WINNIPEG, Manitoba — When young Ukrainian Catholics asked the church’s major archbishop to name his favorite book of the Bible, he did not hesitate: the Gospel of St. John.
“First — shortest one,” laughed 42-year-old Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine. Then, he added more seriously, “With those few words, he speaks so profoundly.”
“Favorites” was among question topics that young people from Manitoba submitted for the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to answer during a visit to St. Nicholas Parish Sept. 7. Posed in the form of Tweets and projected onto a screen in front of the church, the questions followed a service to honor Blessed Nykyta Budka, the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop who arrived in Canada 100 years ago.
The Q and A was sprinkled with theology, personal stories and laughter. The Eastern church’s youngest bishop — and elected leader — has made a commitment to meet with young people every chance he gets.
“It’s not so easy to be young,” he told those present with a laugh, but later, he told them, “I promise that I will hear you.”
One question reflected a young person’s concern about where he fit into the church, since he did not speak Ukrainian and neither did his parents.
“This is not a church of Ukrainians, it’s a church of Christ,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “We are a global church. We are a church of the Ukrainian tradition.”
Asked how he felt in March 2011 when, as a 40-year-old he was elected head of the largest Eastern church in communion with Rome, he told the young people, “I was scared to death.
“I was scared because of the huge responsibility,” he said. “I was supposed to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“I was encouraged by the bishops,” he added. “They said, ‘God will help you.’”
The archbishop was in Canada not only to visit, but to preside over the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Bishops, which officially began Sept. 8 with participants taking at synod oath. The synod was scheduled to conclude Sept. 16.