Fighting the Marriage Crisis - Success in Ukraine

Father Yuriy Kolasa

ITI graduate, Rev. Yuriy Kolasa, a Byzantine Catholic priest from Ukraine, has spent many years fighting the marriage crisis in his archdiocese of Lviv. The fruits of this work are evident not only in his archdiocese, but also throughout the entire country.

After his graduation from the ITI in 2001, Father Yuriy was appointed as head of the Archdiocesan Commission of Marriage and Family. In three short years, the commission set up thirteen marriage-preparation centers, published a marriage-preparation manual and prepared more than 3000 couples for matrimony. The program itself is substantially based on the guiding documents for premarital preparation given by the Pontifical Commission on Marriage and the Family. A team of people leads the meetings: a priest, a medical doctor, a psychologist, a lawyer, and a married couple bearing personal witness. After beginning in Lviv, the program was also used as a model for other dioceses of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

The Commission soon found that this work of the Church was also affecting the state statistics– with a remarkable result. In the year 2000, the divorce rate in the Lviv region was at 54%. From the moment the Church began to implement the marriage preparation program, the situation improved. In Ukraine, young couples are the most likely to get divorced, but in the four years after the program was implemented, the rate of divorce in the Lviv region declined to 40%. In the regions of Eastern and Southern Ukraine, where the program was not implemented, the divorce rate rose to 80%.

Yuriy Kolasa with Cardinal Sandri and Cardinal Schönborn. After successfully heading the UGCC Commission of Marriage and Family in the Archdiocese of Lviv, Fr. Yuriy Kolasa (STL ‘07), was appointed in 2011 as the Vicar General for the faithful of Byzantine Rite in Austria.

In 2006, the program was brought to the attention of state officials as a way to overcome the family crisis in Ukraine. In January 2007, a team of lay people started a pilot program for the state in Kyjiv, the capital of Ukraine, at one of the state offices for marriage registration. Since it is secular, the marriage preparation program developed for the state is different from the program used in the Church, yet it also aims to proclaim the truth about the human person, about genuine love, and about God.

In January 2008, after examining the program for a year and interviewing young couples who participated, state officials decided that the program should continue and be implemented in the whole city of Kyjiv. Now there are seven marriage-preparation centers in the capital of Ukraine that prepare couples who have civil weddings. If this goes well, it could be approved for the whole country. Father Yuriy began a project for his archdiocese, and he is now helping to save his country.

Invigorating the Byzantine Catholic Church in Austria

In September 2011, Reverend Lic. Yuriy Kolasa was installed by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn as the new Vicar General for the faithful of the Byzantine rite in Austria. During the ceremony, Father Kolasa said, “I see this calling as an opportunity to serve the faithful of the Byzantine rite in Austria in order to give each access to the Sacraments of the Church and to guide them on the way to holiness…The diversity of Rites at the ITI has given me the chance to know and come to love the traditions of others, and to delve into the beauty and richness of the living and universal Church... I see this position as an occasion to deepen the understanding of the role and spirituality of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the universal Church.”