church, for which I am humbled and grateful to do so. As our Church breaths with both lungs, St. Peters Benedictine Monastery welcomes our sisters and brothers of the Eastern Rite.” This will be the second time St. Peter’s will have hosted Unity, having done so in 2006. St. Peter’s Abbey is the oldest Benedictine monastery in Canada having been founded in 1903. It offers first year university courses to over 100 students, both part time and full time, each year.
While Unity 2017 is an opportunity for Ukrainian Catholic youth to grow in their faith and to learn more about their Church, its spirit can also be an incentive for each of us to seek spiritual enrichment this summer. The opportunities are endless. Instead of taking a romance novel along on vacation, pick up something enlightening at your local Christian bookstore. Wherever you travel, with a little looking, you may find someplace to worship which will take you out of your comfort zone. Perhaps a small country parish with only ten or twenty people attending, or maybe a different Eastern Rite church—Melkite, Maronite, or even Coptic. If you do, you will appreciate that the Catholic Church is truly universal. That there is unity in diversity and that breathing through Both Lungs is both possible and beneficial.
This piece first appeared in The Prairie Messenger. Reprinted with permission.