Newly established program offers access to “full richness and beauty” of Eastern Catholic tradition
The chaplains of the Pittsburgh Byzantine Catholic Campus Ministry — Father Miron Kerul’-Kmec Jr., Father David Abernethy, and Father Michael Kunitz — in front of Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church on Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pa.
By David Mayernik Jr., Editor
When Father David Abernethy was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, the campus ministry program offered guidance during one of life’s more uncertain times.
“During my time there, I was engaged by those who worked in Campus Ministry and it changed the course of my life, both in terms of becoming Catholic but also eventually my choice to pursue the priesthood,” he said.
Since then, he’s made a life’s commitment to helping students during his 35 years at the Pittsburgh Oratory of St. Philip Neri and now as director of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh’s new Campus Ministry program.
“I think what drove me to work in Campus Ministry and pursue the path I did was that I was helped at a time where I lacked spiritual and personal formation when I needed it the most…I had strong counsel and guidance there. That’s what I would want to offer to Byzantine Catholic (students).”
Father David joined the Archeparchy earlier this year and is administrator of SS. Peter and Paul in Duquesne, Pa. as well as providing spiritual direction for incoming seminarians.
He’ll be working with Father Michael Kunitz of Holy Spirit in the North Oakland section of Pittsburgh and Father Miron Kerul’-Kmec of St. John the Baptist in Southside and St. John Chrysostom in Greenfield, both in Pittsburgh.
The Campus Ministry program will serve campuses all over the Pittsburgh area, from the University of Pittsburgh and the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) to Duquesne University and Chatham University.
“It all falls under the umbrella of the Campus Ministry program as it stands now.”
The new ministry kicked off with an Opening Liturgy and Dinner on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross Sept. 14 at Holy Spirit.
“This is good timing. There are a couple of young priests here, within the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, who’ve shown great interest…Holy Spirit is perfectly located in the heart of the universities,” Father David said.
“(It will) provide a center students can come to throughout the course of the day; they have the facilities there…students can come there throughout the day to study, to meet other Byzantine students, to have events for them that they are able to grow in their faith with others who have the same values and same desires they do.”
Father David was ordained a priest to the Pittsburgh Oratory in 1994.
He has been working in campus ministry since his Novitiate and all through Seminary. He served as a chaplain and director of Campus Ministry at the Oratory.
The mission of the Archeparchy’s Campus Ministry is clear as the program begins establishing a presence at each college and university.
“We see ourselves as planting the seeds here in the first year of getting acclimated in terms of working with the universities and acknowledged as official chaplains to the university,” he said.
“We want to help the students focus on the heart of the Byzantine life, which is the beauty of the Liturgy, the Fasting seasons and major Feasts, so they are able to embrace it for themselves, the Byzantine life and tradition.
“My hope is to focus on personal and spiritual formation; there’s a beauty to the spiritual tradition in the East.”
Father David wants to spread the word to every parish in the United States who has family members attending higher education in Pittsburgh.
“Really what is at the heart of it is the Divine Liturgy; its beauty and developing a love for it, as well as the other sacraments. And immersing them in a spiritual tradition that is going to be formative and enduring for them throughout the course of their life.”