Ukrainian Catholic University president to deliver commencement address

The University of Notre Dame announced that Metropolitan-Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree at the 177th University Commencement Ceremony on May 15. Archbishop Gudziak is the highest-ranking Ukrainian Catholic prelate in the United States and the president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine.

Notre Dame’s invitation to Archbishop Gudziak continues the university’s demonstration of solidarity with Ukraine in light of her ongoing resistance against the Russian invasion. Archbishop Gudziak has long been a voice for “a Ukrainian society based on human dignity,” according to Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., who presented Archbishop Gudziak the Notre Dame Award in 2019.

Archbishop Gudziak was born in Syracuse, New York to Ukrainian immigrants who had fled Soviet communism during World War II. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and biology from Syracuse University in 1980, Archbishop Gudziak studied in the circle of Cardinal Josyf Slipyj at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, where he earned a degree in theology. He then returned to the United States for his doctorate in Slavic and Byzantine cultural history at Harvard University.

Following Ukraine’s independence, Archbishop Gudziak moved to his ancestral homeland in 1992 to establish the Institute of Church History in Lviv, Ukraine. He was also appointed Chairman of the Commission for the Renewal of the Lviv Theological Academy before serving as vice rector and then rector of the academy. When the Ukrainian Catholic University was founded upon the basis of the academy in 2002, Archbishop Gudziak was named its rector and then became president of the university in 2013.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1998, Archbishop Gudziak was appointed in 2012 as bishop of what is known today as the Eparchy of Saint Volodymyr the Great of Paris. This eparchy serves Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. He was later appointed by Pope Francis as Archeparch of Philadelphia and Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States in 2019.

As president of the Ukrainian Catholic University, the first Catholic university founded in the former Soviet Union, Archbishop Gudziak has worked to rebuild trust in Ukrainian civil society. His leadership has emphasized the “pillars of the martyrs and the marginalized” as the foundation of the university’s values.

During the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, Archbishop Gudziak honored the martyrdom of the Heavenly Hundred who perished at the hands of the Yanukovych regime, including 28-year-old Ukrainian Catholic University professor Bohdan Solchanyk, by standing with the protesters to demand increased respect for human dignity in Ukraine. In a February 2021 statement, he proclaimed in their memory, “May the eternal life of the heroes of the Heavenly Hundred be an appeal to our dignity.”

Archbishop Gudziak has also demonstrated a commitment to the marginalized in his respect for people with special needs. His creation of the Emmaus Center at the Ukrainian Catholic University, built in the L’Arche model, has integrated people with developmental disabilities and their families into the campus community. Archbishop Gudziak cherishes this opportunity for students to interact with developmentally disabled people, declaring them “professors of human relations” who “force us to confront … the most important pedagogical question of all: Can you love me?”

In his commitment to these values, Archbishop Gudziak has developed the Ukrainian Catholic University into one of the nation’s most reputable institutions of higher learning. While the Ukrainian Catholic Church was banned for decades under Soviet rule, the Ukrainian Catholic University has emerged as a “center for cultural thought,” as described by Father Jenkins, in communicating the Catholic mission to the Ukrainian people.

The shared respect for human dignity at Notre Dame and the Ukrainian Catholic University is central to Notre Dame’s campaign for solidarity with Ukraine. The relationship between the schools dates to 2003, when the Ukrainian Catholic University was a founding member of the Nanovic Institute’s Catholic Universities Partnership. The universities expanded the scope of their relationship upon Archbishop Gudziak’s reception of the Notre Dame Award in 2019, when they agreed to “develop collaborations and exchanges in fields of shared interest and expertise.” This agreement has facilitated research by Ukrainian Catholic University scholars at the Nanovic Institute, the Catholic Leadership Program jointly coordinated by the Nanovic Institute and Mendoza College of Business, and Notre Dame Law School’s support of legal scholars in Eastern Europe.

Father Jenkins recognized Archbishop Gudziak’s forceful and eloquent response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a perspective that students, faculty, and staff will “benefit from and appreciate hearing” at commencement. In the words of Archbishop Gudziak, “Ukraine has won this war morally…The truth of communion and justice, rather than violence and war, is God’s will for us. God’s truth will prevail, but the Via Crucis often entails great suffering.”

Christian McKernan is a junior from Yardley, Pennsylvania, majoring in finance and minoring in constitutional studies and European studies. He is Co-Founder and Treasurer of the Ukrainian Society of the University of Notre Dame. Please direct any comments to

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