Linda Dudar, professor at Calgary's St. Mary's University College, found Lviv Ukrainians openly celebrated their faith.
CALGARY - Teaching is a vocation because teachers educate God's most precious gift.
That was an important message professors from St. Mary's University College in Calgary delivered to their counterparts in Ukraine recently.
Linda Dudar, St. Mary's director of education, and Carole Baldwin, professor of education, spent two weeks over the Easter season guest lecturing at Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv, Ukraine.
St. Mary's established a partnership with the Ukrainian Catholic University in January 2008. The agreement allows the institutions to exchange and share research and have guest presentations back and forth.
The professors' visit was St. Mary's first formal exchange of resources and academic research with UCU.
Dudar and Baldwin delivered guest lectures to UCU students as well as to educators in Western Ukraine on how to introduce faith formation in their schools.
In her lectures, Dudar would remind educators "how important it is to be a teacher and that teaching is very much a vocation because they would be educating God's most precious gift."
Educators in Ukraine generally understand that Catholic education starts with their being role models to their students, she said.
In Lviv, there are government schools "like ours," as well as private ones where teachers deliver catechetical lessons to the students as part of their education.
Devoted as they are, Ukrainian educators need help in introducing faith formation in schools because "for many years they weren't able to openly practise their faith," explained Dudar, herself a member of Calgary's Ukrainian community.
"There is much excitement now that they are able to do so."
During they stay in Lviv, Dudar and Baldwin experienced Ukrainian hospitality.
"They were very, very welcoming. We had an opportunity to visit schools in Lviv as well as the seminary and the monastery that are part of the Ukrainian Catholic University," Dudar said.
"We also were able to experience some of the Ukrainian culture. We attended an opera and we did a city tour with historians. We toured the National Museum of Lviv."
What was most exciting was being there during Easter, she said.
"We were able to experience the Divine Liturgy in several churches, including the blessing of the Easter baskets."
What surprised Dudar the most was that Ukrainians are strong in their faith and they celebrate it openly.
"When you walk down the street and you talk to a police officer or a person that's walking by, you say, 'Christ is Risen' and they respond, 'Indeed he's risen.' That wouldn't be something that necessarily you would do in Calgary, right?"
Lviv has about a million people and has 130 Catholic churches. People in Lviv also value education.
"They have 23 universities in a city that's the same population as Calgary."
Future plans for cooperation between the two institutions include creating formal student exchange programs and continuing to find ways to promote academic research and cultural exchange.
Founded in 2002, the Ukrainian Catholic University, a centre of the educational, spiritual and cultural life of the Church in Ukraine, grants bachelors and masters degrees and is the only Catholic university in the former Soviet Union.