Jenkins discusses Notre Dame Award recipient at opening mass
Serena Zacharias | Wednesday, August 28, 2019
University President Fr. John Jenkins highlighted the accomplishments of Ukrainian Archbishop Borys Gudziak and the Ukrainian Catholic Church to highlight the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit in his homily at the annual opening mass of the academic year held Tuesday in the Joyce Center.
Jenkins presented the Notre Dame Award to Gudziak in June after traveling to the Ukrainian city of Lviv for the ceremony. Gudziak was a leader of the Lviv Theological Academy in the 1990s, which was expanded to establish the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) that continued to develop over the years. While UCU is now held in high esteem throughout Ukraine, Jenkins said the Ukrainian Catholic Church — from which UCU emerged — has faced violent struggles in its history under the Soviet Union.
“At the end of World War II, under Stalin’s direct order there was a concerted effort to destroy the Ukrainian Catholic Church and integrate it into the Russian Orthodox Church,” Jenkins said. “The KGB killed many priests, and in the case of some they attempted to pressure them by arresting and eventually killing members of their families.”
After the Soviet Union fell and Catholics were able to practice their religion freely, Jenkins said Gudziak envisioned a university that would serve the marginalized community of young people with special needs, which translated into the Emmaus Center at UCU.
“The point was not primarily that members of the university could help these young people with special needs,” Jenkins said. “The point was that the people of the Emmaus community might humanize a people and a nation who have been so dehumanized by oppression, violence, betrayal and mistrust.”
As the Soviet regime pressured people to serve as informants and betray fellow citizens, Jenkins remarked the citizens learned to put on masks with each other, but the members of the Emmaus community have assisted in healing the damage Stalin caused.
“At UCU the Emmaus community are called professors of human relations because they teach us how to be human,” Jenkins said.
Further discussing their mission, Jenkins emphasized the particular response UCU offers to the tortured and tragic history of Ukraine.
“The normal response to such is anger, vengeance, despair and cynicism, yet on this tortured ground soaked in the blood of martyrs, has flowered this institution of higher learning, dedicated to integrity, the dignity of every person, particularly those with special needs, who are often marginalized and ignored,” Jenkins said.
Suggesting the mysterious workings of the Holy Spirit was responsible for Gudziak’s and UCU’s distinct response to years of oppression by the Soviet Union, Jenkins ended his homily by discussing the importance of the Holy Spirit and applying its effects to the Notre Dame community.
“So many wonderful things happen here at the University of Notre Dame, dedicated research, genuine learning, vigorous discussions and debate about issues that matter,” Jenkins said. “We will not be who we aspire to be if the Holy Spirit is not present in our midst, prompting us to respond in ways that are not the expected ways, the normal ways of the world.”