Students from Ukrainian bilingual programs in Edmonton Catholic and Elk Island Catholic School systems  support the church in Ukraine.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Students from Ukrainian bilingual programs in Edmonton Catholic and Elk Island Catholic School systems support the church in Ukraine.

October 3, 2011
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON — The 20th anniversary of a free Ukraine was the focus of the school opening liturgy of the Ukrainian Bilingual Program Sept. 21.

Gathered at St. Josaphat Cathedral, nearly 800 students and teachers prayed for their compatriots' spiritual, social and economic well-being.

Ukrainian Bishop David Motiuk and six local priests concelebrated the Divine Liturgy, said mostly in Ukrainian.

Seven schools were represented in the celebration — four from Edmonton Catholic and three from the Elk Island Catholic School Division. Both divisions offer the Ukrainian bilingual program.

Students donated money to support the Catholic Church in Ukraine — a total of $1,404.75. Each family had been asked to contribute $3.

Most students, especially the little ones, wore their Ukrainian shirts/blouses at the liturgy. They sang songs and hymns in Ukrainian and lit candles to, symbolically, light up the way for their compatriots back home.

In his homily, Motiuk called on his congregation to continue to respond to the needs of Ukraine's population, whose families are often torn apart in search of employment beyond Ukraine's borders.

"These are people in need who would be blessed to have what you and I have," the bishop said.

"As the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, said, 'Let's live simply so others may simply live.' Let's find ways to simplify our lives so that others that have less may simply live."

In the days leading to the liturgy, teachers, students and parents focused on their special connection to and relationship with Ukraine, saying special prayers for its people and its continued development as an independent state.

Taras Podilsky, principal of St. Martin's School, said teachers and students have special ties to Ukraine.

"The bilingual program travels to Ukraine. We have sister schools in Ukraine. We want to keep our ties to Ukraine because it's our ancestral land."