Brief Pastoral Year Reflection by Deacon Paul Patrick OMI
Looking back in retrospection over the last few months, it is hard to believe that a year has gone by so quickly. I have now completed my pastoral year and am back in Canada, awaiting ordination to the ministerial Priesthood on June 8, 2015.
Although time flew by very quickly, my pastoral experience in Kyiv, Ukraine is one which will always remain with me; although not always an easy ministry, especially at the beginning, due my need to perfect the language, I loved ministry in Ukraine and feel as though I left a small part of my heart there.
My time of ministry in Kyiv was divided into three basic categories; ministry in St. Nicholas Parish, ministry in Catholic Media Center and EWTN, and miscellaneous ministry, a large part of which was comprised with ministry among street people in the nation’s capital.
My first introduction to Kyiv ministry came in the form of ministering to street people with Brother Sebastian Jankowski OMI. A few days after my first arrival in the city, he invited me to help him show a film at a hospital for those without money. Arriving at the hospital, I was astounded that people could live, let alone be cured, in such a place. It was basically a concrete bunker, with some old wire cots for people to lie on, quite cold, and draughty. Medicine was to be bought by others – no money for medicine meant no medicine – there were no social programs available. We fundraised money through donations and charitable events such as plays and programs, and used the money to buy basic medicines and painkillers, as well as essentials such as soap and shampoo. To show films, we brought a laptop and a projector, and projected the movie on the concrete wall of the hospital. The homeless people propped themselves up in their beds and cheered as the film went on.
After becoming an Oblate, I never had imagined that my knowledge of mechanical engineering would come into play. Yet in the Media Center, I was able to utilize many skills to help with the maintenance of equipment, creating websites and databases, as well as troubleshooting and setting up equipment. In the Media Center, I also did a lot of translating – from Italian or English to Ukrainian and vice versa. The Media Center takes most of its information – either live feeds or printed material – from third party sites, for example, from Italian news outlets or Italian video feeds of St. Peter’s square. Thus in the retransmission of such materials, there was a need to have a good working knowledge of Italian. The English feeds from EWTN in the USA came in and also required translation into Ukrainian, both live as in the daily retransmission of the Mass celebrated in the EWTN chapel in Alabama for viewers in Ukraine and communication in English with the staff at EWTN America. There was also the opportunity to make and edit videos, promotional material for programs, create ads, websites, using programs like EDIUS and PHOTOSHOP, among others.
Although work in the Media Center was very interesting, and I had the opportunity to taste the ‘studio life’, my true love was ministry in the parish, especially among youth and young families.
As deacon in the parish, I had the responsibility to officiate at any funerals which came, as well as any baptisms or marriages celebrated outside of the Mass. Some of these events were uneventful, others introduced me to the wonders of Ukrainian governmental efficiency. I remember the second time in my life I was to officiate at a funeral service for an elderly woman who had passed away in the outskirts of Kyiv. When I arrived at the morgue, it was explicably closed, and no one seemed to know why. With the family of the deceased, I tried to gain access, but it seemed that no one had the key to the small building which housed the morgue itself. The response – come tomorrow. The next day, in the morning the family came for me again, and we travelled across the city to the morgue. This time, we found the morgue open, but the body was nowhere to be found – it seems as though they had transported her to another location. Upon arriving at this new location, we found it also to be locked, with the familiar response – come tomorrow. The next day, the family picked me up from the Oblate residence and again we travelled to this newest location, where apart from some issues with paperwork, we were able to finally gain access, pray and conduct the service. I thought the family might have been upset – on the contrary, it seemed to be par for the course when dealing with governmental organizations such as a district morgue. This somewhat interesting episode was a somewhat frustrating experience – but also a good one – in the end, the family and I became good friends and we keep in touch to this day.
Although not officially in charge of the youth in the parish, I often helped out the associate pastor with many functions and events which involved the youth in the parish. Although the parish was small, the youth were very devout and active, and left a lasting impression on me. They were very curious about religious life, and asked me many questions – questions which I remember asking other Oblates in Canada when I was discerning a religious vocation. We went on retreats together, skiing trips to the nearby Carpathian Mountains, decorated and cleaned the church, fed the homeless, and performed liturgical events such Adoration and penitential services together. When I had my last Sunday in the parish, the youth presented me with flowers in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, and a beautiful Ukrainian gift to remember them by.
I am thankful to God and to my province for giving me the opportunity to perform my pastoral year in Kyiv. In conclusion, I would like to say in Ukrainian ‘Слава Ісусу Христу!’ or ‘Praised be Jesus Christ’ and «з Богом» (go with God).