Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada (seated, second from right) poses with Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon (far right) and chancery office staff and volunteers during his recent visit to the eparchy. (Photo by Kyla Predy)
SASKATOON — On the morning of Nov. 25, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, entered the chancery office of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon to be greeted by the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate. Thus began the nuncio’s encounter with the workings of the Saskatoon eparchy.
Bonazzi made each moment of his visit deeply personal. He didn’t just say hello to people and learn their names, but endeavoured to truly meet each person individually, giving him or her his full attention. This was in imitation of Pope Francis’ encouragement to develop a “culture of encounter”: instead of throwing money at the poor, the Christian takes the time to see them and to touch their hands.
Bishop Bryan Bayda led a tour of the offices, beginning with a greeting of the staff in the Guadalupe Room. The tour continued in the Family Life Office, where Deborah Larmour discussed her work with the eparchy, including creating a marriage preparation course that ties in with Eastern theology and traditions. Bonazzi accepted a booklet that Larmour put together, and expressed interest in the number of new marriages occurring in the eparchy. He commented that only 20 of the 500 official document blessings he gives for couples are for new marriages; the rest are for significant anniversaries.
Bonazzi voiced surprise at being shown the number of churches for which the eparchy is responsible in Saskatchewan. He noted how eparchies go through seasons in life, and how it is important to appreciate past seasons, the present season, and also the future.
“We just had a meeting of the Eparchial Stewardship Forum to discuss how, in the next 15 years, we can secure our places of worship and catechesis,” Bayda explained. “A factor in this is how to practice good stewardship over the churches that are no longer in use owing to the decline in the population of Ukrainian Catholics in Saskatchewan.”
Leaving communications co-ordinator Chris Pidwerbeski’s office, Bayda showed the nuncio photographs of the church leaders Ukrainian Catholics pray for during the divine liturgy. “We pray for our emeritus bishop,” Bayda said, “so why not this pope also?” and he pointed to a photograph of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Bonazzi responded that he would have to send a note to the emeritus pope, telling him that there is a whole eparchy praying for him in Saskatoon.
Before touring Bayda’s office, Bonazzi and the bishop stopped to pray in the chapel across the hall.
Another highlight of the nuncio’s tour of the chancery occurred in the front office of the Bishop Budka Eparchial Stewardship Society, Inc. (BBESSI), where the work of the Annual Eparchial Appeal interested him. After meeting the staff and accepting a brochure about the appeal, Bonazzi expressed his thoughts on the importance of giving as a means of participating in the joy that Pope Francis often speaks of.
The tour of the chancery concluded in the Guadalupe Room, where Sister Bonnie Komarnicki, SSMI, gave a presentation on the catechetical efforts of the eparchy. Bayda presented the nuncio with a signed copy of Christ Our Pascha, after which Bonazzi expressed his gratitude to the staff and shared his experience of catechism when he was preparing for first communion. There was laughter as he began speed-reciting some Latin text.
“My body works well when I have a good heart,” Bonazzi said, encouraging the staff and volunteers to continue their work, knowing that their efforts would bear fruit in the community.
“Be patient with your bishop,” he added, and he left the chancery amid laughter.
Bayda and the nuncio then headed to Sacred Heart, a Chaldean Catholic church on the east side of Saskatoon. Three eastern-rite communities awaited his arrival: Ukrainian Catholics, Syro-Malabar Catholics, and the Chaldean Catholics to whom the church belongs. Children from the Chaldean school attached to the church sang as the nuncio entered with Bayda and other Eastern Catholic priests. After a few introductory words, the grade six students from Bishop Filevich Ukrainian Bilingual Catholic School sang four songs for the archbishop, followed by a small group of Syro-Malabar Catholics.
Bonazzi concluded the encounter at Sacred Heart by speaking to those gathered, focusing on the challenges that immigrants to Canada face in the church community.
“Moving from country to country, always far from my home, I always feel at home because the first home in which I try to live is the home of God,” the archbishop said. “I see also that each of you, my brothers and sisters, are my home.”