On Register Radio this week, Elena Rodríguez talks with Father Yuriy Sakvuk from the Ukraine. He tells us about a side of the story you probably haven’t heard yet and shines the light of the Catholic perspective on the controversy. In the second half of the show, Dan Burke talks with Lisa Brenninkmeyer, the founder of Walking With Purpose — a Catholic study program that helps women come to know Christ in a personal way.
Catholics in the Ukraine: Father Yuriy Sakvuk
Father Yuriy Sakvuk, 38, is a priest in the Ukrainian Greek (Byzantine rite) Catholic Church, an Eastern Church in communion with Rome. He is a professor of ecclesiology and ecumenism and the director of the Department of Spiritual Guidance and Pastoral Care at the Ukrainian Catholic University.
Father Sakvuk arrived in the United States for a prescheduled trip on Feb. 24, days after Ukraine’s former president, the Moscow-allied Viktor Yanukovych, fled the capital amid widening anti-government demonstrations.
Russia is very much against the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said Father Sakvuk, based on the actions taking place now. The Church in Ukraine was underground for 43 years, he said, and was forbidden. “The Church always supported the understanding of freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” said Father Sakvuk, “and those ideas are not well accepted, I think, in Russia.”
There are signs that the Church could be suppressed again, because the head of the Church received a letter from the government indicating that if those in the Church didn’t stop passing out literature at Maidan Square they would not be able to register with the government or would have their registration denied, making the Church illegal.
Before the revolution started, Father Sakvuk said that people were free to attend church. “Because of this sacrifice [of the demonstrators who were shot in Maidan Square], we can no longer lead the same life. Our life has to change,” Father Sakvuk said, quoting the president of the Ukrainian Catholic University, a bishop, at the funeral of a student who was shot. “People right now should cherish their freedom because of those sacrifices.”
The people killed in the demonstrations represent the whole of Ukraine and were not “a bunch of bandits,” said Father Sakvuk. They were people who had the experience of democracy and were highly educated, he explained.
Revolution helped the Ukrainian people to transform and transfigure their country, he said. Father Sakvuk said he believes his country is now mature enough to live democracy.
“Our power is in prayer, and our power is with God,” Father Sakvuk said, commenting on how full the churches are now. “I hope our victory depends not on the military forces and not on politics, but on God.”
Walking With Purpose: Lisa Brenninkmeyer
Lisa Brenninkmeyer is an author and speaker who helps women experience the transforming power of God’s unconditional love. Desiring to see women come to know Christ personally, she founded Walking With Purpose, a Catholic women’s Bible study program. It is a Scripture-based program that is fresh, relevant and focused on conversion of heart.
Brenninkmeyer was raised as an evangelical Protestant in Minnesota, where she and her sister grew up watching their parents teach weekly Bible study. She entered the Catholic Church in 1991 and holds a B.A. in psychology from St. Olaf College.
In the first four years, her original Bible study grew from eight women to 100. Brenninkmeyer credits the fact that the program is focused on having a deeper relationship with Christ with its success.
“What was unique and what continues to be unique [about the Walking With Purpose program] is that we really lead with love: It’s a love for women that really fuels all that we do,” Brenninkmeyer said. The program creates an environment that’s a safe place for women to explore their faith without being judged.
Though it took off in numbers, Brenninkmeyer credits the change in women’s hearts as the real success. She sees it as putting Pope Francis’ message of mercy into action. “Every time he talks, we all clap,” she said, because his message is so relevant.
There are two aspects that are equally important: the materials — which all have an imprimatur and are in line with Church teaching — and the training the leaders receive. “We meet the woman in her pressure points” and show her the real-life solutions to her struggles, Brenninkmeyer says.
You don’t have to be Catholic or have faith or know Scripture to participate.
Around 96% of the participants recommend the program, said Brenninkmeyer.
Brenninkmeyer’s book, Walking With Purpose: Seven Priorities That Make Life Work is a great introduction to the program. It has a study guide as well. You can learn more about the program and about the book at WalkingWithPurpose.com.
“You come to Walking With Purpose as is,” Brenninkmeyer says, and “we meet everyone right where they are.”
Listen to the entire interview in this week’s show.