Student Chaplains from the Whole of Europe Gathered in Poland

23.04.201512:25 The chaplains from Ukraine, Fr. Petro Verkholiak and Fr. Maxim Riabukha, returned from the three-day Congress for student pastors in Lodz.

The Congress "Being and Becoming Responsible in Life",held in Lodz on April 17-19, was attended by over 50 participants from 18 European countries. The main basis for the congress participants to reflect upon was Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical "The Gospel of Life".

The first day’s slogan in the Congress was "Being and Becoming Responsible for Life". On the next day, the chaplains were offered the reports "Responsibility, Mercy and Charitable Service" by Dutch professor Paul van Gist and "My Life" by Polish professor of sociology Kaya Kazhmerska.

In particular, Prof. Kazhmerska, using her own example, emphasized the role of parents and family in establishing the life of a future student: "My present and future is rooted in my past". When young peopleare trying to lose touch with their family, they are not capable of becoming a complete person without accepting their own family. Though there could have been difficulties and problems in one’s family, in the past,one has to accept their own roots.

Afterwards, after gatheringinto work groups, the chaplains were discussing the issue of the value of life in their countries and how the Church can be helpful to students in this regard: how we as chaplains can help them to understand the value of their own life and to cope with the challenges of the modern world,such as, globalization – when men, like cogs, vanish in a system, losing their identities and their value. The day was completed with the presentations of the centers for academic pastoral work in Poland followed by the sharing of experiences from representatives of different countries – particularly: France, Italy, Romania, Greece, Portugal, and Ukraine – about the peculiarities of pastoral work.

The third day was marked with a speech by Archbishop of Luxemburg Jane-Claud Golerichtitled “Faith Permeating Life". He has been doing pastoral work in Japan for 23 years as a professor of the university in the capital while, simultaneously, having his ministry for Catholic students. On his initiative, Japanese youth were going to the poor villages of Cambodia and Thailand where they had a chance to see and get to know the values of local people. Their values turned out to be God, family, and their "small homeland" – their village. When the students returned to a globalized Tokyo, they also had their values and didn’t feel torn awayfrom their roots.

After the reports, all the Congress participants had an opportunity to pray in front of the relics of Maximilian Kolbe and FaustynaKowalskaas well as a visit to theRadogosc concentration camp memorial.

The Congress finished with the Holy Mass and a speech by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewsky, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Catholic Education. The Cardinal has summed up five priorities for academic pastoral work: education of students, responding to the challenges of moral relativity, living with supreme expression of love, spreading culture, and mastering comprehensive humanism.

In the center of the photo: Fr. Maxim Riabukha, Head of the Center for Academic Pastoral Work of Kyiv Archeparchy, and Fr. Petro Verkholiak, Coordinator of Academic Pastoral Work in the UGCC Youth Commission.

Fr. Petro Verkholiak


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