Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 22, 2009
Bishop's spiritual path took many winding turns
Motiuk calls Catholics to offer others their personal testimonies of faith
Bishop David Motiuk
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Catholics need to be more willing to share their personal testimonies of faith, says Bishop David Motiuk.
In many of our discussions with others, talk never goes deeper than the weather, Motiuk told 130 people at a charismatic prayer breakfast June 13. "We won't talk about our faith."
Our world needs nothing more than having Christians follow through on Jesus' command to "go baptize, lead others to faith, evangelize," he said.
Motiuk, the spiritual leader of Alberta's 29,000 Ukrainian Catholics, contrasted the personal witness of faith with being a witness to a car crash or a witness to a wedding.
Giving a personal witness is doing something more than being able to testify that an event occurred or to describe an event. "It is something that moves within us, that stirs within us."
Even so, it is not enough to speak at a prayer breakfast and go home and be one's "grumpy old self," he said. "When someone cuts you off on the way home, is your first reaction, 'Praise the Lord!' I hope it is."
"Personal witness means to be attentive to the Lord at each and every minute. It is to pray always."
Motiuk told of his own formation growing up in Lavoy, east of Edmonton.
It was only after he was ordained that he learned that his mother had been a member of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Mundare. "My father was glad that she didn't stay and so was I."
A priest would come to the village only once a month to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. On other Sundays, the family would pray the rosary together.
That made the two-week summer visit of the Sisters Servants to Lavoy to teach catechism a special time.
The sisters would come to the family home and sing beautiful hymns that the Motiuks would record and play over and over, the bishop recalled. "They would instill in us the joy of the Lord."
At a Divine Liturgy that concluded the two-week visit, the priest would ask the girls, "Who wants to be a sister?" Every hand went up. Then he would ask the boys, "''Who wants to be a priest?' All the hands went up, including mine."
"Our faith is a personal faith; it is a personal encounter with the Lord." The sisters were the first to instill that in us, he said.
In his late teens, Motiuk felt a desire to consider becoming a priest. He approached the pastor of St. Basil's Parish in Edmonton and discussed the prospect with him. "What a delightful man! I felt like a spiritual father had just adopted me."
A NEW PATH
Within a few months, he was slated to join the Basilian novitiate in Glen Cove. N.Y. But then he was suddenly called in to see Bishop Demetrius Greschuk. The bishop asked whether Motiuk had ever considered being a diocesan priest. "I didn't know there was such a thing."
Eventually it was decided that he would enter the Ukrainian Catholic seminary in Ottawa.
But when he told his parents, they denied his request and his father would not speak to him for six months. "Ottawa, in their mind, was the other end of the world and they would never see me again."
It was decided to give the decision a year. "The Holy Spirit can do wonderful things in the hearts and minds of people. But it needs time."
At the end of the year, David's parents were ready to let him go. But he decided not to attend the seminary. "I had fallen in love with computers."
But eventually he did go. He found the experience strange, studying religious matters about which he knew little and doing it in Ukrainian, a language of which he had only the scantiest knowledge.
He wanted to leave the seminary, but became aware that God wanted him to stay.
Now, after 22 years in the priesthood, he can say, "It's been a time of true blessing. I cannot think of anything I would rather do."
The day of his ordination in 1987 "was only the beginning."
"Each day has been a reclaiming of my Christian life and of my priesthood."
He told of his reticence about accepting the role as rector of Holy Spirit Seminary in Ottawa in 1996 and as bishop in 2002. But he has grown through "constant surrendering to the Lord, which has brought many blessings to me in my life."
Still, the struggle to surrender goes on.
He recounted a dream of riding in the backseat of a car driven by Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, who is now blind.
The cardinal was driving the car at 100 miles per hour down a highway and looking back at Motiuk in the backseat. "He has this devilish smile because he knows I'm afraid."
Motiuk could see a bend in the road ahead, which Husar could not because he continued to look into the backseat. But the car went straight ahead onto another road that Motiuk could not see, but which the cardinal was aware of.
THE SPIRITUAL EYE
"This is a holy man who has already crossed over and who sees with the spiritual eye."
Motiuk said, however, that his own greatest struggle is to live in the moment and not be distracted by future plans or past hurts. "Really there is nothing more than the present moment."