During an online event on February 17, the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation (UCEF) inaugurated its Josyf Slipyj Legacy Society. On the birthday of Patriarch Josyf Cardinal Slipyj, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from 1944 to 1984, including the 18 years he spent in the Soviet GULAG, UCEF honored donors who have pledged to remember UCEF and Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU), one of the cardinal’s major projects, in their wills or estate plans.

The event opened with a prayer lead by UCU Rector Fr. Bohdan Prach, PhD. Then two members of the Legacy Society spoke, Taras Szmagala, Jr., Chair of the Board of UCEF and a member of the UCU Senate (governing board), and Archbishop Borys Gudziak, Ukrainian Catholic Metropolitan of Philadelphia and President of UCU.

Archbishop Gudziak spoke of his memories of Cardinal Slipyj, starting with greeting the cardinal on a visit to Syracuse in his childhood and his later studies in Rome as a seminarian.

Cardinal Slipyj “told us about the university,” said Archbishop Gudziak. “He told us about the fact that the Church should be free. He spoke about the fact that this university is to serve Ukraine. And we were too young not to believe him.”

As the archbishop and his fellow seminarians took classes at papal schools in Rome in the 1980s, “We would say: ‘We want to work for the Church in Ukraine. We want to develop a university.’ One professor kind of patted me on the back and said: ‘Yes, yes, just do your studies,’” recalled the archbishop with a smile. Of course, Archbishop Gudziak and his peers went on to do just what the cardinal had envisioned, despite the skepticism they encountered.

Olena and Lieda Boyko spoke from sunny Florida. They are already second-generation Legacy Society donors.  They spoke of their late father, Michael Boyko, who was a seminarian in Lviv in the 1930s when Josyf Slipyj was rector.  Mr. Boyko funded one of UCU’s first endowments, The Michael and Irene Boyko Endowment for Eastern Christian Studies.

Mr. Boyko was always grateful for the opportunity he was given to study in Lviv as a scholarship student, “and so the torch passed on to us, his children,” explained Olena Boyko. “Donating, supporting or funding UCU’s programs and students has given me personally a great sense of joy and enabled my life to have a deeper meaning and a higher purpose.”

In addition to Mr. Boyko, more than 70 deceased legacy donors were honored during the event.

The event’s main speaker was UCU Vice-Rector for University Mission Myroslav Marynovych, who himself spent seven years years in the GULAG and then five in exile for his human rights activism.

Among other things, Marynovych noted three points where UCU challenges reigning stereotypes. First, he emphasized, “UCU argues that, in a society where the word ‘religious’ is often synonymous with the word ‘archaic,’ being a religiously-oriented university does not prevent it from being a modern university. UCU, truly, belongs to the brightest modern phenomena of the country.

“Confessional stereotypes were no less disturbing,” continued Marynovych. The name “Ukrainian Catholic University,” used by Slipyj, was a challenge in predominantly Orthodox Ukraine. But UCU’s “ecumenical potential is expressed in many joint projects and mutually beneficial contacts. Therefore, for many students from non-Greek Catholic regions of Ukraine, studying at the Ukrainian Catholic University is considered ‘kruto,’ or, to put it in English terms – fashionable and ‘cool.’”

And, against “a persistent stereotype that living honestly means becoming a ‘loser’… UCU has proven that being a value-based university does not prevent us from being an effective institution. Instead of losing our chances, as some believe, we multiply them,” explained Marynovych.

Over the past year, 21 people who included UCEF in their will or estate plans have joined the Society. For further information, please contact Yulia Komar, Donor Relations and Planned Giving Manager: e-mail: komar@ucef.org, cell: 1-224-258-8758