Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 15, 1999
A boom in Basilians
Ukrainian Catholic order's novitiate overflows with recruits from Ukraine
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
Edmonton has recently become the site of the only home of formation for candidates to the Order of St. Basil the Great (OSBM) in Canada.
In fact, it's so recent that the home of formation doesn't have a name yet, and won't move into its own building until June. For now, the candidates are living and studying at St. Basil's Ukrainian Catholic Parish on the south side.
Father Matthew Drury, director of student formation, says Ottawa was also considered as a site, but "it makes sense to have it in the West" since 85 per cent of their vocations in Canada have come from the western provinces.
"Where there is life, it promotes life," Drury says. As proof, two Canadians are currently in their first two years of candidacy here.
And for the first time, eight Basilian monks in the process of formation have been brought over from Ukraine to continue their studies here and become immersed in North American culture. They are currently learning English and studying at St. Basil's, but the plan is for them to begin taking classes at St. Joseph's Seminary in the near future.
The process is working well, Drury says, because it promotes involvement in the community and interaction with others studying for the priesthood.
Drury says interest in religious life has experienced a rebirth in Ukraine since the fall of communism has led to greater religious freedom. Some 80 to 100 men are entering the novitiate in that country every year.
"It is a complete renaissance, a real awareness of religious life, and we need to take advantage of this fervour," he says.
Drury himself came to Edmonton in 1994 from Ukraine. He says while there may be less interest in a call to religious life here because of underlying societal pressure, things appear to be changing.
"That attitude may be wearing off. I think there may be more approval of individuals who choose this way of life because of what they can do with it in terms of service for humanity and respect for people.
"I think there has been a great deal of secrecy about what we do, and this secrecy has kept us from our potential. We need to counteract that by coming out of our shell, and promoting the religious way of life as well as the role of the laity."
It's important to increase interest, Drury says, by giving young people an awareness of what religious do, and demonstrating that the religious way of life is something which is fulfilling in the "here and now."
One of his ideas is to take his novices on a tour of parishes in the Edmonton area this summer to make them more visible in the community.
"When do people, especially young people, ever get a chance to see 10 or 11 monks studying for the priesthood? It's a great opportunity, and we need to gather support and promote it.
"It's like the question of how you let your light shine. You don't let it shine by hiding it under a bushel."