Homily for the 79th Annual Pilgrimage
delivered September 1, 2013 at Mount St. Macrina, Uniontown, Pa.
It is an honor to be with you for the procession this evening at the 79th Pilgrimage to our Lady of Perpetual Help. For those who are new to the Pilgrimage, My name is William Skurla and I am the Archbishop of Pittsburgh and the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States. For those who are returning, it is good to see many familiar faces who have returned to Uniontown this Labor Day weekend to pray with us.
The focus of this year’s pilgrimage is “Theotokos, Steadfast Foundation of Faith.” From the moment she was contacted through the Angel Gabriel, she said yes to God’s plan for her to be the Mother of God. Because of her special bond with Jesus, Mary is strictly connected to what we believe. For, as the Son, Jesus brings to the world a new beginning and light. As Jesus’ mother, Mary connects Jesus to us. Throughout her life, she was present with Jesus until the end. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, she became the spiritual mother to the apostles and to us today. Most of us receive or faith from our families. And like Jesus, our mothers hand the faith on to us. Just like our hair or eye color, our mothers have a special role in forming and nurturing the gift of faith in each one of us here this evening. Pope Benedict XVI called the Catholic Churches to begin a renewal of the faith of the people.
For me, I was amazed to learn at last year’s Bishops Synod what Churches are doing in each country. In the United States, the Catholic churches have tried to renew the faith and to reach out to people who have not heard the word. During this Year of Faith,our Byzantine Catholic churches have reflected upon the faith through prayer, workshops, encounters, this pilgrimage, and our own renewed study of what we believe and how it affects our lives. We hope that this will continue for years to come. Our Faith begins and is fed by our personal experience of Jesus Christ. Each of us is called to share our experience with our families and friends. The faith is transferred from one generation though the sharing of lives with one person at a time. We convey to them that Jesus is alive in our hearts. We lead them into the great pilgrimage story of God’s love for us beginning with Abraham to us – right here and now.
We thank all who have traveled far to come today – the Basilian Sisters and Associates, the volunteers, bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians and the faithful who have come to this pilgrimage.
In closing, I leave you with Pope Francis’ new prayer to Mary, the Mother of our Faith:
“Mother help our faith! Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call. Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our land and to receive his promise. Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith. Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at time of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature. Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One alone. Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!”
Homily for the 78th Annual Pilgrimage
delivered September 2, 2012 at Mount St. Macrina, Uniontown, Pa.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
We have gathered for the 78th Annual Mount Saint Macrina Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. And, it is with great joy for me to celebrate the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy for the first time as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh. As I have told most of you, it has been a very busy time with settling in and taking up the double responsibilities of guide the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh and also the Metropolitan Church. In my 25th year as a priest and tenth year as a bishop, I ask that you continue to pray for me that I may have the wisdom and strength to continue to renew and revitalize our church during the coming year of faith.
I thank the Sister Seraphim and the Sisters of Saint Basil for the opportunity to be one of the pilgrims praying along with Bishop John Kudrick of Parma, Bishop Gerald Dino of Phoenix, Bishop John Pazak of Toronto Canada, and the Administrator Edward Cimbala from the Eparchy of Passaic. It is always a joy to see and meet with the priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, seminarians, and people of the Byzantine Catholic Church as well as the other Catholic, Orthodox, and Christian Churches from many nations.
This years’ Pilgrimage Theme is “Theotokos, Guide on the Journey of Life.” Part of being a pilgrim is the journey to the pilgrimage is traveling by plane, bus, or car to get to Uniontown. Our travel agent or our GPS plan a route to take. While we are navigating way here, we make thousands of decisions. We focus on the road and avoid the drivers trying to run us off the road. However, while we are on our way, there are signs or messages on the radio reminding us of all the amusement parks, summer resorts, casinos, restaurants, sporting events, and places to shop along the way.
All of the signs and advertisements call to you to make decisions redirect your time, money and energy to go in another direction. If the advertising did not influence us, they would not spend billions of dollars trying to get us to everything from purchasing soap to electing a president. Unfortunately, the world does not always guide us in the right direction.
With all those other choices and despite hurricane Isaac, you chose to come here to Mount Macrina. Why? It is hard work to come. We come each year because we need to pray and work to bring the world back to the presence of Mary and Jesus Christ in your life. The news is filled with stories of people in need and of a shocking rise in senseless violence in our cities and towns. They suffer from a loss of a connection with the heavenly dimension of life. Without the Mary or Jesus as Guides on the Journey of Life, most people get lost aimlessly searching for something. Or, they often travel to a dead end or crash.
The Sister of Saint Basil and our Eastern Catholic Formation teachers have guided our children by teaching us what is right and what is wrong. The divine source of that guidance is from Jesus Christ and his mother. Surveys have shown that young people who receive religious instruction are far less likely to be arrested in later life. The decline of church attendance is directly connected to an increase in crime. Without faith in God and the inner guidance of a divinely inspired sense of right and wrong, society will continue to slip into chaos. When we listen to our weekly homilies at Divine Liturgy, attend classes, or read, we learn the way and follow path to life.
We do our part when we study, live, and proclaim the Byzantine Catholic Faith. During the coming year of faith, we will change the world one student or person at a time. It is a sign of hope each time I participate in the children, teen, and young adult events at the Pilgrimage. The seeds that are planted grow to change people’s lives. When we try to help people who have lost their way or suffered a great loss, we also cooperate in the mission of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Every time we go the extra mile to offer help to someone in need or give direction, we share in the mission of the church by praying for and assisting those in need.
We have come this year to pray to Our Lady of Perpetual Help to pray for help to guide us in our journey of life. As you travel home, remember Our Lady is in the seat beside us giving us directions of where to turn and when to go. When you see the road signs along the way home or watch advertising on television, ask yourself or those with you the question, “What advice would Mary give?” Then, follow Our Lady’s advice and let her be your “Guide on the Journey of Life.”
delivered April 18, 2012 at St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Munhall, Pa.
Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!
Christos Voskrese! Voistinnu Voskrese!
Feltámadt Krisztus! Valóban Feltámadt!
It is a great joy to celebrate for the first time at Saint John Byzantine Catholic Cathedral as the fifth Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh. It is a powerful experience to see the gathering of people from your entire life. We share this celebration with those beyond the Cathedral through the broadcast of this celebration on the internet, television and radio.
We are delighted to be with our Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who is representing our Pope Benedict Sixteenth. Also, representing the Roman Church we have Cardinal Timothy Dolan, President of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, and numerous other archbishops and bishops from our sister Roman Catholic Churches. The Byzantine Catholic Church has and continues to work with the Bishops’ Conference. Our Byzantine Ruthenian Church was one of the first Eastern Catholic Churches to organize, to build churches, and to establish a hierarchy of churches in the United States .
We welcome our sister Eastern Catholic Archbishops and Bishops representing the Ukrainian, Romanian, Melkite, Maronite, Malabar, and Syriac Catholic Churches. We welcome our sister Orthodox Churches. And we are also honored by the presence of several of the Christian Churches. We look forward to working you in the future.
And finally, our other Eparchies in the United States are represented by my brother Byzantine Catholic Bishops of our particular church in the United States. We have Bishop John Kudrick of Parma, Ohio and Bishop Gerald Dino of Phoenix, Arizona, along with the clergy and people from my former Eparchy of Passaic, who await the appointing of a new bishop. From our mother Greek Catholic European Churches from where our people emigrated, we are honored to have Bishop Milan of Mukachevo, Metropolitan Archbishop Jan Babjak of Prešov, Slovakia, Bishop Peter Rusnak from Bratislava, Slovakia, and Bishop Philip [Fülöp] Kocsis from Hajdúdorog, Hungary. We received letters from several archbishops, bishops, people who were unable to attend and we thank them for their prayers.
The history of our Slavic people begins in the mountains and valleys surrounding the Eastern European Carthpathian Mountains into prehistoric times. We received our written language and Greek or Byzantine Catholic faith and sacraments from the missionary brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius. The history of our cities and villages are located in road and mountain passes which were in the path of numerous invasions and our history is marked by a series of conquests of empires, kingdoms, and finally the nation states of Central and Eastern Europe. Our people, clergy, and religious suffered and endured persecutions and martyrdom. The most recent was the communist attempt to suppress our churches. The Blessed Martyr Theodore Romža, the Blessed Basil Hopko, and Blessed Paul Gojdic, and the Blessed Redemptorist Methodius Trcka stand as symbols of a Church which did not give up the faith in the face of overwhelming force. Our story is similar to the suffering of the Eastern Christian Churches with us today at this celebration.
Our immigrant founders who came to this country came with very little; they organized parishes, and the six generations of Byzantine Catholics built churches, mortgaging their homes to build the beautiful churches we have today. They wrote to our bishops in Europe who responded by sending priests, bishops, and religious to celebrate our Divine Liturgy and to teach the faith to the young. Our seminary, built in honor of Saints Cyril and Methodius, continues to form priests, deacons, and laity to build up the portion of the Kingdom of God entrusted to us.
As we look to the future, I have been asked by the media and people what is the most immediate problem for our Church. My answer is that we need to present Jesus Christ and His Gospel teachings in a way which touches the lives of our people. In the same way, our beautiful Divine Liturgy has been translated to the language of the people living in many different countries. We need a method of teaching the faith which opens their minds to a deeper dimension of spiritual life. God has not changed, but just within the lifespan of my generation, the world has radically changed. Some changes have been good, but many have undercut the pillars of the family and the Church. The cool things we have received from technology have chilled and dulled our ability to see God.
The Archeparchy of Pittsburgh plan for Renewal and Revitalization will enliven the spirit and faith of those who have fallen away and to form those who come to seek Jesus Christ through our Byzantine Catholic faith. After years of study and planning, that work begins today. We have to inspire our young and revitalize our leaders to give their lives unconditionally to serve to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. No matter how the world changes in the future, we find our way to bring our young people and those who have gone astray to the True Way.
With renewed faith, we can endure our current struggle with changes in culture, just as our mother churches suffered and endured persecution.