Ukrainian Catholic Father Mykhailo Romaniuk blesses families from the Ukrainian community of Paris Sept. 3 in St. Volodymyr the Great Cathedral to mark the beginning of a new school year.
IAN LANGSDON/EPA, cns
Ukrainian parish in Paris offers community,
including for immigrants
PARIS — On Sundays, the Saint-Germain-des-Pres quarter of Paris — known for its artistic cafes, expensive boutiques and numerous bookstores — is filled with people in embroidered shirts who speak Ukrainian.
Since 1943, the Ukrainian Catholic community has prayed at the Cathedral of St. Volodymyr the Great on the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Through the years, the parish has become the center of Ukrainian cultural and social life in Paris.
"We don't have a feeling that we are in Paris as we are walking down the Boulevard Saint-Germain on Sunday or other feasts; it's like in our city of Ivano-Frankivsk," said Zoriana Dolishniak. She, her husband, Andriy, and two children came to Paris from Western Ukraine six years ago. In Ukraine, Andriy Dolishniak had his own little business, but it did not go well, and they decided to start over in France. He works as an electrician in a construction firm; Zoriana Dolishniak cleans private houses. Their children go to school — ordinary French school and Saturday Ukrainian school.
The Dolishniaks do not have legal status in France; they are waiting for documents. Their story is typical for the Paris Ukrainian parish, where new immigrants are the majority.
"Eighty percent of our faithful are undocumented," said Bishop Borys Gudziak, who serves the Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg. He said the Paris parish has been totally transformed by an influx of immigrants who are fleeing social and economic dislocation and, more recently, war.
"We have before us the example of the apostles and the first generation of Christians," the bishop said. "What chance did St. Peter have in Rome where he didn't know the language, he was an undocumented immigrant with no citizen rights, while living in the city of marble, senators, warriors and chariots? What chance do the Greek (Byzantine) Catholics have in Paris with the population of 10 million? We ask ourselves with a smile and in confidence in God's guidance."
Father Mykhailo Romaniuk knows well about the parish transformation. Eighteen years ago as a young priest, he was appointed to Paris, where most of the congregation was an aging post-war diaspora. His appointment coincided with the start of mass immigration of Ukrainians to Western Europe, and he was one of the first to welcome them in Paris.
On Sun-days, about 600 attend liturgies, but the parish can see up to 3,500 on Easter, the priest said. It has more than 80 baptisms annually.
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