By David Mayernik Jr., Editor
Bishop-elect Robert Pipta discussed the value of touch — in all its forms — during his Nov. 5 Divine Liturgy homily to close out this year’s four-day Assembly at St. Mary in Hillsborough, N.J,
“This is what our Church is supposed to do for us. It is supposed to touch us in all ways that fulfill us as human beings.”
He cited the day’s Gospel reading in which a woman finds herself in need of the touch of God and touches a “little, tiny bit” of Christ’s garment while engulfed in a crowd.
Bishop-elect Robert said while it is true our Byzantine Catholic lives are sometimes in crowds — Pilgrimages, Assemblies, church gatherings — priests know parishioners by their first names.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be lost in a crowd,” he said.
“The Assembly gives us an opportunity to be thankful for our Church…we are healing, we have renewed life, that we have increased faith and we have the assurance of knowing that our Byzantine Catholic Church will guide us until that time we are called to the Lord.”
The 2023 Assembly of the Byzantine (Ruthenian) Metropolitan Church with the theme “Living Our Faith: Moving Forward, Appreciating Our Past,” was held at St. Mary Nov. 2 to 5.
Attendees included Metropolitan Archbishop William C. Skurla, Bishop Kurt Burnette of the Eparchy of Passaic, and Bishop-elect Robert, who was enthroned as Bishop of Parma Nov. 8 at Holy Resurrection in Euclid, Ohio.
According to organizers, the gathering had three goals: to increase the appreciation of the Byzantine Ruthenian Church’s history (both in the “Old Country” and the United States) and Byzantine Ruthenian art and culture; to learn about the best practices occurring in our parishes today which are contributing to the growth of our communities with the hope that the attendees will incorporate this information into their parish activities; and to develop concrete steps to ensure the future and growth of our Church.
Special guests were Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who offered the keynote address; Bishop Nil Lushchak, O.F.M., Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Mukachevo, the Mother Church of the Byzantine Ruthenian Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh; Dr. Paul Magocsi, author of “Our People: Carpatho-Rusyns and Their Descendents in North America”; and Father Christopher Zugger, who explored the history of the foundation of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America.
Bishop Kurt welcomed all attendees to St. Mary in Hillsborough.
“In these few days in Hillsborough, we were called together to re-hear the words of Our Lord and to recommit ourselves, our lives, our spirit, our purpose. Then we will go forth in the different parts of America and the world to tell people about Jesus Christ and his message. To tell them the good news that they are not accidents of a purposeless universe; rather they were made by an intelligent loving God, a great Artist. Teach them the new commandment of Jesus Christ: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Comfort them, console them, and encourage them in their lives.”
Presentations by priests and laity during the Assembly were:
* Father Edward R. Cimbala, of St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church in New York, N.Y., discussed “Young Adults and Their Motives for Joining the Byzantine Catholic Church in New York City.”
* Adam Kemner, of Iowa Outreach in Muscatine, Iowa, discussed “Small But Mighty: Why Small parish Size is the Byzantine Catholic Church’s Biggest Potential Way Forward.”
* Father Thomas Loya, of Annciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glenn, Ill., discussed “A Blueprint for the growth of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America.”
* Father Thomas Shubeck and Brother Simeon, CFR, both of St. Thomas in Rahway, N.J., discussed “Poustinia: The New Evangelization in the Light of the Byzantine East, a new and evolving outreach to young adults of Theosis in Action.
* Father Andrew Summerson, of St. Mary in Whiting, Ind., discussed “What’s a Byzantine Catholic Culture.”
* Lynn Wardach, of St. Mary in Taylor, Pa., discussed “Introducing ByziMoms and ByziKids” resources she designed to help teach the littlest members of our church.
* Dorothy Mayernik. of St. Gregory in Upper St. Clair, Pa., discussed “Bethany Ministry: Caring for the Sick, Homebound, and Grieving in the Parish Family.”
There was also music, food and fellowship during a Saturday evening gala. Pajtáši, a noted Rusyn/Slovak Band, was the musical entertainment, and the dinner menu featured a variety of ethnic foods.
In his welcome message, Archbishop William, who recently returned from a month-long stay in Rome at the Synod of Bishops, said all Catholic, Orthodox, and other Christian Churches of the world are also conducting their own assemblies.
“Despite wars and problems, the people and leaders continue to find creative ways to explain the faith to a world that has lost its faith or never heard of Jesus Christ,” he said.
“We pray that the Holy Spirit will open the hearts of our Byzantine Catholic churches and our families. From the time of the Apostles until now, each Byzantine Catholic generation has had to discover how to make our Church a path to personal encounter with Jesus Christ.”