On 11 February, UCU held graduation ceremonies for students of master’s degree programs in social pedagogy, history, theology, and also seminarians of Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv.
The day before
On the day before the ceremony of awarding diplomas, the graduates met with UCU Rector Fr. Bohdan Prach. The meeting was a good opportunity for the graduates to share their memories and impressions, to tell their history, and for the rector it was the students’ “final instructions.”
“What is (not) happening in the country is our common matter and responsibility. It’s important that each of us feel the internal need to change something. The foundation laid at the university should be the cornerstone in your life,” said UCU Rector Fr. Bohdan Prach.
Before the start of a new stage in life, it is important to recall who we are and where we’re from, to find an opportunity to return “ad fontes,” to the sources. So one of UCU’s traditions of many years is to have graduates visit the tombs of the heads of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, the founders of UCU: Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky and His Eminence Cardinal Josyf Slipyj. There is also a meeting with His Eminence Ihor, Metropolitan Archbishop of Lviv. This year was no exception.
Archbishop Ihor Vozniak stated that learning is not completed with university studies. It is important to develop, investigate, and to study one’s whole life. He called the students to remember that each person is worth the precious blood of Jesus Christ: “Our life has limitations on earth; it’s not forever. God called us and gave a certain task. Our whole life is service.”
The last lecture
The day’s honored guest was Professor Michael Moser of the University of Vienna and the Ukrainian Free University, a scholar in Ukrainian and Slavic studies. He gave the “last” lecture, about the Ukrainian language and the role of Halychyna in its formation:
“Everything that was done in Halychyna was not an exclusively Galician breakthrough. Others always cooperated: Panteleimon Kulish, Mykhailo Hrushevskyi, the ‘rebellion’ of the Shevchenko Scientific Society. Halychyna and Greater Ukraine were always together. Today some emphasize special ‘Galician phenomena.’ I was able to visit Kyiv in winter 1994. I remember that winter well, because it was -34 in Kyiv then. And in Ukraine’s capital I wanted to buy a Ukrainian book. When I asked about this in a store, they asked me in Russian: ‘So have you come here from Lviv?’ No, I have not come from Lviv. I simply dared to buy a book in the Ukrainian language.
“Clearly, much has changed since that time. On the streets of Kyiv you can often hear the Ukrainian language. Not only from the mouths of ‘Greater Ukrainians,’ but you very often hear Galician song. I’m very glad about this. And, at the same time, to the present, I hear certain discussions, as if certain words, expressions belong to the Galician dialect. Not everything that is characteristic of Halychyna, not everything that is entirely usual in Lviv, is a truly Galician phenomenon. And I ask you not to reject everything Galician as ‘not valuable.’ And at the same time, turn your attention to unity.” (An excerpt from the lecture)
A word on the road
“If you look at our life, often what we are depends on three things. First, what we have received from our parents. Our parents have given an example of life, upbringing, guidelines, and certain advice. Second, education, instruction. Your time spent at UCU leaves an unforgettable mark. May the ethos of UCU, the culture of interaction, the ability to accept another person and respect him or her accompany you in life. Third, what you will do with this diploma. You will have choices more than once in life. Listen to the voice of your conscience. Remember what your teachers, instructors, and spiritual directors said to you.” With these words. Fr. Ihor Boyko, Rector of Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv, addressed the graduates.
Svitlana Stelmakh, Dean of UCU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, greeted the graduates and hoped that they would accept every challenge as an opportunity to learn, to open themselves. She stated that, in order to achieve one’s dreams, it is important to go forward, even with small, slow steps. But don’t stop.
“To be responsible should be your principle in life. To be responsible for words, deeds, promises, actions. May God’s wisdom lead you,” said Svitlana Stelmakh.
Graduation 2017. Selected stories
Olya Nykon is a graduate of the master’s program in history. The young lady says that she belongs to the “Svientsitskoho generation,” a period when students of the programs of social pedagogy and history studied in one building, that on I. Svientsitskoho Street. (Today history students study in the Academic Building on Kozelnytskyii Street.) “This was a beautiful time. A time when everyone knew each other. UCU is not a big university, but then it was even smaller. Still, I witnessed its growth, development. I witnessed the realization of plans. I recall how Bishop Borys explained the plans for the new campus. Today these dreams are reality.”
In her words, the best thing that UCU gave was people. Open. Sincere. Classmates, teachers, vice-rectors. The atmosphere of mutual love. UCU’s atmosphere “is difficult to explain in words. You need to feel it,” she said.
Olya talks of studying at UCU. She recalls an internship abroad as part of her program. “In addition to a quality education, the university gives the opportunity for spiritual growth. If you are far from God and religion, UCU gives an opportunity to experience them. This touches you; it doesn’t leave you indifferent.”
Marta Kovalchuk is a graduate of the master’s program in theology. The young lady studied at UCU since freshman year. She says that she is already starting to miss the university. Marta was one of three students who received a scholarship for a semester internship at the Newman Institute. “UCU is a university of possibilities. If a student wants to, he or she can take advantage of propositions. One of the best possibilities that the university offered was a half-year of study in Sweden,” explains Marta.
To the question “What next?,” she responds that she has decided to work with people with special needs. She plans to join the team of the L’Arche-Ukraine Community.
Andrew Simons came from the state of Michigan to UCU in 2014 as a volunteer at the Summer English-language School. Today he is a graduate of the master’s program in theology. This is not the first graduation ceremony in his life. In the USA, he received a bachelor’s degree. But this is the first time he gave a speech for the graduates, so this ceremony was special for him.
“The best thing is the people I met here,” says Andrew.
Liudmyla Kryzhanovska is vice-president of the UCU Alumni Association. She said from her own experience that, in addition to knowledge and skills, the most important thing she got from the university is people. Today she works and interacts with them. These people remain for life.
“I hope that you will not be afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. Don’t be afraid to help. Don’t be afraid to knock. I hope to return to UCU,” said Liudmyla Kryzhanovska.