On June 22 and 23, Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) held its 25th annual commencement ceremonies for students of bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. This year, UCU is marking the 30th anniversary of the revival of the Lviv Theological Academy (LTA). On June 23, 1994, His Beatitude Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky, Head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church of blessed memory, signed a decree about the revival of the LTA, the legal successor of which is UCU. This year, more than 600 young people joined the community of UCU graduates. These are graduates of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, the Humanities Faculty, the Social Sciences Faculty, Health Sciences Faculty, Applied Sciences Faculty, and UCU Business School.

For the safety of the guests, the ceremonies were held on two days. They began with a Divine Liturgy in the University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, presided at by UCU’s President, Metropolitan of the UGCC Philadelphia Archeparchy Archbishop Borys Gudziak.

As is traditional, Archbishop Gudziak greeted the graduates of all programs: “We are a community which strives to live according to the fruits of the Holy Spirit: peace, gentleness, patience, love. What is most important at UCU? Community. And what is community? It is relationships. We are praying that you will be masters at relationships. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength in truth to come to know, to feel, and to rejoice.”

Archbishop Borys Gudziak

UCU Rector Taras Dobko encouraged the graduates to remain people of hope: “Just imagine how much needed to be done for this day to happen. First of all, your desire was necessary, and your painstaking work. But not only. Also necessary was the care of loving people and friends, the work of institutions: schools, civic organizations, churches; many people; time and resources used to prepare people for a worthy, responsible, and productive life. So, for us today is a day of gratitude. Because, even if you are geniuses, you still have received much as a gift which is worth your gratitude. So, be grateful! And be people of hope. Radiate it, share it, and work with hope.”

Taras Dobko

This year the UCU community commemorates the 30th anniversary of the revival of the Lviv Theological Academy, of which Ukrainian Catholic University is the legal successor. The first rector of the revived LTA was Fr. Mykhailo Dymyd, scholar, doctor of Eastern Canon Law, and professor of UCU’s Department of Pastoral Theology. He addressed the graduates with a keynote speech on June 22.

“One of Ukraine’s most successful projects is Ukrainian Catholic University, which began with a vision, without money or books, no professors, no premises. The person who gave me the assignment, also a future co-worker at UCU, said: ‘Mykhailo, don’t start this, because nothing will come of it.’ And I answered: ‘Let me begin, how and when I consider it necessary…’

Fr. Mykhailo Dymyd

 

“Together with highs there will be lows, because it often happens that it’s necessary simply to know how to re-think things, to thank God for experience, to gain a new spirit, in order to pass this skill on to the next generation, and the new generation will absolutely do something with this. Also, before we begin to fly, we have to understand that it’s necessary to take a few experimental flights, in order to gain experience for the regular flights.

From left to right: UCU Rector Taras Dobko, first rector Fr. Mykhailo Dymyd, UCU President Archbishop Borys Gudziak, Vice-President Fr. Bohdan Prach

“UCU gives you its experience, not just any experience but God’s providence in the life of the Ukrainian people. Act bravely, be grateful, live joyfully, judge not! Have high goals for society, fly freely, but be sure that you will not always face calm skies on the way to the goals you dream of!” Fr. Mykhailo Dymyd thus addressed the graduates. He was the father of Artem Dymyd, a hero who two years ago perished while fighting the Russian occupiers.

On June 23, Olena Dzhezhora, historian and professor of the History Department of the UCU Humanities Faculty, who stood near the sources of the revival of the activities of the Lviv Theological Academy, addressed the graduates.

She challenged the graduates not to wait for “the right moment,” but to create it themselves: “The preservation of one’s own history and cultural heritage is the single guarantee against destruction. It alone allows one to make a return transformation: transforming a tragedy of history into a drama. But drama then does not mean an unavoidable, fatal ending. A drama has hope. The 30-year history of the LTA-UCU is a triumph of hope over experiences and circumstances. This is a revival of continuity and historical memory. It means the transformation of tragedy into drama, which has many possible endings, which can be triumphant.…

“Today you have joined the almost 5000 members of the ‘army’ of UCU graduates. We need you, because a university is composed, to a great extent, of those who graduated from it; because, without you, we will not become better. Difficult times stand before you. We continue the fight for the right to our existence. But it’s most important to remember: “In order to fight not only in life but to the death, you need to have the certainty that God is on your side.” We have such certainty,” emphasized Olena Dzhedzhora.

The full text of Olena Dzhedzhora’s speech is available HERE

Fr. Ihor Boyko, Rector of Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv, also addressed the graduates: “Be good people, merciful. Behave in a way that other people are glad to be near you. Take care of those who need support and advice, those who are sad and feel alone. You are going out into the world, and it may have places which you don’t like; but don’t run away. Even when you fall, spread your wings and fly again. Make your contribution to life. Love others. As the great Zenia Kushpeta said: ‘Love those who are in your life.’”

Fr. Ihor Boyko

According to the university’s long tradition, the salutatorian gave a speech greeting the graduates of bachelor’s and master’s programs, and the valedictorian gave the final speech.

UCU’s 2024 salutatorian was Yuliya Popudnyk, a graduate of the Ethics-Politics-Economics program and co-founder of the literary initiative “Whispers.”

“Today is a special day of gratitude. Today we’re in gowns because someone is in military uniform. We have defended our diploma work, because we are defended by those about whom the Bible says: ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ The future lies before us because our defenders did not allow it to be taken away. Today we take responsibility to live two lives, to love, to work and to dream two times more for those who hold the shield… Let us work with sacrifice, so that future generations who come within these walls will be proud of their parents and country, which we need to build and rebuild,” said Yuliya Popudnyk.

UCU’s 2024 valedictorian, Oleksandr Ratiy, is a graduate of the Master’s Program in Clinical Psychology Based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. He works in military and rehabilitation centers providing psychosocial services to veterans.

“I know that I can, have to, and must influence all systems of which I am a part. This is not my right but, rather, my obligation. There’s no other way. We are now adults. Here at UCU I saw that thousands of like-minded people stand by me. I thank you for being that circle. At Ukrainian Catholic University I became aware that passionate curiosity is the only mechanism on the path from degeneration to revival,” summed up Oleksandr Ratiy.

On June 22 during the program of the commencement ceremonies, sculptures were also blessed on the square near the University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God. Metropolitan Borys Gudziak, Archbishop of Philadelphia and President of UCU, led the prayers of dedication.

Archbishop Borys Gudziak blesses the sculpture called “He took.”

The metropolitan challenged all to come to the stones more often, to become aware of their transformation and to look for answers to difficult questions: “When we doubt who we are, our temptations become more difficult and our resilience shows cracks. But when we understand that we are accepted and blessed by God, then we can witness, endure, and overcome everything. God wants us to stand up straight and, without fear, look forward.”

Read more: Our defense is in God’s hands – Sculptures are blessed at UCU’s Square of the Holy Wisdom of God

Also on that day, UCU presented awards to “Professors of the Year 2024.” The awards committee chose two laureates: Bohdan Chuma, Assistant Professor of the Department of Modern and Contemporary History of the UCU Humanities Faculty, and Nataliya Terlych, Professor of the UCU Applied Sciences Faculty. Orysya Vira, Professor of the UCU History Department, also received a special award.

Professors of the Year with Rector Taras Dobko

Read more: Bohdan Chuma and Nataliya Terlych Are UCU Professors of the Year 2024

During the ceremonies on June 23, UCU Rector Taras Dobko presented the rector’s award to professors of the university for high academic standards in scholarly research, in particular at the international level. The laureates were: Tetyana Zakharchenko, Olena Haleta, Oleh Turiy, Fr. Yuriy Shchurko, Dmytro Tsolin, and Iryna Semkiv.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi thanked the graduates for their courage and great faith in UCU and Ukraine: “Many brave people were involved so that we could gather together with you here. The people who create UCU’s success are among us. What qualities do these people have? Great faith and the courage, above all, to go forward. Today we are thinking about how to free our land from the enemy. We in Lviv also have to think much about how to heal wounded soldiers and other Ukrainians, how to heal a wounded country. For this, we need wise people. Having gained knowledge, thirst for more and don’t be afraid to take on responsibilities.”

We invite you to watch recordings of the commencement ceremonies:

June 22

June 23