JANUARY 2020 UPDATE- Good news! UCU graduate Bishop Stepan Sus is now the youngest Catholic bishop in the world. More HERE
Father Stepan Sus is the director of the Center for Military Chaplaincy of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Lviv, Ukraine. He has also helped establish chaplaincy programs for children living in orphanages and other state-run institutions and for students at state-run colleges and universities.
Father Sus recalls a touching instance in his ministry:
“Once the commander sent two cadets to clean the floor in the military chapel. This was when we were repairing the church and there was a lot to clean up. These two guys did not really want to go to church, let alone to clean up, because they were not religious. But they had to listen to their commander, and so they came.
“I remember that they didn’t help us very much that first day. But they asked a lot of questions, like ‘Why go to church?’ and ‘What is prayer?’ They really like working in the church and they asked their commander if they could be assigned to clean up in the chapel as long as the repair work continued.
“After a month or so their attitude toward the church changed quite a bit. Later they even went to confession and received Communion. I spoke with one of them, who said some very fine words to me:
‘I am,’ he said, ‘grateful to my commander, because once he made me take two steps and clean up the chapel. A lot of the guys laughed at me, because they knew that I never went to church, even though I had a reputation as a ‘good’ cadet. But those two steps changed my live entirely, and now I know how to pray and I can help others find their way to the church.’
Father Sus has evangelized many young men, including some baptisms. He graduated from the Ukrainian Catholic University and Holy Spirit Seminary in 2006.
“Small universities are better because the students get more attention. Now as a teacher, I understand that this is also a benefit for the teacher.
“If you study at UCU, in five years you’ll become a professional in the area you choose. You’ll only be able to appreciate all the benefits of the university a few years after you finish.
“But when you’re working, you’ll understand and appreciate the choice you made as you work with your colleagues.”
Vasil Stefaniv was one of the first history students to graduate from the Ukrainian Catholic University, in 2007. He then went for a graduate degree at Lviv Polytechnic. He is now working on his dissertation and also teaching at UCU.
“Because of my situation, I wasn’t able to pay for tuition, but I was a good student, so I received a scholarship. I also worked in the library. Many of my peers worked in various areas of the university, for example, at the summer school. Finances were not a problem.
“I was able to study foreign languages very well at UCU. In our first year, we had English classes every day. It was difficult, but in a year we were already able to communicate fluently and read in English. We also had a Polish course. A fairly good grounding in Latin and Greek is important for those who want to be professionals in history, and also for theologians,” said Stefaniv.
Overseeing the repair of a large building, taking care of orphan children, and maintaining a monastic prayer life is not always easy (!). However, Sr. Romana, a nun of the Order of St. Joseph, does her best. Her order assigned her to take in a number of orphans in Potelych, near the Polish border, and this has included fundraising to renovate a structure donated by the Ukrainian government and coordinating the repair work.
Consequently, Sr. Romana is most grateful for the training she is receiving at UCU’s Institute of Leadership and Management. “We are so glad finally to be taking courses in the management of non-profit organizations,” said Sr. Romana.
Egor Reznichenko, a student at the St. Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy, took part in UCU’s 2011 Philosophy Summer School.
“UCU’s Summer Philosophy School gives fundamental knowledge of the subject, and also an opportunity to interact with Western scholars, which is very important for researchers. Our disputes are fairly lively- we have heated discussions of problems. All the participants are very different, so discussion is always rich.
“As a future priest, I should know how to conceptualize religion in a philosophical way, for philosophy is the common language that we speak with people and the intelligentsia. Priests should know how to speak about high Christian values in an understandable language.”
“UCU provided the basics, the fundamentals for graduate studies. In particular, it gave us the tools, like languages, Latin, Greek, English. We were very well-prepared when we came to Rome…
“When I studied at the Augustinianum, we three UCU graduates were the only women… Today in Rome few are surprised to see female faces at theological faculties (by the way, among them are many Ukrainian women from UCU).”
Consultant-assistant to national deputy in Ukraine’s Parliament
He graduated from UCU’s Faculty of Philosophy and Theology in 2008 and then entered the National Academy of Management, Law Faculty. From 2008 to 2009 he participated in the program “Assistant to the Head of a Committee of Ukraine’s Parliament.” Since 2009 he has been a consultant-assistant to a national deputy in Parliament.
“First of all, the Ukrainian Catholic University formed my personality and taught me what values should guide a person’s life. After I graduated from UCU, I found myself in a radically different environment. But I can say with certainty that the knowledge and spiritual formation from the university gave me the opportunity to move forward with certainty.
“After more education and a few years of work, I made a very important conclusion: the main thing in life is not ‘who’ you are but ‘what’ you are. The kind of people that the Ukrainian Catholic University ‘forges’ are precisely the kind of people necessary to build Ukraine.”