By Mykhailo Ozovych
Photo caption: Saint Volodymyr participants Sofiya Stavkovy, left, and Megg Lynn Kuzyk. Photo courtesy of the Eparchy of New Westminster
As a second year theology student and seminarian in Ottawa for the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of New Westminster, I was assigned to our Eparchial summer children’s camp—Camp Saint Volodymyr, this past summer as a catechist. My responsibility was to provide some religion lessons for our campers. But at the end of the week, I realized that I learned so much from our campers—how to be holy, faithful, joyful, playful, pious, and a prayerful friend of Christ.
After spending a faith-inspiring week on the shores of beautiful Lake Okanagan, British Columbia, with more than 50 children and camp counsellors and support staff, I was sure that Jesus really meant it when He said to His disciples: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
Every day of camp was full of activities. Our catechism lessons centred on the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) of Initiation of our Church, namely, Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation) and the Holy Eucharist in the light of the Year of Faith in Catholic Church and 1025th Anniversary of Baptism of Kyivan Rus’-Ukraine. Along with our daily morning prayers and evening prayers, we also celebrated other liturgies. Everyone had an opportunity to go to Confession and to unite themselves with Christ through the Holy Eucharist during the Divine Liturgy.
An important part of the preparation our liturgies were the singing lessons with my fellow seminarian from the Eparchy of Edmonton, Cyril Kennedy, our singing instructor. During these lessons, children had an opportunity to learn the traditional Byzantine chant of our Church.
I was so impressed at how each camper participated in each activity with earnest hearts full of joy, be it at prayer, during games, or water activities. The way in which children prayed and sought to know to God was amazing: the voices of our children at prayer singing together sounded angelic. During the Divine Liturgy under the open blue skies with brilliant sunlight, we sang: “Let us who mystically represent the cherubim…” I really felt in heaven.
After singing campfire songs, the children had a quiet time to offer prayers, at which we would respond by singing “Kyrie eleison” (Lord, have mercy). As campers and support staff offered their own petitions, or what they would want all other campers to pray for, I felt a deep sense of what our Church communities ought to be—that is, a community of people who have fun, play, worship, help others, and pray together. I hope that this is something they will bring back to their homes.
We placed great emphasis on works of mercy that we are all called to perform. I tried to teach them how, in our day-to-day lives, we can feed the hungry, visit the sick, and pray for others. In turn, they taught me how, with a smile, to bring happiness; with a hug, to bring comfort; and, with a laugh, to bring joy.
Mykhailo Ozovych, a theology student and seminarian for the Eparchy of New Westminster in British Columbia, is one of 44 seminarians supported by Catholic Missions In Canada this year.
This article appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Catholic Missions In Canada. www.cmic.info