Fr. Alexander M. Laschuk, PhD has been appointed to a three-year term as Executive Director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (MASI). His appointment follows a yearlong appointment as interim director that saw the institute shift its instruction and lecture offerings into an online context while emphasizing collaboration with other institutions.
“In the past eight months as Interim Executive Director, Fr. Laschuk has enhanced the position of the Sheptytsky Institute as an autonomous academic unit of the Faculty of Theology,” said Dr. John L. McLaughlin, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Theology at St. Michael’s. “His willingness to continue providing this outstanding leadership at MASI holds great promise for the Sheptytsky Institute’s ongoing development as a centre of academic excellence in Eastern Christian Studies.”
Fr. Laschuk has civil and ecclesiastical doctorates in canon law from Saint Paul University and the University of Ottawa. His research interests include ecclesiology, penal law, and procedural law and he regularly publishes in these areas in addition to canonical consultancy and advocacy work with dioceses and clients across North America. He has taught regularly with the Sheptytsky Institute since 2010.
During Fr. Laschuk’s term as interim director over the past academic year, the Sheptytsky Institute has both shifted its instruction to remote delivery to accommodate pandemic restrictions and introduced multiple new lecture series to expand its offerings to the larger community. In addition to monthly series focused on hospital ministry during COVID and on campus ministry, MASI has launched a Friday Lenten lecture series on the Church Fathers. Presented by scholars from a variety of institutions, the Lenten series was specifically designed to support the needs of priests, 75 of whom are registered for the course.
“We see a need to provide continuing education in an accessible manner to clergy,” Fr. Laschuk says of the initiative, adding that the Ukrainian Eparchy of Toronto has encouraged the institute in this direction.
The shift to a predominantly online context as a result of the pandemic has also made new kinds of collaboration possible between MASI and other institutions. Seminarians in the past year have joined MASI courses from places as far away as England and Edmonton as a result of these connections.
Going into the future, Fr. Laschuk sees MASI as having a unique role to play in the life of the University. “St. Mike’s is a top-tier Catholic university, and we want to be comprehensive in our presentation of the Catholic faith, including attention to the Catholic East,” he says. Graduates of the St. Michael’s Faculty of Theology are bound for contexts in which they will encounter and work with Eastern Christians, and he considers it essential for those grads to understand the essentials of their faith and traditions.
This preparation goes beyond the classroom, as MASI has always emphasized the liturgies and practices that define the life of Eastern Christian communities. “Our chapel is open to anyone who wants to come, and can provide an experience in Eastern Christianity for anyone who attends,” Fr. Laschuk says.