Ihor Demydas: My great-grandmother Anna taught me to pray

On Sunday, June 9, 2024, Metropolitan Borys Gudziak will ordain two new Deacons, Subdeacon Bohdan Vasyliv and Subdeacon Ihor Demydas. Learn more about Ihor Demydas and his way to priesthood from his days as an altar server to his theological studies in Rome, his story is a testament to faith, dedication, and the enduring presence of God in his life. As well as lessons he learned from his ministry in the Philadelphia Archeparchy.

When did you first discover/hear/feel the calling to the priesthood? Was it sudden or gradual?

Honestly, this is a difficult question for me, and I don't have a definitive answer. However, I would like to share a little story about my calling to the priesthood, which began in my childhood.

I firmly believe that my great-grandmother Anna, who spent six hours every day praying to the Virgin Mary, influenced my calling. You could say she taught me to pray by her example. When my grandmother started praying, I really liked it. I would sit next to her, watching her hands moving bead by bead and listening to her "Hail Mary."

Around the age of 11, I joined the altar server group at the parish of St. Paraskeva-Pyatnytsia in my village Velyki Birky, which immersed me even more into this mysterious, spiritual world. My friends who went to church were a 60-year-old local woman and a 70-year-old neighbor, Mykhailo.

I remember the month of May, when every day the "Moleben to the Most Holy Theotokos" was served in the parish. This was the best month for me. I loved going to this service and helping the cantor sing. I couldn't allow myself to miss a single day of this prayer. I was so happy; it's hard to put into words.

After finishing the 9th grade of high school, I entered a music college, where I studied for four years. But in the third year, I felt that I wanted to be in the seminary. I really liked the singing of the seminarians. When I saw them in their cassocks, I was so fascinated by their appearance that I always wanted to try on that attire. These were extraordinarily mysterious feelings of God's presence in my life.

After completing my studies at the college, I entered the Patriarch Josyf Slipyj Theological Seminary in Ternopil, where I studied for seven years. I was overjoyed to learn that I was admitted as a student. I remember the moment when I heard my name on the list of applicants; I ran out of the auditorium with tears in my eyes, thanking God for this great gift.

Later, my vocation developed in the "eternal city" of Rome, where I studied "Theology of Marriage and Family" at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute. Today, I sincerely thank God that my vocation culminated in the Diaconate—the first degree of the Holy Sacrament of Orders.

What are the most important lessons of ministry in the Philadelphia Archeparchy? What new things have you learned about the Church, God, and yourself?

The Philadelphia Archeparchy gave me many important lessons. Some of them include diligent work with the faithful and communities, preserving traditions and spiritual values, and a constant readiness to serve and help those in need.

Being in America for 11 months, I saw that the Ukrainian Catholic Church lives. I was pleasantly surprised when I got to know the wonderful Ukrainian churches, monasteries, seminaries, and schools that our ancestors built. I couldn't have imagined that so many Ukrainians held high positions in various fields. I was amazed at how our Church serves the addicted and needy.

Regardless of which country you are in, what food you eat, what traditions you follow, or what color your skin is, God continues to love, reveal Himself, and seek you. I think America is exactly the country that can help you recognize yourself in its diversity.

What challenges do you see for your ministry? Which of them are as old as time, and which are new—just for the 2020s?

I would like to divide my response into two experiences: the UGCC in Ukraine and the UGCC in America. This answer already presents several challenges, not only in ministry as a deacon or priest but also in daily life, including language, mentality, culture, values, traditions, etc. Understanding and adapting to these and other elements is like a "visa" that allows and helps you to stay in a particular environment.

Regarding the usual challenges in priestly ministry, both in Ukraine and America, in my opinion, we can highlight:

  1. Spiritual struggle: priests face internal difficulties, doubts, and challenges of faith that arise during their ministry.
  2. Psychological difficulties: working with people in various situations can cause stress, fatigue, or psychological burnout.
  3. Family life: for married priests, maintaining harmony between priestly service and family duties can be a challenge.
  4. Relationships with the community: it is not always easy to maintain harmonious relationships with parishioners, especially in diverse social, political, or cultural conditions.

Regarding the new challenges, focusing on ministry in America, I would highlight:

  1. Religious pluralism: the growth of cultural and religious diversity creates challenges for priests in interacting with people from different religious and cultural traditions.
  2. Declining faithful: in many areas of America, there is a decrease in the number of believers and an increase in non-religious people, which calls into question the significance of religion in the modern world.
  3. Sexual scandals: divisions and scandals in the church environment related to sexual crimes and abuse of power threaten the authority of the church institution and the trust of the faithful.
  4. Social issues: priests must address challenges such as poverty, homelessness, racism, social inequality, and other problems that require concrete actions and responses from the Church.
  5. Technological changes: the impact of technology on communication and community formation presents a new challenge for priests, who must adapt to these changes and use technology for missionary activities.

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