The St. Mary of Egypt Fellowship is a growing number of laypeople who want to bring the liberation tradition of Kyivan Christianity into contemporary struggles for social justice around the world. We believe in the God-given dignity of all human beings, and use the insights of our faith to fight for social, economic, and political equality for all people regardless of their background.
St. Mary of Egypt
St. Mary of Egypt herself exemplifies the vision of this mission. Not only did she overcome profane human desire in search of spiritual fulfillment, she did so through acts of generosity and humility. Venerable Father Zosima, who witnessed St. Mary’s transformation, didn’t know what to expect when he left the comforts of his monastery to wander the desert. To this mission’s end, St. Mary proves that transformation is possible; and Venerable Zosima proves that the established Church often needs to step out of its comfort zone to witness and see to further Christian transformation.
St. Mary is a great saint of Africa, the ancestral land of Black people, and Zosima is like the Ukrainians who must be driven to action, even if it means working in an apparently barren landscape. St. Mary speaks to the social justice because justice takes radical acts of repentance, generosity, and humility.
The Call for Mission Work
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, has been blessed to find itself in the middle of several environments of social transformation. The wars and economic hardships of the 19th and 20th centuries led to the Church broadening its scope across several continents. After the fall of the Soviet Union, our Church has served as an active role in the march towards human dignity, and social and economic justice. This was especially visible in the Euromaidan revolution. Patriarch Sviatoslav referenced a new radical paradigm for reaching people during a speech in Ottawa after the Maidan in May of 2014:
An “ecumenism of engagement” arose on the maidan. As we prayed together in various languages and in various faith traditions, we felt the presence of God. This is not just the naïve persuasion that “God is on our side, therefore we will prevail.” No, this experience of God’s presence was much more nuanced.
An Act of Penance
The history of Ukrainian American communities is one where the social and economic “American dream” often took precedent to the Gospel’s call to love one’s neighbor, visit the sick, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry. While Ukrainian Americans have more-or-less prospered in the century since their first immigration to this country, their fellow Americans haven’t been privy to the same privileges they fought for. Instead of serving their neighbors in the way Christ calls for, Ukrainian Americans have largely participated in “white flight” out of the urban centers their immigrant predecessors first settled in.
Because of America’s complex relationship between race, class, economics, and immigration, the kind of white flight Ukrainian Americans profited from has led to the very same kind of humiliation Ukrainians fought against on the Euromaidan. St. Mary of Egypt Mission offers a practical call to universal human dignity and love despite the suffering of Ukrainians in Ukraine and Americans in America. It is a redistribution of blessings, and a call for forgiveness and justice by example.