On Saturday, November 3, over 200 people gathered at St. Vladimir Institute in Toronto to attend the opening of ‘Icons Unite Us’ a joint project between SVI and the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation. The guest speaker Bishop Borys Gudziak, is the Rector of Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv, and the newest hierarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, representing France, Switzerland and the Benelux countries.
The idea of a joint icon exhibit and sale sprang from a discussion that addressed the desire for SVI to showcase the talent of its iconography students and the need for UCEF to raise awareness of UCU’s School of Iconography and its mission. ‘As SVI’s marketing committee chair and a member of the UCU development team, it just seemed natural to bring the two together.’ stated Christine Kuzyk, MC for the event. ‘We are always looking for unique ways to raise funds in support of our programs, and felt that an icon exhibit would be an excellent venue.’
The community was well represented with many religious and lay people in attendance, including Bishop Andriy (UOC), Father Sencio, SVI’s chaplain, and many Catholic clergy. The SVI Board was out in full support as well as members of the UCEF Canada Board. Bishop Borys was colourfully introduced by Professor Magocsi, Chair of Ukrainian Studies, University of Toronto, a long-time academic acquaintance. There was absolute silence in the auditorium as Bishop Borys took us on a historical, artistic and religious journey in his presentation of the classic icon, and its universal appeal to our need for spirituality. He described the sense of inner peace that is projected through an icon, and the uplifting qualities that are portrayed by its timeless beauty. He suggested that this is the true importance of the icon, and that this is how its appeal translates into a universal unity among Christians.
Following a lively question and answer period, where Bishop Borys reiterated his commitment to UCU as Rector, the clergy moved to the Art Gallery to bless and officially open the exhibit. During this time the audience had a chance to socialize, enjoy the wine and cheese reception, and browse through the literature tables. All were invited to view over 55 unique icons that originated from Canada, the U.S. and Ukraine. ‘We are very thankful to the iconographers who donated their works to support both these great institutions.’ said Marta Kolomayets, Communications Director, UCEF. Iconographers and artists represented include Mezentsev, Lesiuk, Lopata, Savaryn, Senkiw, Rudensky, Novakiwsky, Maday, Tytla, Homenko, Sinitar, Barmina and others. Works by students from both schools were also prominently showcased.