KYIV – The annual fund-raising dinner and silent auction in support of the Ukrainian Catholic University was held on December 15, 2018, at the International Exhibition Center in Kyiv. During the event, which was attended by more than 500 friends of UCU, 92 stipends for students and 11 for professors were announced. The charity auction raised some 600,000 hrv (nearly $22,000 U.S.). The general sum of donations collected reached a record 12.5 million hrv (about $450,000 U.S.).
The evening began with cocktails and a silent auction. The fund-raising dinner began with prayer. Then, the primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Patriarch Sviatoslav, was invited to speak.
“Today’s UCU fund-raising dinner in Kyiv is happening at a particularly historic moment for the Christians of Ukraine. Allow me to sincerely congratulate our Orthodox brothers on their Unity Council,” the patriarch began. “At this historic moment, I would like to offer a fraternal hand in the name of our Church to the newly elected head and all Orthodox brothers. Now we are going forward into history, to unity, to truth. To the extent that we today foster unity and overcome that which separates us, on that depends the future of the Church, the people, and a free, independent, European Ukrainian state.”
Patriarch Sviatoslav also said: “This evening, a new mission is also revealed for UCU, which is a forum of new evangelization and preaching the Gospel in contemporary life. We understand that modern society is waiting not only for changes in signs or internal organization, but expects new qualities in the essence of the Church, pastoral ministry, proclaiming the words of the Holy Gospel to the ordinary person, to transform, to liberate, to educate, to reveal to the world the soul of the Ukrainian people.”
He thanked all involved in the development of UCU, noting: “With your support, this university will be able to do what God and society expects of it.”
The next speaker invited to the stage was an American journalist, professor of communications and head of Vatican Radio, Sean-Patrick Lovett, who was also a volunteer for Mother Theresa and worked with five popes.
This excerpt from his inspiring speech particularly reveals UCU’s mission: “There is no need to overwhelm you with the numbers. You yourselves know that UCU is attracting the best minds, both on the territory of Ukraine and beyond. And there is also no need to explain why. The university’s exceptional educational program truly attracts people. They come here for the spirit of innovation and the feeling of community, and also for the prestige connected with such a highly-respected educational institution. However, the list of reasons for this does not stop.”
He went on to note that Sapienza University of Rome, one of the oldest and biggest in Europe, recently conducted a survey among its students, trying to determine their needs and expectations. “The first point on the list of needs and expectations of the students, above all the computers, tennis courts and cappuccino, was: better relations with teachers. In the time of Fake News and Facebook, our students are looking for live communication with people whom they can trust. In the time of the Internet, they want interaction with those whom they respect. Wikipedia can answer four out of the five journalistic questions. They all start with the letter ‘w’: who, what, when and where. But Wikipedia will never be able to give a satisfactory explanation of ‘why.’”
“The question ‘why’ is truly the only one worth asking. This is the driving force of our desire to study and obtain a higher education. ‘Why” is the question which only an integrated personality is able to answer,” Prof. Lovett said. “For the answer to it requires more than simply study and simply knowledge. This question demands an appropriate intellectual level and also intuition, and the ability to see higher and farther. Students also expect to see a combination of these qualities in each teacher at the Ukrainian Catholic University: They want their teachers to be as exceptional as they themselves.”
The guest speaker pointed out: “We are not proud because our students want to ‘do’ something after they graduate from UCU. Instead, we are proud of whom they want to ‘be.’ We expect courage and creativity from them, to use the knowledge and skills gained to implement long-term changes in their communities, countries, in this whole complicated and confused world. …And we expect this from our teachers and professors.”
Benefactors and guests eagerly awaited the appearance on the stage of Bishop Borys Gudziak, UCU’s president.
“As a church historian, as a Ukrainian and as a Christian, I am deeply moved by what happened today in our Ukraine: the Lord again blessed a great matter with His mighty hand,” Bishop Borys commented. “Do we, coming out of the atheistic system of the Soviet Union, have the right not to believe that today is a great day? Our Church was in chains, and all at once we felt new attempts to return us to an ideological prison, to break our contacts with neighbors, to close the road to the world. But our youth led us to the Maidan and thus showed one simple matter – that they are not afraid… Do we have the right to be afraid?
He continued: “There are still today questions, concerns, challenges, but the most important is life in unity. And this unity, which today found an incarnation in our 1,000-year old St. Sophia Cathedral, is a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, which each person is called to touch, through love of neighbor and of God.”
Bishop Borys reminded his audience that, “You, dear benefactors, support a university which has these values at its core, which dares to speak about problems, to formulate deep ideas, to invite all to conversation. May the Lord reward you for this.”
The musical part of the program included a performance by the group Kozak System. The evening’s emcees were Serhiy Prytula and Istan Rozumny.
The members of the honorary committee for the evening were: Patriarch Sviatoslav; Bishop Borys of the Eparchy of St. Volodymyr in Paris; Iryna Danylevska, founder and head of the organizing committee of Ukrainian Fashion Week; Isabelle Dumont, ambassador of France to Ukraine; Viktor Ivanchuk, founder and general director of Astarta agri-industrial holding; Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s vice-prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration; Silvia Josefina Cortés Martín, ambassador of Spain to Ukraine; Kateryna Yushchenko, head of the Advisory Council of Ukraine 3000; and Irma Vitovska, honored artist of Ukraine, actress and civic activist.
The annual fund-raising dinner in Kyiv, which started in 2008, is organized by the Kyiv Friends of UCU. A traditional part of the benefit is a silent auction of artworks and a lottery, the lots of which are contributed by private benefactors, Ukrainian and foreign companies, and embassies.