Leading the Metropolitan Church and the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh

Following the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Stephen promptly set about the task of restoring the Church generally and Pittsburgh Archeparchy in particular to its authentic religious traditions. To achieve this important goal, Archbishop Stephen undertook a number of initiatives.

Under his leadership, the theology department of Saints Cyril and Methodius Seminary, which had been closed for two years, reopened. In accord with the guidelines set forth in the Vatican Council’s Decree on Priestly Formation, the seminary instituted programs in pastoral and field ministry for seminarians and placed renewed emphasis on Eastern theological tradition and practices. These programs were implemented under the direction of the seminary’s new rector, Father Judson M. Procyk.

To encourage lay participation and to improve congregational singing in the liturgical services, the Archbishop established an institute to provide formal classes for the instruction of cantors.

Keenly aware of the need for increased knowledge and understanding among the faithful of their religious traditions and heritage, Archbishop Stephen created an Office of Religious Education. This new office took the lead in publishing and providing catechetical materials for the instruction of the youth in their faith and church. Included within the many instructional materials produced by this office was the acclaimed “God With Us” catechetical series. This series was specifically developed for instruction of children in the first eight grades and eventually was used by all Byzantine Catholic jurisdictions in the United States and Canada.

Another important means of instruction inaugurated by the Archbishop was the Byzantine Leaflet Series. Published four times a year, these 8-page pamphlets were extensively researched and printed in color. They proved to be a valuable resource in explaining the liturgical services, customs and traditions of the Byzantine Catholic Church.

Preservation of religious and cultural materials was a matter of great importance for Archbishop Stephen. In 1971, he directed the establishment of an Archieparchial Museum to keep and maintain icons, books, paintings and other items of historical interest. Realizing the archival importance of newspapers, books and other artifacts produced by many Americans of Carpatho-Rusyn origin, he facilitated the efforts of scholars at some of America’s leading universities in collecting and microfilming these materials for conservation and study by future generations.

The Archbishop also undertook an active and prominent role in making his Church recognized and appreciated.  With the cooperation of the other hierarchs, clergy and faithful he erected a beautiful chapel in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. during the Archieparchial Golden Jubilee celebration in 1974. Designed in traditional Byzantine style with an iconostasis and colorful mosaics, the chapel serves as impressive reminder to the many visitors to the shrine of the presence of Byzantine Catholics in the United States.
As the head of a sui iuris (self-governing) Metropolitan Church, Archbishop Stephen was designated by the pope to represent the Byzantine Catholics in the Synod of Bishops, the highest consultative body of the Catholic Church. Through his participation at these synodal sessions, the Archbishop was able not only to express the position of the Byzantine Catholic Churches on the many issues faced by the Church in contemporary life, but also to acquaint the Synod fathers from all over the world with the history and importance of this Church in America.

Under his pastoral leadership, several new parishes and missions were established in the expanding Pittsburgh suburbs of Upper St. Clair, North Huntingdon and Gibsonia and in the Texas cities of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.  An annual celebration was also introduced to honor couples celebrating their twenty-fifth and fiftieth wedding anniversaries.

With special concern for the seminary, Archbishop Stephen established a Seminary Endowment Fund on the 40th anniversary of his priestly ordination and 25th anniversary of his ordination to the episcopacy.

Auxiliary Bishop John M. Bilock

On March 8, 1973, Pope Paul VI named Monsignor John M. Bilock, Rector of St. John Cathedral, Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Stephen.  He was ordained to the episcopacy on May 15, 1973 at Holy Spirit Church in Pittsburgh (Oakland).

Auxiliary Bishop John used his organizational skills to plan and coordinate most of the Archeparchy’s events, activities and major functions. Some of these which he chaired or coordinated included the Golden Jubilee celebration of the Metropolitan Church of Pittsburgh; the annual Byzantine Catholic Family Day at Pittsburgh’s Kennywood Park; the annual St. Nicholas Day Banquet, and the Labor Day weekend pilgrimage at Mt. St. Macrina in Uniontown. Besides these events, he also organized and personally led numerous pilgrimages from the Archeparchy to such places as the Holy Land, Rome, the Marian shrines in Europe and finally, to the ancestral homeland of American Byzantine Catholics in Slovakia and Ukraine.

Bishop John also pioneered the use of the media to develop a new Byzantine Catholic apostolate. Through his efforts, the Divine Liturgy was broadcast every Sunday to a radio audience of thousands, and gradually this apostolate was expanded to include televised Divine Liturgies and other services.

In 1977 the Archeparchy of Munhall-Pittsburgh was renamed the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. 

In February 1990, as the repressive Communist rule finally ended in Central and Eastern Europe, Archbishop Stephen with Bishops John, Michael and Thomas led a large group of American Byzantine Catholic clergy, religious and faithful to the Eparchies of Prešov and Mukačevo.   This expression of support and solidarity was gratefully received by their European counterparts who were enjoying freedom of worship after 40 years of suppression and persecution.  The historic journey had a great positive moral and spiritual impact for the people in the motherland of the American Church.

Coadjutor Metropolitan Archbishop Thomas V. Dolinay
In the spring of 1990, Archbishop Stephen’s health began to decline; when his retirement became imminent, Pope John Paul II named Bishop Thomas V. Dolinay, Bishop of Van Nuys as Coadjutor Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh with the right of succession. He was enthroned at St. Paul (Latin Catholic) Cathedral there on May 29 of that year. Bishop George M. Kuzma, the Auxiliary Bishop of Passaic succeeded him as Bishop of Van Nuys.
In compliance with the directives of Vatican II, Archbishop Stephen tendered his resignation as Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh to Pope John Paul II on his 75th birthday, June 11, 1990. Thus was concluded his 50 years of deeply committed service to the Church as a priest and 35 years as a bishop.  His health gradually declined, and he fell asleep in the Lord at Mount St. Macrina Manor on the monastery property of the Sisters of St. Basil in Uniontown, Pa. on March 7, 1995.  His body reposes in the bishops’ section of the cemetery there.
During his short time of leadership, Archbishop Thomas endeavored to make the Archeparchy more visible and its operations better organized. He moved the Chancery and other administrative offices to the newly purchased nine-story Ewart building in downtown Pittsburgh, and established a central financial accounting system for the parishes. He was actively involved with the Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania and their ecumenical endeavors. When Europe became free from Communism, he raised money to help rebuild the churches in the eparchies of Prešov and Uzhorod, and traveled there as well. 
In addition to his Archieparchial duties, Archbishop Thomas served as the spiritual advisor and editor for The United Societies and was a member of the board of trustees of Catholic Golden Age from its beginning.   
Archbishop Thomas fell asleep in the Lord unexpectedly in his sleep at his residence, suffering an apparent heart attack during Bright Week on April 13, 1993.  He was 69.  His Funeral Divine Liturgy was celebrated in Holy Spirit Church in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh by Auxiliary Bishop John M. Bilock; he was interred in the bishops’ section of Mount St. Macrina Cemetery in Uniontown. Whether in his speaking or writing, Bishop Thomas was frank and outspoken in sharing his opinions and beliefs.  
Bishop John, despite his own declining health, then accepted the unanimous selection of the Board of Consultors to become the Administrator of the Archeparchy.  He served in this capacity until he fell asleep in the Lord on September 8, 1994. His funeral was celebrated at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Munhall on Tuesday, September 13, and he too was laid to rest in the bishops’ section of Mount St. Macrina Cemetery in Uniontown. Bishop John was a “people person” whose warm personality and charm reached out to everyone, and he had special compassion for the ill and disabled. Monsignor Russell Andrew Duker, Rector of the Seminary, subsequently served as the Administrator of the Archeparchy.

Metropolitan Archbishop Judson M. Procyk

On November 14, 1994, Pope John Paul II announced the selection of Monsignor Judson Michael Procyk as the third Archbishop of the Byzantine Catholic Metropolitan Church and the sixth ordinary of the Pittsburgh Byzantine Archeparchy.

On February 7, 1995, Monsignor Judson was ordained Bishop and enthroned as the Metropolitan Archbishop in the new Cathedral that he constructed. The ordaining bishops were the three hierarchs of the suffragan eparchies of the Metropolitan Province: Bishop Michael (Dudick) of Passaic, Bishop Andrew (Pataki) of Parma, and Bishop George (Kuzma) of Van Nuys.  He was enthroned by Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States. Presiding at the ceremonies was His Eminence Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Archbishop of the Latin Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In attendance were 29 Eastern and Latin Catholic bishops, including four bishops from the European eparchies from which American Byzantine Catholics trace their roots, as well as scores of priests, religious, representatives from various Protestant and Orthodox Churches, and hundreds of faithful, many of whom watched the proceedings on closed circuit television in the lower level of the Cathedral.

Metropolitan Judson made significant progress in moving the Church to a more faithful adherence to Eastern traditions and practices. Within the framework of the recently published Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, he established new norms for the administration of the sacraments of initiation, instituted a diaconate program, reestablished the Cantors’ Institute to promote better congregational singing at services, and began an Archieparchial Choir. Additionally, to promote greater openness about the financial situation of the Archeparchy, he directed the preparation and publication of annual financial reports. As the representative of the American Byzantine Catholic Church to the Synod of Bishops on the status of the Church in the Americas, the Metropolitan used that forum to educate and inform bishops from throughout this hemisphere of the presence and importance of the Eastern Catholic Churches. He also was instrumental in the remarkable warming of relations with the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of Johnstown, Pa.

Sadly, as with his predecessor Archbishop Thomas, the angel of death came suddenly and unexpectedly to Archbishop Judson when he fell asleep in the Lord at the age of 71 in springtime, April 24, 2001.  For the last time he was taken to the Cathedral that he built, where the funeral services were prayed and the Divine Liturgy was celebrated on April 30, 2001.  Two cardinals, four archbishops and 27 bishops of both the Latin and Eastern Churches participated along with the heads of the Orthodox Church and leaders of other Christian denominations. Many monastics and faithful also were in attendance; the Archieparchial Choir which he founded sang liturgical responses. Metropolitan Judson reposes in the bishops’ section of Mount St. Macrina in Uniontown.  He was dearly loved by his people and held in great esteem by the leaders of the other churches and faiths with whom he worked.

On May 1, 2001, the College of Consultors elected Archpriest John Michael Kudrick as Administrator of the Archeparchy. When elected, Archpriest John was serving as Rector of St. John Cathedral, and he also held the Archieparchial positions of Secretary to the Archbishop, Vice-Chancellor, Executive Director of the Presbyteral Council, member of the Personnel Board and Chairman of the Renewal and Revitalization Committee.

Metropolitan Archbishop Basil M. Schott, OFM

Archpriest John directed the functions of the Archeparchy until he was named Bishop of Parma. At the same time, the Bishop of Parma, Basil Myron Schott, O.F.M. was appointed Archbishop of Pittsburgh.  Archbishop Basil was enthroned in St. John the Baptist Cathedral on July 9, 2002 by Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

One of Metropolitan Archbishop Basil’s first undertakings was to name personnel and to create and organize the policies and procedures necessary for the Archeparchy to be in compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth as mandated that year by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Archbishop Basil established offices which provided programs for children, teens and young adults.  A Pastoral handbook was published under his direction, and monthly days of prayer for the clergy were instituted.  During his tenure, in 2006 the status of the Benedictine Holy Trinity Monastery in Butler, Pennsylvania changed, and it officially became a monastery of the Archeparchy. 

Archbishop Basil was appointed to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches in Rome, and as head of a sui iuris Church he was its representative to the Synod of Bishops, convening with hierarchs from all over the world.

As president of the Eastern Catholic Bishops Association, Archbishop Basil was instrumental in the creation of a new region of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Formerly, the Eastern bishops belonged with the Latin bishops in the regions which are determined by geographic location.  With the addition of the new Region XV, the Eastern Bishops of every judicatory were now a part of their own region.

During the Year for Priests, as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI from June 29, 2009 to June 29, 2010, Archbishop Basil had a great desire to recognize and honor the priests of the greater Metropolitan Church. He headed the committee, which was comprised of a priest representative from each eparchy, to plan this event.  In the midst of the planning in November of 2009, he was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph system. Despite undergoing aggressive treatment, he continued the duties of his office until late May 2010 when his illness incapacitated him.  As the priests of the Metropolitan Church gathered in Pittsburgh from all over the country for the early June celebration which he so desired and planned, he was hospitalized. 

Archbishop Basil fell asleep in the Lord on June 10, 2010. At his largely attended funeral at St. John Cathedral, Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church of Johnstown, Pennsylvania spoke of the deep friendship and esteem that he shared with the Archbishop. He mentioned their ecumenical endeavors, the meetings of their seminarians, and their times together both in prayer and socially. (Metropolitan Nicholas also was afflicted with cancer, and fell asleep in the Lord on March 13, 2011)

The priests that Archbishop Basil ordained during his eight year term served as his pall-bearers at the Cathedral.  His Franciscan brothers carried him to his final resting place in the bishops’ section of Mount St. Macrina Cemetery. Blessed with a warm and outgoing personality, Archbishop Basil was beloved for his compassion and concern for everyone.  His sense of humor endeared him to friends and strangers alike.

After his funeral, the College of Consultors in accord with Canon Law elected as Administrator of the Archeparchy one of their own, Very Reverend Eugene P. Yackanich.  Pastor of St. Elias Church in Munhall, Father Eugene at the time of his election also was serving on the Seminary Board, the Presbyteral Council, the Archieparchial Finance Council, as Protopresbyter of the Greater Pittsburgh Protopresbyterate, and as a member of the Review Board.  While continuing to pastor his parish, he capably directs the everyday operations of the Archeparchy.

Bishop William C. Skurla, head of the Eparchy of Passaic, currently serves as Administrator for the Metropolitan Church in America until a successor to Metropolitan Basil is named.