On Saturday, December 12, the first Christmas English-language virtual meeting “Christ is among us!” took place organized for instructors of the ESL.Ukraine Youth Ministry, Sambir Courses for Christian Animators (CCA), and the youth of the Eparchy of Saskatoon (Canada). Special guests of honor were: Most Reverend Bryan Bayda, Eparch of Saskatoon and Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Torоnoto. Over 30 young people from different parts of Ukraine and Saskatchewan took part in the virtual event. The teleconference was organized on the initiative of the St. Sophia Religious Association of Ukrainian Catholics in the USA, in cooperation with the Youth Ministry of the Eparchy of Saskatoon and the Sambir CCA.
The purpose of the telethon was to look at the Nativity of Christ through the eyes of young people from two continents; to share thoughts on Christmas celebrations; to discuss regional traditions; to build bridges for further cooperation, and above all – focus on the image of the Newborn Savior. Moreover, the organizers enhanced the language practice as the event was conducted in English. The icebreaker took place in an informal way. Participants had a unique opportunity to listen to the retreat conducted by Bishop Bryan Bayda, who spoke about Magnificat in our life. Mary showed us “how to share our Magnificat as She shared Her magnificat with Her cousin Elizabeth. We must be ready to share it (what God is doing in our lives) at the risk of other accusing us of bragging. Some will ridicule us while others will rejoice with us. Let us learn to share our magnificats with others to 1) give glory to God and 2) lift their spirits,” encouraged those present Bishop Bryan.
Bishop Bryan and Fr. Ivan Nagachevsky answered questions about the meaning of Christmas in their lives, challenges of keeping Christ in Christmas in the secular world.
Each of the three groups participating in the teleconference prepared a thematic presentation on the Feast of the Nativity. Thus, the ESL.Ukraine Youth Ministers presented the traditions of the Holy Supper, bringing attention to the celebrations in the war zone on the eastern borders of Ukraine. The youth of the Sambir CCA focused on the Christmas traditions of the Sambir region, and Canadian boys and girls moved the participants to the land of Saskatoon, where the first emigrants from Western Ukraine fled in search of land in the second half of the 19th century.
The participants sang the Silent Night carol in both English and Ukrainian. The music highlight of the event was Bishop Bryan’s interpretation of the God Eternal carol. The bishops gave their blessing to all participants.
As the young people noted, “this project is a unique opportunity not only to master English with peers from around the world, but also to make sure that sharing True Joy knows no bounds. Telethon between such active organizations is a powerful impetus and motivation. In addition to teamwork at a higher level, this is an opportunity to fully immerse yourself in Christmas fasting, to rethink it for the sake of a worthy celebration of Christmas. Being able to share our traditions is another opportunity to add new ideas and things to the Christmas list.”
“Such events are not only necessary, but vital for young people and mentors, because these meetings take our minds away from the hustle and bustle of the earthly life and take us to another, spiritual dimension. Here we have the opportunity to think about the timeless, eternal. The spirit of faith, prayer, joy, and love reigns here, because our Lord Jesus Christ is at the heart of this realm. Young people willingly and actively participated in the preparations for the teleconference, introduced new ideas, worked with great enthusiasm. This witnesses to the need of continuing and spreading this initiative to other English-speaking countries of Ukrainian settlement. We follow the spiritual testament of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj – “to gather all those scattered,” said Iryna Ivankovych, President of St. Sophia Religious Association. “This Christmas gathering has given us a wonderful opportunity to unite young people from different continents under the auspices of our Church. Sharing Christmas joy, wonderful presentations of youth groups once again proved that modern youth strives for more and is ready to bring the light of the Newborn Child into the world. This Christmas project was a response to the invitation of Pope Francis to organize ‘projects that can strengthen them, accompany them and impel them to encounter others, to engage in generous service, in mission’ (Christus Vivit, 30). Therefore, on behalf of the entire youth community of our Christmas Telebridge, we express our sincere gratitude to St. Sophia Sophia Religious Association of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States for the incredible initiative that inspired and united many. Christ is among us!” said Victoria Marko, Youth and Young Adult Minister of the Ukrainian catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon.
St. Sophia Press Bureau