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Inspirational video a hit

Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church mini-documentary produced by Danny Schur

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It might be just be another perogy-supper miracle.

A short video by Winnipeg composer Danny Schur featuring ancient worship rituals, choral music, polka dances and, of course, perogies, is inspiring Ukrainian Catholics in Winnipeg and beyond to share their centuries-old traditions through the wonder of the Internet.

"It's the first time I've seen the church so engaged in wanting to promote itself," says Schur about his six-and-a-half-minute mini-documentary about Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church, which he attends.

The video, titled A Family to Call Your Own, features the ministries of the southwest Winnipeg parish, including several scenes of parishioners making, serving and eating potato-filled dumplings at their monthly perogy supper.

Thought to be the first promotional video for a parish within the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada, Schur and others in the 220-family parish plan to spread the word about it through social media and email. Without any publicity, the video has already had hundreds of hits on YouTube.

Two years ago, Schur wrote Perogy Supper Miracle (, a short musical comedy about a parish priest facing a spiritual crisis as he struggles to find volunteers to run the church perogy supper.

He intended it to be a one-off fundraiser for Holy Family's elevator fund, but the musical has already been staged half a dozen times in Winnipeg and around the province. More performances are scheduled for Dauphin, Calgary and Edmonton in 2013.

Schur pitched the idea of a promotional video to his parish council after being moved by a public talk by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the worldwide Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In September, the charismatic and multilingual Shevchuk visited Manitoba parishes and presided over the annual synod of bishops held in Portage la Prairie.

"It was born from our own admission that we don't actually invite people," says Schur, referring to Shevchuk's challenge to Ukrainian Catholics to reach out and talk about their faith.

Schur shot the video with a professional-quality digital single-lens reflex camera and donated his services to write and produce the video, spending only $22 to rent extra microphones. A week ago, he posted the video on YouTube and launched it at Holy Family on Dec. 2.

The documentary showcases the architecture of the "pinball-machine" church at the corner of Grant Avenue and Harrow Street and tells the story of several parishioners involved in the parish as well as providing a brief account of how parish priest Rev. Darren Kawiuk came to the faith.

Baptized in the United Church of Canada, Kawiuk was attending an evangelical church when he accepted a friend's invitation to a Sunday mass, called a divine liturgy, in the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

"Halfway through the liturgy, I heard a voice (saying), 'This is where you belong and this is where you will serve,' " Kawiuk, 48, recalls about his journey to the Eastern rite of the Catholic Church.

"It was a big surprise to me because I didn't know that much about the Ukrainian Catholic Church."

He hopes the video will dispel some of the myths and mystery about Ukrainian Catholics, inform people about their theology and practices, as well as providing an entry point into a specific congregation such as Holy Family.

"For people who have stopped going to the church, it shows the church is alive and vibrant and it clarifies any misconception (we're only) for old people," says Kawiuk, who was ordained in 1993 and is now in his third year at Holy Family.

"It's basically for those (people) who do not have a spiritual home. It's showing them there are options."

Shevchuk's visit to Canada this fall also emphasized the fact Ukrainian Catholics are part of an international body with many languages, not just Ukrainian, says the leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada.

"For our people, this is an opportunity to brush off our old values and identity and use them for our present day," says Lawrence Huculak, the Archbishop of Winnipeg

About six million people are part of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, with 122,500 of those in Canada and 30,000 in Manitoba alone.

Schur's short documentary is already attracting attention well beyond Winnipeg, with a link to it on the website of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton (

Edmonton Bishop David Motiuk says he posted it because he appreciates the universal nature of the video and hopes it will inspire parishes under his charge to do something similar to explain that the Ukrainian Catholic Church is open to everyone.

"This video by Holy Family gives a good witness to how it could be welcoming," says Motiuk, formerly the auxiliary bishop in Winnipeg.

That might be one miracle of the perogy supper and worship video. Another could be that Schur is already overrun with requests from other parishes.

"I've already been asked to do it for other churches, but I don't have time," he says.

Check out the sights and sounds of A Family to Call Your Own above or click here.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 8, 2012 J13


Updated on Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 11:08 AM CST: update

2:17 PM: embeds video

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