On 10 September, the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Center in Lviv began its work. In the early morning guests from all over filled the university’s campus. This Sunday became a true holiday for all the like-minded people who had gathered, those who care about UCU’s fate: UGCC bishops, benefactors and friends of the university, clergy and simply people who wanted to experience the atmosphere of joy, exaltation, and take part in a significant event not only for the university but for all Ukraine.
People, conversations, smiles, greetings and embraces filled the whole space of the university campus – some took a look at the Sheptytsky Center, some went to the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God for morning prayer, and others met old friends near the Collegium and warmly embraced. Each minute more and more people came and it seemed that union and gratitude was felt in the air. Eventually, everyone headed to the university’s academic building for the ceremony honoring major benefactors, the consecration of a memorial plaque with the names of people and organizations which have helped UCU for many years and without whose donations the majority of the university’s successful projects would not exist, including the Andrey Sheptytsky Center, which is now awaiting visitors.
UCU President Bishop Borys Gudziak in joint prayer with other bishops and UCU Rector Fr. Bohdan Prach and clergy consecrated the glass tablets that symbolize the community of the university’s benefactors. Written on them were the names of dozens of UCU’s largest benefactors, including James and Louise Temerty, Adrian Slywotzky and Christine Balko Slywtozky, Luba Bac, Gregory and Paulina Bac, Walter and Lydia Hendricks, and many others.
“With gratitude for the thousands of benefactors of UCU’s Comprehensive Campaign ‘A New Generation for a New Ukraine’ 2010-2016, who with their generosity made possible the creation of this university campus. May the Lord bless all the university’s benefactors!” reads the inscription on one of the tablets.
After the consecration of this visible sign of gratitude, all headed to the Pontifical Liturgy in the University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, which Bishop Borys headed. Part of the people filled the whole church to the exit and the other part took their place on chairs near the stage which had been set up next to the Sheptytsky Center and watched the Liturgy on a screen.
The church came to life and the choir’s singing completed the joyful mood. Finally, after the Gospel reading, Bishop Borys Gudziak addressed those present with these words:
“In this church which Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk consecrated a year ago, we today pray on the day when the new Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Center is being consecrated. The University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, the Metropolitan Sheptytsky Center, this university, our church, our interactions – these are all hearing the word. Each of us has various problems, questions, situations, perhaps ambitions to build something, to want something… Still, the Lord calls us to feel His presence in our hearts. And if today we will not see him in this church, in the eyes of our neighbor, if we with our smiles cannot reflect His light, then this means that, because of our other priorities, we have not fulfilled what He has called us to do.”
During the service commemorative markers in the church were blessed and after the consecration was the opening of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Center with the participation of main founder James Temerty, architect Stefan Behnisch, and other honored guests. Before sprinkling the main doors of the Sheptytsky Center with holy water, Bishop Borys noted that the aspergillum that he held in his hands was the same one with which, during his visit to Lviv in 2001, Pope John Paul II consecrated this area, where now the university campus is being built.
After the order of consecration, the hosts of the day of celebration, UCU’s Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Sophia Opatska and the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Volodymyr Turchynovskyy, invited UCU Rector Fr. Bohdan Prach to the stage. “More than one generation prayed to God so that a rebirth would come to Ukraine. But the best rebirth is education and formation. Once Patriarch Josyf Slipyj, pounding the table with his fist, asked God for a university. And this happened. So I thank God and everyone present for their help, prayer, and cooperation,” emphasized Fr. Bohdan Prach. Bishop Borys Gudziak then spoke, and with his words he carried in his heart Patriarch Josyf Slipyj’s dream of a university.
“On this site, the Soviet government planned to have a communist building. But it is fitting that here arose something in the spirit of Lviv, in the 21st century. And today the Sheptytsky Center is here,” noted Bishop Borys.
“Great thanks to all who helped realize the dream of a human campus which is renewing God-given human dignity. We bow our heads before our benefactors, who have become our family, members of committees, all people who support us.”
After his words of gratitude, the bishop asked the main benefactor, James Temerty, a successful Canadian businessman who was born in Donetsk, to speak. He presented him with a symbolic key to the center as a sign of respect and added: “May this key open not only this building, but hearts.”
James Temerty spoke in English and then easily in his native Ukrainian. He stated that it was a great honor for him to witness the opening of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Center.
“People come up to greet and thank me. What can be better than to know that my name and that of my wife and family will always be associated with a Ukrainian saint, a human being and hero, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky,” said the philanthropist. “It’s a very proud moment for me and my family today. I was here with my wife, Louise, a few months ago, and when I came up to the building I was a little afraid of what I saw. At that time it was only possible to see photographs. But now seeing it, I understand that this is better than the pictures.”
James Temerty also noted that he was a member of a committee that selected architects who are involved with a number of large building projects, and he understands that it is fairly rare when results are better than promised. “It is particularly valuable that architect Stefan Behnisch has a mentality of my companies. We under promise and over deliver”, said Mr. Temerty.
“Recently I read an interview with Behnisch, where he talked about buildings and universities and said that universities are not about buildings but about a idea, a concept. It is a spiritual entity. Borys Gudziak had a concept to build a certain kind of University that would be modern, that would be leading edge, that would constantly seek excellence. I think architect Behnish managed to produce an absolutely marvelous building. As you walk around the building and the sun strikes differently from different angle, you walk a few meters and look back and it looks different. hank you very much and very honored to be associated with what you have done,” admitted the philanthropist
The next benefactors who came on stage to speak were the vice-president of the German Bundestag with representatives of the German charitable organization Renovabis, which for more than a quarter of a century in the name of all Germany asks the Catholics of its country for help. Hundreds of projects exist thanks to this organization.
First to speak was Vice-President of the German Bundestag Johannes Singhammer, who emphasized that it is impossible to imagine modern Europe without Christianity and modern scholarship: “Once monasteries created the first libraries in Europe. And today, as the heart of the university, the library was consecrated and this is a truly valuable sign that in modern Europe spiritual elements are fundamental. I believe that the Andrey Sheptytsky Center will be a symbol, a sign, and a place which will unite learning and society, Ukraine and Europe.” In conclusion, Singhammer jokingly added that “though the modern library has much electronic equipment, I still expect that there will also be many books there.” And he gave a book as a present, a sign of faith and support.
The next to speak to the guests of the celebration was a representative of Renovabis, Archbishop Koch, in the name of all German Catholics. “It was very important for me to be at the ceremonial Liturgy and take part in the consecration of the building. I saw a wonderful building, which creates beautiful possibilities for development in perspective,” noted Archbishop Koch. “Europe means farsightedness, and so who if not a Christian should build the future. This is particularly important because a number of people in Europe have forgotten their Christian roots and it is particularly significant that Christians in Germany and Ukraine together stand up for general human values.”
And, finally, Stefan Behnisch, the main architect of the Sheptytsky Center, came to the stage, and emphasized that many people were involved in this project, and he remembers well when they first asked his company if it was interested in a proposal to build a library for UCU.
“We agreed, because work for a university, for students, for teachers, brings great satisfaction to any architect,” recounted Stefan Behnisch. “It is possible to say much about architecture, its philosophy, but a good university is based on an idea, the concepts of teaching, and architecture can help in this matter. And in order to understand how to design such a building, it is necessary to feel where its idea lies, the philosophical vision and mission of the university.”
Architectural buildings, the architect is convinced, are those definitive artefacts that humanity leaves behind. This defines our dimension, space and time. “We can avoid many forms of art, but architecture surrounds us everywhere and is a reflection of our cultural abilities and possibilities. And so, if we manage to achieve even the least success in reflecting this idea, in recreating cultural abilities, the space of this city, people, and community, I will be infinitely grateful,” added Stefan Behnisch.
Among the guests were also representatives of the city government. In particular, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyy expressed his gratitude to the students who chose UCU and said: “I am glad that the years pass and we will admire these architectural monuments of the 21st century and understand how important it was to do everything with love.” And the head of the Lviv Region Government Administration, Oleh Syniutka, noted that today before us are buildings that Lviv and all Ukraine are proud of. “The strength of our unity is felt in this building,” said Oleh Syniutka. “I would like Ukrainians within the walls of the center to have the opportunity to acquire that knowledge that today is acquired in European universities.”
After all the speeches and greetings, the guests headed to the center, where an exhibit dedicated to Metropolitan Sheptytsky was ceremonially opened. And those who wanted to had the opportunity to look over the premises on all five floors of the center, to see the library, office areas, exhibition and conference halls and all the other spaces that from today are awaiting creative people with ideas, who desire to develop and implement important projects.
By Oksana Levantovych
Photos: Oleksandr Laskin and Daniil Tiurin