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Sonia Kulycky delivering the 2019 Valedictorian address

          Всечесніші отці, члени Фундації Отця Жана, шановні гості, дорогі стипендіати. Вітаю Вас Усіх. Для мене велика честь бути запрошеною на звернення від студентів.

          Мені надзвичайно приємно бути серед такими працьовитими і успішними молодими людьми і бачити що Ви продовжуєте українську культуру з гордістю у своїх навчальних закладах. Сьогодні вечір - це нагода підтримувати один одного та святкувати те чого ми досягли і ще можемо здійснити.

          Я завжди дуже горда своєю українською спадщиною. З дитинства, я дуже активно брала участь у громаді, виступи співу, танців, церква, літні СУМівські табори, та Українська школа. Бути українкою - це частина моєї ідентичности.

          Я думаю що Отець Йосафат Жан відчував те саме, коли вперше пізнав українців. Він присвятив своє життя Україні та її народу, вивчивши мову, мимо свого французького канадського походження, і навіть жив в Україні під час війни, щоб допомогти сиротам та переселенцям.

          C’est évident que le Père Josaphat Jean avait un sentiment chaleureux et très marqué envers la culture Ukrainienne. Cela nous démontre que nous devons tous être fiers de notre héritage, le chérir et le représenter avec fierté autour de nous. Le père Josaphat Jean a incarné certaines vertus et qualités des plus admirables, un exemple à suivre pour nous tous. Nos vies étudiantes sont souvent très chargées de cours, emplois à temps partiel, bénévolat et autres activités qui occupent la majeure partie de notre temps. C'est pourquoi je vais essayer de sélectionner quelques-unes des qualités les plus distinctives du père Josaphat Jean, dont nous devons nous inspirer chaque jour.

          Of the countless virtues and qualities that Father Jean embodied, there are four in particular that I feel will help guide us all throughout our lives. These are gratitude, passion, selflessness, and leadership.

          Gratitude. I encourage everyone to take a moment to think about what this word means to you. As a student in the healthcare field, I have worked with patients on various levels of the health spectrum. I have cared for individuals suffering from chronic, debilitating illnesses that they must face every day of their lives. I have taught those in good health ways in which to maintain it. I have welcomed new life into the world, and witnessed the end of life. As a student nurse, you experience the highest of highs with your patients when there is good news, but also the most painful lows when the situation is not as positive. You build relationships to an extent that few others will ever experience. This is because these patients are at their most vulnerable. They trust us with their lives, their care, their deepest fears and greatest joys. My education is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received, not only for the science behind medications or assessing cardiac health, but because it taught me humility and gratitude. It has taught me to appreciate the little everyday things in life. The fact that I have two legs to walk and dance with, the sense of sight to appreciate the beauty of the changing leaves or the first snowfall. These things can be taken away from us instantly, at which point it is impossible to turn back time. Be grateful in the present moment. Far too often we find ourselves focusing on the next step, the next achievement to reach, the next goal that will surely bring more fulfilment. Learn to be happy now, without that job promotion, or new car. Father Jean exuded gratitude every day, even during difficult times, such as when his project of populating the Ukrainian settlement of “Sheptycky” in Abitibi did not materialize.  

          The second ingredient is passion. Father Jean pursued his passion for Ukraine and its traditions, people, and culture, throughout his whole life. This was never expected of him, and was perhaps even a path that was unconventional for a priest of French Canadian descent. This is what gave him a sense of fulfillment, what motivated him each day. I can promise you that if you follow your passion, you will never have to chase after happiness, nor success. If there is something that fills your heart with joy, the best thing you can do is pursue it wholeheartedly. Whether that is music, art, math, cooking, writing short stories or playing football. As Mia Hamm once said, “if you don’t love what you are doing, you won’t do it with much conviction or passion.” Don’t do something because someone else says you should, or because you think it will bring you status or admiration among your peers. People admire passion in itself.

          Father Jean was also a beacon of selflessness. He dedicated his entire life to the Ukrainian community, its people both in Ukraine and in the diaspora. His selflessness is truly awe-inspiring, and demonstrates to us that being Ukrainian is something to be proud of. Our Ukrainian community has given us some of the most valuable life tools that will continue to serve us. Organizations such as SUSK, KYK, Plast, CYM, Ukrainian dance ensembles, Ukrainian school helped shape us into the leaders we are today. Find some time in your busy lives to give back to the country of our forefathers. Ukraine is a beautiful nation, rich in its resources, people, and culture. When something is that precious, everyone wants to have it. Ukraine will always be in the middle of a tug of war, regardless of who is at each end. It is our duty as Ukrainians to help ensure that it remains independent and asserts its autonomy. Join a Ukrainian dance group, volunteer at a Ukrainian summer camp or the Montreal Ukrainian festival, start a fundraiser to send donated winter clothing to the soldiers. But don’t stop there - introduce your non-Ukrainian friends to our culture’s beauty and richness. As the next generation of capable, determined members of society, it is our duty to give back to the community that has given us so much throughout the years.

          Lastly, it is important for us to recognize Father Jean’s lifelong leadership. Leadership comes in many different forms, even though we often picture a CEO or the director of an organization or committee. A more accurate definition of leadership is “the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal”. Father Jean led through gratitude, passion, and selflessness and has inspired each of us here tonight to follow in his footsteps. He had a vision and through his determination, paved the way for future generations. When I consider the importance for my generation and future generations to embrace and protect Ukraine’s legacy, we must also consider our earth’s legacy, God’s creation. As a well-known ancient-Greek proverb states; “a society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit”. Our future children and grand children deserve to live in a beautiful, healthy world and I encourage all of us to look for sustainable solutions to reduce waste like carrying a reusable water bottle and grocery bags, and to actively look for green alternatives for a healthy future.

          In closing, we have the ability and skills to pave the way for future generations. As a 3rd generation descendant, I am grateful to my great grandfather who immigrated to Canada in 1925, to my grand-parents and parents, for passing on to my brother and myself the same Ukrainian traditions and values that they were raised with. Through the contributions made, and those we will make to preserve our heritage, we are enriching this vast, exuberant and impressive Canadian-Ukrainian legacy.

          У цей 56-ий рік Фундації, належить велике признання усім членам i добровольцям які працюють цілий рік до цього вечора, та всім щедрим жертводавцям які морально і фінансово підтримують нас, молоде покоління. Щиро дякую.

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