Lessons before Lent from Canberra’s Ukrainian Catholic community
“For us as Christians, it’s a time of renewal,” said Fr Wally Kalinecki, administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic community.
Fr Wally was speaking to parishioners who gathered at St Volodymyr’s in the Canberra suburb of Lyneham on 14 March for their last Sunday liturgy before the start of the Ukrainian Lent.
Under the Julian calendar that the community observes, Lent kicks off three and a half weeks after Ash Wednesday, and Easter Sunday falls on 2 May.
Sunday mornings are a busy time for Fr Wally.
He first celebrates Mass at 9 am at the community’s St Michael’s church in Queanbeyan, then drives to Canberra for the St Volodymyr service at 11 am.
A priest for 26 years, Fr Wally has been in Canberra for four years after earlier ministering to the Ukrainian Catholic communities in Perth and Melbourne.
He was born in Poland and came to Australia as a ten-year-old with his family in 1959.
The warm welcome surprised him.
“Australians were very loving towards me and my family,” he says.
In return, he said Ukrainian Catholics loved Australia so much they sought to remind Australians not to take their country for granted.
Ukraine has suffered a troubled past and some of it is evident in the murals that adorn St Volodymyr’s interior.
The most striking of these is a painting of Ukrainian priests incarcerated in gulags during the Soviet era.
Most did not survive the experience.
But the Ukrainian Catholic Church did survive.
The church follows a Byzantine rite “in full communion” with the Pope in Rome.
Fr Wally recalls then Archbishop (later Cardinal) Edward Clancy praising the Ukrainian Catholic community as an example to the wider Catholic community of how to care for the family, the church, and the nation.