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University announces 2019 Notre Dame Award recipient

| Monday, May 6, 2019

Ukrainian Archbishop Borys Gudziak will receive the Notre Dame award in a ceremony in the Ukrainian town of Lviv on June 29, University President Fr. John Jenkins announced in a press release Monday.

“In the face of innumerable challenges, Archbishop Gudziak has made the Ukrainian Catholic University a center for cultural thought, Christian witness and the formation of a Ukrainian society based on human dignity,” Jenkins said in the release. “At the same time, he has steadfastly provided dedicated pastoral guidance to members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. It will be an honor to recognize his courageous and faithful service when we visit Ukraine in June.”

Gudziak was raised in Syracuse, N.Y. by his parents, both of whom were Ukrainian refugees who fled communism. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and biology from Syracuse University. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he ventured to Rome, where he received a degree in theology at Holy Sofia College and Pontifical Urban University. He then received his doctorate from Harvard University in Slavic and Byzantine cultural history.

He moved to Ukraine in 1992, founding the Institute of Church History in Lviv. He was ordained a priest six years after moving to Ukraine and served as both vice-rector and rector of the then-Lviv Theological Academy, which would become the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU). Gudziak currently serves as president of UCU, which is the first Catholic university founded in the former Soviet Union.

According to the release, “UCU is built on the ‘pillars of the martyrs and the marginalized’ — the martyrs being those who suffered and died under communist repression, and the intellectually disabled who too often exist on the margins of society, both of whom Archbishop Gudziak considered essential to rebuilding trust in Ukrainian society and who were virtually invisible under Soviet rule.”

The release said Gudziak “exemplified the spirit of the martyrs” during a 2014 protest movement that toppled the then-president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych. After 100 pro-democracy demonstrators, including a member of the UCU faculty, were killed in Kiev’s Maidan Square during the protests, Gudziak and other faith leaders joined the protestors and their calls for a new Ukraine.

“At the moment a solution seems impossible, but I am still praying with the people of Maidan because I am part of Pope Francis’ school of thought — a pastor must have the smell of his sheep,” the release quoted Gudziak as saying at the time.

Gudziak created the Emmaus Center at UCU for those with intellectual disabilities to receive spiritual help and support, the release said

In a 2015 story for Ukrainian Weekly, Gudziak said he thinks of those with developmental disabilities as “professors of human relations.”

“We need the gifts they have,” he said. “They don’t care if you’re a rector, a doctor or how rich you are. What they force us to confront is the most important pedagogical question of all: Can you love me?”

In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named Gudziak the head of the eparchy, which ministers to Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. In February, Pope Francis appointed Gudziak the archbishop of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, which includes Philadelphia, as well as Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and other parts of eastern Pennsylvania. This title will take effect June 4, the release said. Gudziak is also the metropolitan, or the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s highest-ranking priest in the United States.

According to the release, Gudziak will be the first-ever person of Ukrainian descent to receive the Notre Dame Award.

Previous recipients of the award include former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, St. Mother Teresa, 2018 commencement speaker Judge Sergio Moro and the Colectivo Solecito de Veracruz, an organization of Mexican mothers united to search for their loved ones in the face of violence and corruption, the release said.

The Notre Dame award is conferred to “men and women whose life and deeds have shown exemplary dedication to the ideals for which the University stands: faith, inquiry, education, justice, public service, peace and care for the most vulnerable,” the release said.

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