Eastern liturgies promote solidarity with the people of Ukraine

A Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy took place in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart for the second time in the basilica’s history on Wednesday night, October 26th, to intercede for an end to the war in Ukraine. 

The first occurred in 1988 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the conversion of Kievan Rus’, a predecessor to the Ukrainian state. Additionally, Fr. Andrij Hlabse, S.J., a doctoral student in theology at Notre Dame and a Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic priest, led a prayer service—a Ukrainian Byzantine Molében to the Virgin Mary—at the end of February 2022 in the basilica to ask for her intercession for the end of the war in Ukraine.

Fr. Hlabse celebrated the Divine Liturgy along with concelebrants Fr. Yury P. Avvakumov, Associate Professor in Theology, and Fr. Khaled Anatolios, the John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology. Two doctoral students, Dartanyan Edmonds and Nicholas Babich, served for the liturgy, and five priests attended in choir, including Fr. Brian Ching, the rector of the basilica. St. Michael’s Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholic Church in Mishawaka lent many items to the basilica for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy including icons, liturgical fans (called ripidia, which represent angels), and a processional cross. 

Fr. Ching explained to the Rover that “there are 23 sui juris Churches in the Catholic Church (in addition to the Latin Church).” 14 of them, including the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, celebrate the Byzantine Liturgical Rite. All of these Churches are Catholic and respect the authority of the Pope. 

Fr. Hlabse, whose maternal grandparents were from Ukraine, graduated from Notre Dame in 2006 with a degree in music performance and Romance languages & literature and a minor in European studies. He shared with the Rover that “it is an especially powerful sign of unity to offer the Eucharist at Notre Dame in the same venerable Byzantine Rite in which most Christians in Ukraine themselves pray.” Fr. Hlabse noted, “it was beautiful to be able to celebrate the Eucharist on the basilica’s main altar for the first time, and in my own rite, and so to share the rich Byzantine tradition with so many others.”

Anastasia Matuszak, a junior at Notre Dame who has spent the majority of her life in the United States but was born in Ukraine, usually attends Divine Liturgy on Sundays at St. Michael’s: “I’m a part of the community there, and I really enjoy it,” she told the Rover. She is a board member of the Ukrainian Society of Notre Dame, which helped organize this Divine Liturgy in the basilica. Matuszak noted the help of the President’s Office and Campus Ministry in promoting, live streaming, recording, and photographing the Divine Liturgy; the Ukrainian Society of Notre Dame bought the posters and worship aids that Fr. Hlabse made. 

Matuszak shared that the club, which was re-started in 2020, had been focused on promoting Ukrainian culture. After the start of the war in Ukraine, the club began to focus on raising awareness and fundraising. Additionally, she indicated that the club connects with the students from Ukrainian Catholic University studying at Notre Dame. Matuszak was part of the choir at this Divine Liturgy (which sang a capella) alongside several graduate students and Brett Perkins, the Assistant Director for Evangelization and Religious Education in Campus Ministry, who also served as the lector. 

In contrast to Mass in the Roman Rite, Perkins explained in an interview with the Rover that the Divine Liturgy is sung, except for the homily and the Prayer before Holy Communion. Perkins, who obtained his undergraduate degree in finance and theology and his Masters of Arts degree in theology from Notre Dame, believes that Campus Ministry can help Catholic students “engage in and find a comfort and a home in multiple expressions within the Catholic faith.” Fr. Ching added that “having a Divine Liturgy … helps us enter into solidarity with [people at Notre Dame who were born in or have loved ones in Ukraine] in a deeper, profound way because we’re sharing in some of their cultural liturgical tradition.”

For those seeking to deepen their understanding of the Byzantine Rite, Perkins (brett.perkins@nd.edu), who regularly attended St. Michael’s on Sundays for several years prior to leading RCIA at Notre Dame, welcomes discussion. Fr. Anatolios also celebrates a Melkite Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Rite in the Malloy Hall Chapel every Sunday at 10am. As Fr. Hlabse put it, “The Byzantine tradition is rich and communicates a powerful spirituality at once liturgical and personal.” Fr. Hlabse occasionally celebrates the Divine Liturgies on Sundays at St. Michael’s (10am), and extends an invitation to all readers. He also welcomes conversation about the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Byzantine Rite at ahlabse@nd.edu.

Email Kathryn Bowers at kbowers2@nd.edu to speculate why people enjoy referring to and addressing her by her last name in combination with her first name.

Photo Credit: Campus Ministry