A church destroyed by a Russian attack on the village of Bohorodychne in Ukraine’s Donetsk region is pictured Feb. 13, 2024. OSV News photo/Vladyslav Musiienko, Reuters

Bishop Bayda celebrates Ukraine’s ‘strength,’ ‘dignity’

  • May 27, 2024

Bishop Bryan Bayda, who leads the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada, said God guided him on where to go and whom to meet during his February visit to war-torn Ukraine.

Bayda told the crowd who attended his presentation following Catholic Missions in Canada’s annual St. Philip Neri Mass on May 23 that his task was to discern the metanoia – the spiritual transformation or change of heart – The Lord wanted him to experience.

“Why am I going to see the steadfastness of the spirit of these people,” pondered Bayda at the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Toronto. “How are they coping and responding with such strength and dignity to the unjustified attack upon them?”

Though weaponry had destroyed the houses of worship Bayda visited, he beheld vibrant and unwavering congregations. Considering their trials and tribulations, the bishop was mindful of not “delivering false hope or a hollow message” during his audience with churchgoers.

Bayda felt called to share passages from St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s 'I Thirst for You' meditation with the people, which he has mused upon “hundreds of times” since last autumn. The prayer contains the Revelation 3:20 declaration “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.”

“(The prayer) is about encountering Jesus Christ,” said Bayda. “The truth of who you are and the truth of Christ is always becomes more apparent. That is true for these people both before and especially now during the war. They see themselves in truth. The truth seems sometimes to condemn us, but in fact, if always spoken with love, it is a truth that saves.”

Amid navigating through unimaginable and profound peril, the need to embrace Christ’s salvatory love is manifest, said Bayda.

“He says ‘I am the one who can give you everything you seek,”’ said Bayda. ‘“All the dignity you search for as a human being, I’m the one who can give that to you. Accept my immeasurable, limitless and unchanging, unfaltering love of you no matter what you say or do. Nothing you can say, or do, right or mistakenly will change my love of you.”’

Luncheon attendees were urged by Bayda to “get beyond our own versions of logic, the truth and what we feel we deserve and don’t deserve,” and instead “hear what God is spiritually saying to us” by remaining “quiet and present to the unconditional love.”

Following his sermon, Bayda spoke about the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET) established by the federal government in response to the Russo-Ukrainian War. Over 286,000 Ukrainian nationals or family members of Ukrainians (of any nationality) have arrived into Canada as of March 23, 2024, via the CUAET. The Saskatoon native said over 960,000 have received permission to migrate to Canada but many have not arrived because they are either awaiting their documents or for their loved ones to receive their forms.

The Bishop also recognized the various organizations and initiatives that have supported Ukrainian refugees upon their arrival in Canada. He spotlighted the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, a Winnipeg-based non-profit organization that has advocated for Ukrainian-Canadian political, cultural and religious interests since 1940. He also commended the humanitarian efforts of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) Canada. Also, he touched upon the collaborative relationship between his Toronto and Eastern eparchy and the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office for Refugees (ORAT).

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