For the entire Ukrainian Catholic University community, the fifth month of Ukraine’s heroic resistance in the war with Russia became an example of faith in victory. Despite the war, more than 500 UCU graduates received their bachelor’s and master’s degrees during a commencement ceremony which took place in early July. We saw the faces of the future leaders of Ukraine – those who were tirelessly volunteering, research, and showing their service in action. UCU continues its work by implementing changes with even greater responsibility, recording war stories, defending our independence, and bringing victory closer to Ukraine.
How are the UCU community and the university’s donors working towards Ukraine’s victory? Read the report on the fifth month of the war to find out.
Over the five months of the war, together with donors, UCU spent 3.8 million dollars on humanitarian aid. Most funds (65%) were directed to acquire medical supplies later given to hospitals and people in the war zone. 18% of this amount was allocated to support internally displaced persons, 10% to support volunteer organizations, and 4% to acquire protection and security equipment.
UCU Graduates: The Future of Ukraine
Graduation ceremonies were held at the Ukrainian Catholic University. This year, more than 500 young people graduated from the university.
Dmytro Kuleba, a statesman, diplomat and communicator, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, and member of the National Security Council, became the honorary speaker of the summer graduation ceremonies: “Ukraine is already becoming an example for others, an example of how to persevere in the most challenging of conditions, showing that light is stronger than darkness, and the truth is stronger than lies. Therefore, no matter how strong the evil seems, we must repel it. On the day of your graduation, I wish you stability and strength – strength to fight against evil, fight for the truth, and your principles. Always fight for what you believe in and what your family and UCU taught you. I wish for your victory in this fight. Have the strength to overcome circumstances, rise above yourself and move forward and upward. You will face big decisions, decisions that are always made amid uncertainty. Often, others will say, “it’s impossible”. But I urge you to focus on yourself and your principles, self-respect, the ability to trust friends and partners, the ability to set clear goals and achieve them.”
On July 18, graduation ceremonies were held for students of the Catechetical and Pedagogical Institute of UCU. 54 talented and hardworking graduates from Lviv, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Dnipro, Vinnytsia, Zhovkva and other cities of Ukraine received their diplomas.
While addressing the graduates, the rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Father Bohdan Prach, emphasized that every Christian has a task to bear witness to the Word of God: “With the sacrament of anointing and baptism, we receive the gift of witnessing God’s Word and passing it onto others. Our efficiency in this task depends on many things. First, how much time we devoted to this Word. That is, how much the light of Christ illuminated us and how strong our faith was. Then there are works of the Holy Spirit. It is always there, yet it depends greatly on our willingness to pray for and witness it.”
During graduation ceremonies, students and employees of UCU had the opportunity to sign state flags with words of support for our soldiers. These flags were later delivered to the front lines.
“I am grateful to all those who wrote such heartwarming, inspiring and much-needed words,”wrote UCU program teacher Oleksandr Yabchanka, who is currently defending our independence at the front.
UCU program teacher Oleksandr Yabchanka, who is currently defending our independence at the front.
“Alina, Oleksiy, Sashko, Maksym, Viktor, Maksym… They did not write their thesis at the School of Public Administration. Instead, they went to protect us, fighting at the front line. We are most happy when they contact us. And we remained here, at the home front… The theses we wrote at UCU this year are more than scientific papers. These are real projects. After our victory, they will help overcome great challenges ahead so that Ukraine recovers from the war, becoming stronger and better. We cannot allow our knowledge and skills to gather dust. We have no such right. Fate decided that we live in such times. In a year, I want to come here for the graduation of Alina, Sashko, Maksym, and Viktor… This is what I want the most,” says Olena Yabchanka, a graduate of the Master’s program “Public Management and Administration” at the School of Public Administration of UCU.
UCU Teachers: Warriors of Light in Wartime
The Ukrainian Catholic University awarded the “Teacher of the Year-2022” laureates. The awarding committee chose three laureates: Mariia Tytarenko, Iryna Starovoyt, and Oleksandra Nizdran-Fedorovych.
When asked about the role of a teacher in wartime, award winner Maria Tytarenko answers unequivocally – “a warrior”: “A teacher should be a warrior of light. The army of light must fight against darkness and evil by all means possible, particularly through communicating, witnessing, and serving (one of the major principles of UCU). I suggest we add a “P” to the two “M” too (standing for “martyrs” and “marginalized’) – peacemakers. After all, peacekeeping will be the next fundamental task of the warriors of light after the Victory.”
An award winner Maria Tytarenko and the rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Father Bohdan Prach
In addition, six UCU teachers became laureates of the Rector’s Award-2022 for scientific achievements: Ulyana Golovach, Marta Tymoshenko, Ruslan Partsei, Fr. Oleksandr Kashchuk, Rostyslav Hryniv, Andriy Romanyuk, and Nazar Fedorak. This annual award aims to encourage and support the scientific work of scientific and pedagogical staff. Benefactors donate funds to the UCU Community to support the scientists, which speaks of great trust in the university.
UCU teachers support the community on the home front and actively fight for our independence. Thus, 16 UCU employees are defending Ukraine as part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, and in the field defense.
Among them is Andriy Romanyuk, a teacher at the Faculty of Applied Sciences of UCU. On February 25, the second day of the full-scale invasion, he went to join the military unit. Currently, he is in the East of Ukraine, protecting our Homeland from the Russian invaders, and fighting for our freedom.
Andriy Romaniuk, UCU teacher
“Students and pupils now have the opportunity to study, despite the challenging circumstances caused by the war. Some may find excuses and carelessly use this opportunity. When laziness or unwillingness to study takes hold, remember your peers, parents, and relatives at the front lines. What are they fighting for? Why are they fighting so that you can study? Print out their photos from the frontlines, read their battle stories, and get to work! It is up to you to rebuild our country and build a new one,” Andriy Romaniuk addresses the students.
You can read the full interview with the UCU teacher fighting at the front here.
On July 1st, the international conference “The Vatican’s Ostpolitik: Historical Background and Contemporary Challenges” was held at the Ukrainian Catholic University. Former ambassadors to the Holy See from Lithuania, Georgia, the European Union and Ukraine took part in the discussion.
“The idea of this conference appeared in the context of discussing the Vatican’s reaction to Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, which often seemed incomprehensible or even outrageous,” says Oleh Turiy, Vice-Rector of UCU, Director of the Institute of Church History. “We decided to organize this conference to understand the reasons for such a situation and facilitate communication.”
On July 2nd, the conference “Lessons of War and Rebuilding the Country and Society” took place within the walls of the Sheptytsky Center. This was the second meeting in a series of conferences on Ukraine’s future renewal after the war’s end. The initiative is implemented in cooperation between the Ukrainian Catholic University and Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
Oksana Kulakovska, Director of the UCU Kyiv Center, says this platform is unique as it unites the academic community and representatives of business and civil society: “This discussion involves people ready to unite to broadcast shared meanings and jointly influence public policies. Moreover, each conference series has an interactive application component where all participants are involved in developing precise recommendations on the future development of our country.”
The Ukrainian Catholic University is expanding its network of global partners. Thus, in June, UCU announced cooperation with the Lyon Catholic University, which will be able to provide 15 scholarships for semester mobility to UCU master’s students in the next academic year. In particular, for the fall semester, a competition was announced for students of the Master’s programs “Human Rights” and the Business School of UCU.
“When the Russian Federation started a full-scale war in Ukraine, the Catholic University of Lyon appealed to its business partners. They called to support UCU and our students and provide them with the opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad to gain knowledge in the international context and develop important contacts and professional networks. We are very grateful to the University of Lyon, the institution we have been cooperating with for many years. They have been our partners and colleagues in the European Federation of Catholic Universities,” says Sophia Opatska, Vice-Rector for Strategic Development of UCU, Dean-Founder of the UCU Business School.
Partnerships for Victory
The Ukrainian Catholic University and the “Razom for Ukraine” (“Together for Ukraine”) charitable foundation signed a memorandum of cooperation and partnership for interaction and joint coordination of work for the support and development of Ukraine. “Razom for Ukraine” is the largest American-Ukrainian foundation established in 2013 to support democratic processes, reforms, and a free Ukraine.
Life-saving defibrillators were installed at UCU thanks to the Razom for Ukraine and Smart Medical Aid Foundation. From now on, they are available in the Sheptytsky Center and the university’s Collegium.
Thanks to the Razom for Ukraine fund and Smart Medical Aid, two defibrillators were installed at UCU
UCU welcomed Fr. Thomas Schwartz, the head of the charity foundation of the Catholic Church in Germany, “Renovabis”. This is his first visit to the Ukrainian Catholic University since he was elected as the foundation’s head position last fall. During the conversation, Father Rector Bohdan Prach thanked Fr. Thomas Schwartz and the “Renovabis” foundation for the long-term support of the university, which helped UCU grow and fulfill its mission. Also, Father Rector emphasized the importance of further support for the students of the university and Ukraine in these trying times.
On June 27, we were honored to welcome a great friend of UCU, Larisa Galadza, a Canadian diplomat of Ukrainian origin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Canada to Ukraine.
“It is essential that we learn lessons from this war. The future peace depends on whether or not we learn these lessons: the things parents will tell their children about current events, and the values we will use as the basis to rebuild Ukraine,” said Larisa Galadza.
Larisa Galadz at UCU
The Ukrainian Catholic University continues the digital transformation process per the UCU 2025 Strategy, “University That Serves.” Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine made significant adjustments to the university’s work. However, it did not stop the implementation of changes. On the contrary, the crisis motivated the team to implement new projects.
“We devised the idea to create the UCU Wiki during the war. We thought about directing our resources and how we could be useful to the university. So, the team got together, brainstormed ideas, and the UCU Wiki came into being. Our goal was to create an equivalent bilingual electronic directory. This is how “Wikipedia of UCU” currently functions,” says Oleh Lahodniuk, Head of the Digital Transformation of UCU.
Volodymyr Bokla, Head of the Information Technology Department of UCU, says that the UCU Wiki was created entirely through the team’s efforts and resources: “We chose the tool to deploy the service, selected the criteria and requirements it had to meet, tested the functionality, and filled it. Next, we plan to hand over the UCU Wiki to the community so that users can add to it themselves, create new articles, and develop the service. This way, we will jointly create an effective tool for communication.”
“The My UCU portal and the UCU Wiki are two resources that properly divert the user’s attention from the main UCU website. The main site will remain the platform for the university’s general communication. Information about the history of creation, structure, employees of the university, etc., will be contained on the portal and the UCU Wiki,” says Ostap Machynsky, Head of the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) project.
Volodymyr Bokla, Head of the Information Technology Department of UCU, Ostap Machynsky, Head of the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) project, Oleh Lahodniuk, Head of the Digital Transformation of UCU
You can find more information about the university’s digital transformation here.
We continue working on the project “Short Stories from the Great War”, where we talk about ordinary people caught up in the war: our colleagues, friends, neighbors, and old acquaintances – all those Ukrainians who selflessly fight on their personal front lines. In the first weeks of the war, millions of Ukrainians left their homes in search of safety. Yet some returned at a crucial time to bring our victory closer through their hard work and service in Ukraine. In June, an interview with Stefan Myronyuk about Ukrainians in Europe joining our struggle was published as part of the project. You can read the full interview here.
A part of the project team went to the East of Ukraine to meet with people in the war’s epicentre and tell the whole world about the struggle of ordinary Ukrainians in this unjust war, which has been going on for eight years. The small team consisted of Marta Gula, an employee of the Deanship of Student Life, Mariia Varanytska, a photographer, a graduate of UCU, and led by a long-time journalist and videographer of UCU, the legendary Petro Didula. They have already visited Vinnytsia and Dnipro. Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Zhytomyr, and Kyiv are next.
Petro Didula, Marta Gula, Mariia Varanytska
“In the beginning, it was about small stories of the Great War, about recording stories of the people that probably would never be broadcasted as they are doing their little things in their little places. But these are incredible things. Now we understand that this project will eventually grow into something different entirely – Great people of hundreds of millions of small battles we are winning. Our Great Victory consists of many small ones,” videographer and journalist of the project, Petro Didula, stated.
“Do what you do well! There are many ways you can be useful to Ukraine during the war. Make sure you are truly efficient in your place. Drops of water make an ocean. This is the only way we will become a great power,” says Mariia, a volunteer from Dnipro and the heroine of the “Short Stories from the Great War” project.
Philadelphia Archdiocese of the UGCC has been one of the primary donors supporting the UCU community and volunteers since the first days of the war. In February-May 2022, thanks to the support of the Humanitarian Aid Foundation of the Philadelphia Archdiocese of the UGCC, the Ukrainian Catholic University provided aid to people suffering from the war in Ukraine for the amount of $1,487,260.00. 78% of the funds were spent on medical needs, 21% on food, and the rest on material and technical support and other expenses related to humanitarian aid.
The story of the UCU cup from Hostomel is similar to the ceramic rooster from Borodyanka, which became a symbol of Ukrainian indomitability. Both the cup and the rooster survived after the Russian occupiers destroyed their owners’ houses.
Ruslan Kavatsyuk, a graduate of the “Theology” program at the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology of UCU, had completed renovations in his house in Hostomel two months before the start of the full-scale war. His family spent several years building a family home, investing all their savings in the project. The Russian army destroyed the building and burned it to the ground. The UCU cup probably was the only thing left intact among the ashes. It moved with Ruslan from apartment to apartment, and he liked to use it for drinking coffee in the morning.
You can read about Ruslan helping the military from the first days of the full-scale war and the lessons Ukrainians should learn from this war here.
Orysya Masna, a student of the “Social Work” program and a communicator of the Department of Alumni Relations at UCU, has been bringing seriously wounded soldiers back to life in one of Lviv’s hospitals since the beginning of the war. Currently, the girl serves on the front lines as part of the “Hospitaliers” volunteer medical battalion, which helps those who need it most on the front lines daily.
“My main motivation is saving those who risk and give their lives on the battlefield. When uninvited guests come to my country, I cannot sit idly and watch them “make themselves at home”,” says Orysya Masna.
Orysya Masna, a student of the “Social Work” program and a communicator of the Department of Alumni Relations at UCU
Fr. Serhiy Honcharov (Padre Serzh) lived in the Collegium of the Ukrainian Catholic University and worked with students. At the end of May, he went to the Chernihiv region on a humanitarian and spiritual mission. “When I was going to Chernihiv, I thought the townspeople would be sad, and I would need to comfort them. What I saw was a lot of optimism. People learned to live by accepting the reality,” Fr. Serhiy says.
You can read about serving and Chernihiv surviving the siege and Russian occupation, people reclaiming their lives, and the things that give them hope and faith in victory here.
The UCU Child Dignity Center has launched a psychological support project for priests. The project aims to advise representatives of the clergy who need psychological help and feel exhausted after providing spiritual support and communicating on complex war topics.
“We know that more and more people who have become witnesses or victims of violence due to the war turn to the Church. Their stories are complex, so it can be difficult for priests to experience them. That is exactly why the initiative to launch a project of psychological support for the clergy appeared,” says Khrystyna Shabat, Head of the UCU Child Dignity Center.
“Take care of your heart! There is a great danger of allowing the devil to dwell in our hearts. That bald-headed devil wants to get into our souls and cut us down. Without faith and integrity, without hope, we can’t do much. All we can do then is languish. But our calling as a community is to be leaders, and true leadership involves a lot of work on oneself. There is no magic that would allow us not to waste our achievements. We have to be ourselves: consciously, fundamentally, systematically! Have a lot of humor and expect a lot of criticism!” says Bishop Borys Gudziak, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Philadelphia Archdiocese of the UGCC in the USA, President of the UCU.
We express our deep gratitude to our charitable partners for helping Ukraine during the five months of the war:
Ukrainian Catholic University Foundation (USA)
Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation (Canada)
Philadelphia Archdiocese of the UGCC in the USA
Catholic dioceses of Germany
“Renovabis” Foundation (Germany)
Omelan and Tatiana Antonovych Foundations
University of Notre Dame (Australia)
Drs Timothy and Luba Flanigan
Catholic Peace Foundation (Hamburg)
McKinsey for Children
Hundreds of benefactors from the USA, Canada, Australia and Europe