By Elizabeth McSheffrey,
Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune
The Swan City hosted a special guest this weekend during the annual visit of Ukrainian Catholic Bishop David Motiuk.
The bishop made a three-day stop in the Peace Country from Friday to Sunday to offer liturgies and prayer services in Grande Prairie and Manning.
The visit was part of his yearly tour of local Ukrainian parishes to stay connected with community congregations.
“Since Grande Prairie continues to grow and will grow, it’s nice to be able to maintain a presence here, to look after the pastoral needs of our faithful,” said Motiuk.
“I grow a lot more and I learn a lot more and it’s kind of an opportunity for me to take the pulse of our church here in Grande Prairie and area.”
Motiuk is responsible for 88 Ukrainian Catholic parishes across Alberta, with nearly 30,000 followers.
Grande Prairie’s Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church has a congregation of roughly 35 families, and Father Roman Planchak hopes the bishop’s visit impacted every one of them.
“I hope that just his presence and his blessing kind of encourages people,” he explained, “That they’re all touched spiritually and kind of moved to continue in the Christian way and just to be better and stronger in their faith.”
Planchak said the bishop has a trying schedule of provincial, national and international responsibilities, so any visit is a special occasion.
“If you don’t book him a year in advance, it’s almost impossible to get him,” he said.
“We booked him for 2013 and we’re already booking him for 2014.”
The bishop said he is continually “enriched” by the experience of visiting local parishes and he hopes he can give the Grande Prairie congregation a little “boost.”
A major focus of the Ukrainian Catholic diocese for the next few years will be the idea of a “welcoming church,” where newcomers and current members always feel at home.
For more information on Grande Prairie’s parish, visit www.gpdormition.com.