On Thursday, February 1, 2018 on the eve of the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord (Gregorian calendar), members of various consecrated life communities of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic and Ukrainian Roman Catholic Churches, who minister in Italy, gathered together.
This has become an annual occasion in honor of the World Day of Consecrated Life, which the Catholic Church celebrates on the Feast of the Presentation/Encounter. This year’s gathering took place in the Generalate of the Order of Basilian Fathers of Saint Josaphat in Rome.
The gathering commenced in the Chapel of Christ the King at 6:30 p.m. with Great Vespers with Lytia for the Feast of the Presentation/Encounter of Our Lord, celebrated by Archimandrite, Very Reverend Genesio Viomar, OSBM. Responses were sung by two groups, on one side the Basilian Fathers and Brothers from the Generalate House, the other side by the Basilian Sisters from the mission of the Association of Saint Sofia on Via Boccea in Rome.
Participating in this gathering were members of the following communities of consecrated life: Basilian Fathers and Brothers (including those in the Generalate; Fr. Robert Lisseiko – from the St. Giosafat Ukrainian Pontifical Collegio; visiting Basilian Fathers from Ukraine, participating in the international meeting of priests who work with Catholic scouts in Europe; Mother Dia Stasiuk, General Superior of the Order of Sisters of St. Basil the Great, along with other Basilian Sisters in Rome (including those at the Generalate, and two other Basilian communities ministering and living at the Basilica of Santa Sofia and the Pontifical Collegiate on Via Boccea); Sister Sofia Lebedovych, General Superior, Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate along with members of their three other communities ministering in Rome (including their Generalate, the Ukrainian and Romanian Collegios on Gianicolo); Sister Rita Baldo, Superior of the community of the Catechists of St. Ann along with their other Sisters (ministering at the parish of Ss. Cyril and Bacchus); Sisters from the Holy Family Community in Pompei, along with Fr. Yuriy Skaskiw; Father Sava Masnyk, Studite; student from the Saint Giosafat Pontifical Collegio, Father Hryhorij Dzhala (representative of the Apostle, Saint Andrew Missionary Community); representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, Father V’yatcheslav Hrynevych (Saint Vincent Pallotti Community).
At the conclusion of Lytia all received “myrrhovanja” (anointing). This was followed by a conference given by Father Mykolay Kozelkivskyy, OSBM. Based on his personal experience, Fr. Mykolay related an incident during which he discovered that sometimes an orange, which looks so appealing and has a delightful aroma, is inedible because of its extremely sour taste. This lesson is also applicable to humans, including those in consecrated life. On the outside they may appear very nice, do everything well, and are attractive to others, however, upon examining their lives closer – they are not at all the person one expects them to be.
Turning his thoughts to the Gospel parable about the workers in the vineyard (Mt. 20: 1-16), Father Mykolay explained that someone reading this parable could have multiple questions: Why did the owner of the vineyard choose not to pay the workers hired first, but started with those hired last? Why did he choose to pay all the workers equally, disregarding whether they worked for a very short time or for the entire day? Suspicions may arise that the owner is not a good person, which was the thought of the workers who complained about him. They complained because they were unhappy. They could not understand the logic of the actions of the vineyard owner and felt wronged by him! They were infuriated, stating, “You are not fair!” The owner, however, answered the unsatisfied workers stating “he was not unjust to them, but, indeed, simply desired to give the other workers the same amount as he had given them.” The vineyard owner asked the workers whether they resented the fact that he simply was being generous.
This parable and the vineyard owner’s questions challenge us to review our our perception of God. What is our attitude towards God? When a person believes in God and loves God – the person tries to be close to Him; however, when one is unsure of God’s goodness – then, most likely, one will avoid a close relationship with Him, and will try to run away from Him. That is why it is important to focus on the perceptions of God we hold in our minds and in our hearts.
Father Mykolay pointed out that there is a big difference between good intentions and good deeds – one may have good intentions, but not never act upon them. Most likely, many of you have heard claims of other people: I do not have time for prayer, so I have to skip morning or evening prayers. Prayer to God is one of the best and most essential necessities of life. It is time spent in conversation with God. This is why it is imperative to discover when the best time for prayer is during the day, so that one is not tempted to forego it.
A method of prayer suggested by Father Mykolay is that of “lectio divina”, prayerful reading of the Gospel. All participants received a printout explaining this method of praying the Word of God. Father Mykolay, also, emphasized that the Holy Eucharist - the treasure/gift accessible to each of us, through which Jesus Christ is present, speaks and acts in us.
Following the conference, Very Reverend Archimandrite Genesio Viomar welcomed all the guests, pointing out that the encounter of Jesus with Simeon in the temple in Jerusalem reveals the values and gifts of encountering/gathering, which we reap every time we come together on the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. He expressed his great joy of so many participating in this gathering this year. All were then invited for a group photograph and then to proceed to the monastery refectory/dining room.
During refreshments, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters had an opportunity to share and mingle with one another, giving first-time participants an opportunity to meet others in consecrated life.
At the close of the evening, Reverend Father Robert Lisseiko, OSBM, spiritual director of the Ukrainian Pontifical Collegio of St. Giosafat, a coordinator of this year’s gathering, addressed those gathered. In the name of all participants, he warmly thanked Very Reverend Archimandrite Father Genesio Viomar, the monastery house superior Reverend Mauricio Popadiuk, and all the members of the Generalate Administration and Basilian monastery in Rome, for hosting the gathering. Father Robert also acknowledged the representatives of the various communities who came to the gathering and wished them many blessings on the Feast of the Encounter of Our Lord in the Temple.
Photos: Rev. Efrem Konchak, OSBM