EDMONTON, Canada — Ukrainian Catholic University has added yet another city on their map of supporters, this time in western Canada. On Nov. 8, Edmonton hosted its first banquet celebration at St. Josaphat’s Cathedral Parish Hall and brought together around 100 members of the Ukrainian-Canadian community as well as some of the UCU graduates.
Both the spiritual and the secular were emphasized at the event: Bishop David Motiuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton started the evening by blessing the audience, followed by the presentation on the newly built Sheptytsky Center delivered by UCU’s Development Department head Olha Zarichynska. Local friends of the UCU also had a chance to meet Ivanka Diman, the keynote speaker and UCU graduate, who now heads the Building Ukraine Together Project. Diman showcased the project that has created a network of active citizens through the collaborative work restoring homes for families in distress and developing public spaces. For the past five years, they have evolved into the largest volunteer movement in Ukraine. “Together, we have restored 211 houses in 61 Ukrainian cities, most of which are in eastern Ukraine,” she said, adding that their network which consists of more than 2,700 volunteers, has a large number of the UCU graduates.
The university’s motto “Know Thyself” is a key to understand its mission. As the Lviv-based university keeps growing, it’s important for the staff to be able to provide a platform for meetings and discussions, said Reverend Bohdan Prach, UCU’s rector. “We need to have a place where people of politics, science and spirituality could come together to talk and become a microphone that tells what to do and who to develop and love this world.”
To achieve that and accommodate the 330 students that joined the university this academic year, the staff hopes to start building new housing for students in the coming year. However, it’s impossible without their supporters. UCU gets considerable financial aid from the Ukrainian diaspora in North America, mainly through its fundraising arm, the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation. In the past years, the worldwide fundraising effort for UCU gathered donations from 15,000 contributors for a total of $67 million, which were used to build a new campus with four buildings, expand programs and faculty, increase scholarships and student enrolment. The individual donors included James Temerty, Yaroslav Rushchyshyn, Dmytro Firtash, Adrian Slyvotsky and Borys Wrzesnewskyj, among others.
Since the university has no government funding and depends strictly on donations, each city in which Ukrainians live has the responsibility to support it, said Fr. Peter Babej, who together with Bishop Motiuk helped to organize the UCU banquet in Edmonton.
“The Ukrainian Catholic University is such a great gift and tremendous asset to the Church and to Ukraine as a country. What they are doing now, in faithfulness and commitment to Christ, will in time, bear great fruit – thirty fold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold! And we are witnessing the abundant fruit already,” he said. “And we are now united with other supports from the United States, Italy, Germany, UK, and across Canada.”
Ukraine is among the most educated societies in the world, in terms of enrollment, according to UNESCO Institute For Statistics. Yet, many view the country’s academic institutions as inflexible and out of touch with labor market demands and societal needs. UCU tries to break these patterns by providing personal attention to every student, boosting dialog and critical thinking as the university invites people from business, art and science to share its knowledge. “Education will unite Ukrainians around the world,” said Zarichynska. “And UCU could become the best start-up to invest in with the best outcome in terms of humanitarian perspective.”
More information can be found on the Ukrainian Catholic University website.