Stories of Joy - No. 4 - Sister Luiza Ciupa and catechetics

In Brazil - Rome - Ukraine

It begins in 1977. The newly elected SSMI Superior General from Brazil arrived in a “former” 4-grade school in Craveiro where an energetic principal, Sister Luiza, beamed the news that she had successfully won extension of the school program to the current grade 7 - “with grade 8 in progress!”. The General Councillor who accompanied her, a Canadian, was impressed; the two had visited more than two dozen such disadvantaged schools where no progress was in sight. Very soon, Sister Luiza was in Rome “to academically prepare for overseeing the educational needs of our Congregation in Brazil where our Sisters were conducting 34 schools.” By June, 1991, she would complete her studies and be ready to return home.

We advance to March, 1991. The Canadian Councillor is now the Superior General, and is about to return to Rome from Ukraine after a comprehensive study of the apostolic needs of the Sisters, in a country which had just very recently regained its freedom. They would concentrate on children and youth, as she mused on the well-organized eparchial centers of religious education our Sisters were conducting all across Canada. She envisioned a similar scenario here. Step 1 would begin next summer, when she would initiate a summer program to train would-be catechists in knowledge of content and methodology. Excitedly, she shared her plan with the Provincial Superior of the Basilian Fathers, only to hear his very urgent plea: “Not next summer, but this summer … ”

God provided. Sister Luiza did not need to return to Brazil until December; she would ask her Provincial Superior to have her organize the sessions in July. Of course the answer was a generous Yes! With great joy and paternal solicitude the Major Archbishop Cardinal Myroslaw Lubachiwsky blessed the endeavor. Sister Luiza’s great organizational talent proved itself when three months later the first catechetical training program opened at the Technical Institute in Lviw with top-notch professors offering Christology, Mariology, Bible Study, Prayer, Liturgy, Church Music, Catechesis Content and Methodology. Over 500 registered — young religious men and women, seminarians, laity, and several curious journalists! All were amazed at the lesson plans; the courses were highlighted by demonstration lessons by real catechists to real children, and backed by several textbooks distributed freely to participants, a gift from the Superior General.

The match was perfect. Sister Luiza stayed on in Ukraine, organizing, conducting, expanding the regular program into summer programs, catechism by correspondence, evening sessions, programs in parishes, catechetical camps, festivals of song, conferences. She was appointed assistant director of the patriarchal catechetical commission through which she could oversee catechetics also in the diaspora. Dear to her heart were new catechetical establishments in European countries. The level of effort and the results attracted the attention of the Synod of the UGCC which in 1996 approved the establishment of the Catechetical-Pedagogical Institute at the UCU with Sister Luiza the director. Courses now lead to Master and Bachelor degrees, and major certification. Ethics and a catechumenate program, as well as parish leadership training, are leading priorities. All programs are endowed with extensive publications.

In 2011, Sister Luiza earned a Doctorate in Theology and Catechetics from the Pontificio Istituto Orientale in Rome, with a thesis entitled “The Figure of the Mother of God in the Symbolism of the Marian Feasts in the Byzantine Liturgical Year.” Humbly and joyfully, she and her dedicated staff continue to serve the Church “wherever the need is the greatest,” as Sister Josaphata had asked of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate.

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