Assembly 2018

Concern For Our Future: Renew, Revitalize, Rejuvenate

Priests, deacons, sisters and parish representatives at the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh’s Assembly 2018 gather following a morning Divine Liturgy on Sept. 17. The three-day Assembly asked participants to develop action plans to ensure the vitality of the Church into the 21st Century. Photo by David Mayernik Jr

Now the hard work begins. Following three days of brainstorming at the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh’s Assembly 2018, action plans to grow the Church and ensure its vitality into the 21st century will begin to be put into practice in its 73 parishes during the coming months.

The Assembly, held Sept. 16 to 18 at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Munhall, Pa., brought together more than 150 priests, deacons, sisters and faithful. Its theme — “Concern for Our Future: Renew, Revitalize, Rejuvenate” — asked those gathered to address the needs of the Church by examining issues of education, social ministry and outreach to encourage new and renewed interest.

From reviving ECF programs and posting videos of homilies on Facebook to selling pirohi at community events and sending care packages to students, many ideas will go from the drawing board to reality:

Deacon Ray Zadzilko of SS. Peter and Paul in Patton, Pa., said he wants to be part of his church’s effort to offer adult education classes on the Divine Liturgy and offer outreach to nearby St. Francis Universiy and Mount Aloysius College. “We concentrated on what was doable,” he said.

Nick Kotik, of Holy Ghost in McKees Rocks, Pa., said his church wants to develop a team of 10 people and a “bullpen” of others to head programs. “We’re like the (Pittsburgh) Pirates. We’re rebuilding…until we have a team, we can’t accomplish anything.”

Dave Ragan, who represented St. Mary and St. George, both in Youngstown, Ohio, plans to help with a photo “drive” for a digital library to better understand family histories and familial relationships. The church is already digitizing sacramental records. Metropolitan Archbishop William Skurla said attendees should figure out “what works” in their parish. “In my evaluation of a meeting like this, if we learn one or two things it’s a pretty good meeting, if we learn three things it’s a real good meeting. I think most of you will go back to your parishes with at least three ideas — if not 10, 20 or 30 ideas.

“Develop those ideas to renew and revitalize your parishes.” Helen Kennedy, of St. Mary in Bradenville, Pa., is a member of the Archeparchy’s Commission for Renewal and Revitalization, directed by Archbishop William to organize the Assembly. Despite sobering statistics such as a drop in elementary students attending ECF classes from 1,185 in 2002-03 to 451 in 2017-18, according to the Office of Religious Education, Helen never says the word “concern” without adding “hope.”

“We are in challenging times. Every single person makes a difference.” Featured speakers during the Assembly were Father Jason Charron, pastor of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church in Carnegie, Pa.; and Very Rev. Father Lawrence DiNardo, vicar general and general secretary of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. Father Lawrence, pastor of Holy Wisdom Parish on Pittsburgh’s North Side, is an expert on change.

As of Oct. 15, he will be pastor of six North Side churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh as part of its restructuring effort. His flock will grow from 985 to 4,000 parishioners. Father Lawrence, a priest for 37 years, discussed “Growing the Church into the Future” by quoting poet and theologian John Henry Newman: “To live
is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.”

He told those assembled the Church is built by relationships with one another and evangelization is a function of every baptized person. “What we’re doing here right now is building the body of Christ.” Father Jason talked of a disciple-making model, as he called for everyone to take responsibility for the Church. “That’s how our churches will grow… this is the time that calls for that perseverance.”

In coming months, the Commission will reach out to parishes for updates on their action plans and ask for formal feedback reports in Jan. 2019. “Now we have to take it back and enact it,” Deacon Denny Prestash, a member of the Commission, said. “It’s time for our Byzantine Church to rise here and now. This is where it starts.”