On 1 and 2 July, Ukrainian Catholic University held commencement exercises. This year, more than 500 young people joined the community of UCU graduates. These were graduates of the faculties of Theology and Philosophy, Humanities, Social Sciences, Health Sciences, Applied Sciences, and the UCU Business School.

Father Bohdan Prach walking outside on the UCU campus with a graduate.

This year’s summer commencement festivities were divided over two days, for the safety of guests. The festivities began with the Divine Liturgy in the University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, presided at by UCU’s President, Metropolitan Archbishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy of the UGCC Borys Gudziak.

UCU President Archbishop Borys Gudziak greeted the graduates: “It is finished. Today we have a great celebration. In addition to the pandemic, you have passed through the storm of war, some one year, two, some four. You are going out into a very difficult world. But you go with God’s blessing, accompanied by angelic voices, having before you the face of the Savior, who offers you His wisdom. The service of Fr. Rector Bohdan Prach has finished: he has been a model leader in higher education. Work has finished on the beautiful mosaic of the Holy Wisdom of God. Turn around and gaze at it. This is the young face of Jesus Christ, who personifies the Wisdom of God and blesses you. And our holy day is finishing. Rectorate, senators, staff, parents, and professors, we all embrace you with prayer. With our joint prayer we particularly embrace our defenders, all the wounded, traumatized, homeless. With firm assurance that God’s truth will prevail. No pandemic or war could stop you, because you are in God’s hands, dear graduates.”

UCU President Archbishop Borys Gudziak in his ceremonial garb.

UCU President Archbishop Borys Gudziak

The keynote speaker for the first day of the summer commencement ceremonies was Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine: “Today we have many challenges in Ukraine. We have the challenge of the fight with corruption on various levels; we need well-developed political parties, able to build political, cultural, and economic life. It is impossible to cope with these challenges when we are only two, three, or ten enthusiasts. I consider that, as students and graduates of Ukrainian Catholic University, you have one instrument more than separate enthusiasts. That’s a community. You have contacts; you can share ideas and launch initiatives in various spheres of life. My short speech before you is a prayer and a blessing which I want to ask of God for you. May you be not only full of creativity, faith, love, and human talents but united in what you are doing, supporting one another. In this way you will much more effectively be able to rebuild Church, society, and the country’s political life. May Jesus Christ bless you and the Most Holy Mother of God protect you with her intercession.”

A full Ukrainian-language recording of Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine Visvaldas Kubokas is available HERE.

Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine Visvaldas Kulbokas speaking at a podium.

Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine Visvaldas Kulbokas

The second day of the summer commencement ceremonies, Andriy Andrushkiv, UCU graduate, acting director of the Centre of United Actions, theologian, and, since February 2022, a soldier in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, spoke to the graduates: “Witness to the truth! UCU graduates know well that in classical Greek ‘witness’ and ‘martyr’ are the same word. This university became a reality because of those who were ready to witness, whether in the times of Russian-Soviet repressions or in the times of Yanukovych-Tabachnyk. Serve! UCU is a monument of service carved in space-time. On each step here there’s a plaque for one or another benefactor. You, most likely, have never even seen these people or heard of these companies. But one day they decided to serve our university, to serve you, and so appeared a classroom, a library fund, chapel, and scholarships for students or professors. No one forced these people to do this. They themselves chose to serve UCU. Close your eyes and walk through the university. You see memories of a different type of service, service with the greatest love. You see photos of deceased heroes, whom the Russians killed: master’s student Oleh Kurskyi, graduates Taras Hayduk, Artem Dymyd, families and close members of our community. Their service, their ranks are best described by words of Christ Himself: ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ Communicate! In times when the ruling narrative on the planet is ‘me, me, me,’ you yourselves 100 times have said, heard, written, and received something entirely different: ‘How are you?’ We know how all this is contained on a simple ‘++’ on the screen of a Smartphone and what is the horizon of love in this: ‘Maybe you need something else?’… Find your task and work. May the joy of Monday morning be greater for you than that of Friday evening. Today you are receiving your diplomas in your hands ‘and see that it is good,’ because you worked well on them.”

Watch the full Ukrainian-language recording of Andriy Andrushkiv’s speech HERE.

Andriy Andrushkiv, UCU graduate, acting director of the Centre of United Actions, theologian, soldier in Ukraine’s Armed Forces speaking.

Andriy Andrushkiv, UCU graduate, acting director of the Centre of United Actions, theologian, soldier in Ukraine’s Armed Forces

UCU Rector Fr. Bohdan Prach in his greeting challenged the graduates to spread the experience they acquired at UCU throughout Ukraine: “When the hateful enemy attacked our country, we were together. Together we overcame our fear. Together we will achieve victory. Today you completed your studies, acquired degrees, experience which other generations did not have. You need to further share this experience with others. Create communities like this where you will be, so that the Lord can work through you. Don’t forget about God, prayer, about those who gave their lives for you, the soldiers who defend us. Be brave! Be responsible!”

Fr. Bohdan Prach speaking.

Fr. Bohdan Prach

Fr. Dr. Ihor Boyko, Rector of Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv, during a video address called the graduates to get to work: “I greet you on today’s celebration. With my heart and thoughts I am with you today. I thank Fr. Bohdan Prach for many years of devoted service as rector. On behalf of the seminary community, we express our gratitude. We also sincerely greet the new rector, Taras Dobko. Be assured of the UCU community’s prayerful support, solidarity, and readiness to serve. I sincerely congratulate you, dear graduates! My wish is that you never fear hardships, that you can carry this knowledge which you have acquired in the walls of UCU to those places where the Lord will call you to carry out your service. Work without feeling sorry for yourself. Roll up your sleeves every day and get to work. May the Lord give you strength. Always remember that you are graduates of UCU, Ukraine’s elite!”

UCU graduate sitting in a wheelchair watching the commencement speakers.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago (USA), also greeted the graduates: “You are going out into a very complicated world, but don’t lose hope. Today is not the moment when the plane lands on the runway but when it takes to the air to see something new. When I went to Ukraine, they told me that I would see the tears of the past and also the hope of the future. I saw many tears and sufferings of the past. But today I see you graduates and truly see hope for the future.”

Smiling graduates wearing caps and gowns smiling and clapping during the commencement ceremony.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi called everyone to join in creating a new Ukraine: “Today the whole world with wonder daily watches our movement forward. But the world also expects us to build a strong, independent state: without corruption, nepotism, with high-quality government. People in power have a call to serve. Each one who works for UCU and each one who studies at UCU has a call to serve.”

According to an old tradition of leading world universities, representatives of the students spoke:

2023 Salutatorian, Halshka Skrabiuk, graduate of the History Program of the UCU Humanities Faculty: “When all universities closed their doors, UCU with certainty walked toward Easter. When at the start of the war the majority of universities were forced to stop their activities, UCU developed its humanitarian aid center, and the professors, as if conspiring, convinced students that high-quality study is another frontline on which it’s necessary to fight diligently, to study three times better, as if for all those who now will never be able to become a student.”

Halshka Skrabiuk, graduate of the History Program of the UCU Humanities Faculty speaking at the podium.

Halshka Skrabiuk, graduate of the History Program of the UCU Humanities Faculty

Valedictorian 2023, Kateryna Burovova, graduate of the Data Science program of the Applied Sciences Faculty: “In times of failed international organizations and informational noise made by the Russian enemy, we, Ukrainians, often feel that we are the only adults in the room. We feel that we have received the responsibility for the fight with monsters on which the world for decades refused to shed light, grab by the tail, or at least threateningly stomp at. As frightening as this realization may be, today among us are leaders equipped by Ukrainian Catholic University to fight for the future; I feel, like never before, sure of victory.”

Valedictorian 2023, Kateryna Burovova, graduate of the Data Science program of the Applied Sciences Faculty holding her award.

Valedictorian 2023, Kateryna Burovova, graduate of the Data Science program of the Applied Sciences Faculty

On 1 July, during the program of the commencement ceremonies, they blessed the mosaic of the University Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, work on which lasted for more than two years.

“We waited many years for this occasion, hoping that it would happen in a time of peace. Unfortunately, this is not so. We waited for the archbishop, because thanks to his support and generous allotment of family gifts, today we have the opportunity to behold this mosaic. This is the start of the beautiful decoration of our church. I am very grateful to you, Your Excellency, because I saw how you strove each day to keep track of progress, how your heart was on fire when you saw the open space and then this mosaic of the Holy Wisdom of God,” stated Fr. Bohdan Prach.

Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas blesses the mosaic.

Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas blesses the mosaic

This day, UCU presented awards for Teachers of the Year 2022. The nominating committee chose two laureates: Vyacheslav Navrotskyi, professor in the Department of Law Theory and Human Rights, and Stepan Fedynyak, associate professor of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics.

Fr. Bohdan Prach and Stepan Fedynyak shaking hands.

Fr. Bohdan Prach and Stepan Fedynyak

During the ceremonial part on 2 July, the decree was presented to the new rector of Ukrainian Catholic University, Taras Dobko.

Archbishop Borys Gudziak read a letter of thanks to Fr. Rector Bohdan Prach from the Father and Head of the UGCC, UCU Grand Chancellor His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk: “We thank you for many dedicated years of work in the position of rector of the leading educational and research institution of our Church, Ukrainian Catholic University, which is dedicated to the glory of God, our Church, and our people. Thanks to your dedicated service, several thousand graduates have acquired a good education and value-oriented formation. But the only one who can list all your merits is the Lord. We thank Him for you and entrust your further ministry to His holy care.”

Newly-elected Rector Taras Dobko and Archbishop Borys shaking hands.

Newly-elected Rector Taras Dobko and Archbishop Borys

Newly-elected UCU Rector Taras Dobko thanked the community for great trust and prayer: “In my new role as rector, I ask for your support and prayer. It will never be possible to be sufficiently prepared for such a great responsibility. Taking it on my shoulders is like a leap of faith, in particular, when they invite you to a road which has been paved by such men as Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, Patriarch Josyf Slipyj, Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, Fr. Mykhaylo Dymyd, Archbishop Borys Gudziak, and Fr. Bohdan Prach. Each day in coming years I will need to take a test: Does our UCU correspond to the great plan laid by its founders? For this service, much courage, wisdom, and joy is necessary, especially in wartime. I am strengthened by the fact that I am surrounded by people who are well-endowed with the gifts of God and virtues that I myself lack.”

Dr. Taras Dobko speaking at the podium.

Also on this day, the UCU community greeted the new Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Svitlana Kohut. UCU’s rector thanked Svitlana Stelmakh, who headed the faculty for many years, for his service and work.

During the commencement ceremonies on 2 July, UCU’s rector presented an honorary doctorate to Fr. Janusz Czerski, a priest of the Diocese of Opole and mitred archpriest of the UGCC in Poland, a habilitated doctor and professor of biblical studies.

Fr. Janusz Czerski receiving an honorary doctorate from UCU.

Fr. Janusz Czerski received an honorary doctorate from UCU

Rector Fr. Bohdan Prach also awarded rector’s prizes to UCU professors for high academic standards in scholarly research. The laureates were: Oleksandr Avramchuk, Yaroslava Melnyk, Vyacheslav Navrotskyi, Nataliya Bartkiv, Kseniya Borodin, Olena Synchak, Maryana Burak, Vadym Adadurov, and Volodymyr Sklokin. Ivan Almes received the rector’s prize in the name of Prof. Ihor Skochylias.

The final symbolic gesture of the two-days of commencement ceremonies was a joint performance of the hymn Gaudeamus and the tossing of the tassels.

UCU students tossing their caps and gowns in the air outside on campus.

You can view recordings of the commencement ceremonies here:

Summer commencement ceremonies 1 July

Summer commencement ceremonies 2 July